Hi Shailey and everyone,
I am a long time lurker coming out out of hibernation. By way of a quick introduction, I work as a technical writer with a software / hardware company. I wrote training material for 4 years prior to this and this is what got me interested in online learning. I am a Masters in Distance Education learner at Athabasca University and I am doing my final course this term.
I am reminded of a synchronous course that I took where the instructor required that we do an individual tech check at a scheduled time before the first session with his assistant. We had to demonstrate that our hardware was working plus do some basic tasks (known in advance) using the interface. It took 15 minutes if things went smoothly.
During the session, the instructor had another person to handle technical issues with predefined ways to do back channel communications. I was struck by how well this planned and prepared approach worked compared to other sessions. The session had little of the typical overload of technical issues at the beginning.
The technology was in the background where it belonged but it did require time and resources to get to this stage. It helped that the prof was a 'relic' [Grin] with 20+ years of synchronous experience including telephone, audio graphic, satellite etc. and really knew how to create an excellent synchronous learning experience.
With SL, there is less of a knowledge / skill base on how to use it effectively - unfortunately it takes time and mistakes to develop this. Many SL sessions are less than wonderful due to technical and navigation issues. The sessions never get beyond Stage 1: "Individual access and the ability of participants to use CMC are essential prerequisites for conference participation (stage one, at the base of the flights of steps)" as defined in The Five Stage Model
that Gilliam referenced in her initial post.