Case Study: Virtual office hours and Webinars for Students
Case Study: Nutrition and Food Service Management Program
Janet LaPatourel, Instructor, Langara College
Janet LaPatourel has two main uses for Adobe Connect: providing virtual office hours to her students and for weekly webinars. In general, she finds Adobe Connect has been really useful and overall has had very few problems with it.
The virtual office works well because, instead of just being available for email response at specific times, Adobe Connect enables a better reflection of on-campus office hours where Janet is able to give immediate replies to students' questions. When she has encountered a problem situation, such as dealing with cheating on an exam, it has also proved useful when the student can be set up with a webcam so that there is a more direct interaction back and forth. Her main difficulty is setting office hours that work for all students and Janet has found that her virtual office is not often accessed by students. She also encounters a recurrence of students forgetting when the office hours are and entering the meeting for support when Janet is in the meeting, but for other purposes. However, this situation is not really any different than providing on-campus office hours, with students popping in outside of posted office hours.
The weekly webinars are key components of some of her courses and students have responded very favourably to them. Janet also feels they work extremely well, since she can give an overview of the course material, respond to students' questions immediately, and to provide an opportunity for students to participate in the webinar as well as be broken into smaller groups to engage in group discussions. Through the use of the whiteboard and poll pods Janet is able to get an idea of where students are at, and then clarify concepts as needed. Typically, about 10 students attend these sessions but in the current semester (Fall 2010) the enrolment in the course is about 20 so she expects "it will be interesting" to work with larger numbers in the sessions. Janet also records her meetings so that students who are unable to attend can review them at later time.
Specific Issues/Problems Encountered/Resolutions
In terms of technical problems, the main problem Janet has experienced has been sound related. This included the audio being too loud, the audio echoing, and her students occasionally not being able to hear her. She found that adjusting her personal audio settings as well as using the Audio Setup Wizard helped correct the loudness, and she was able to correct the echo on her end by the use of a microphone‐enabled headset, but is not always able to figure out the why her students are sometimes unable to hear. This is most likely is due to personal computer settings on students' machines and, depending on their own levels of technological comfort, is sometimes difficult to troubleshoot.
Occasionally, the Internet connection has been a problem causing her voice to drop in and out, and once or twice she has had to end a session due to connection issues. These are generally ISP related and not always related to Adobe Connect. Since scheduling another meeting usually proves difficult, she has found that the best solution to these interruptions is to make a recording with no students present, and then provide them with a recording of the information she wanted to present.
Janet has also used Adobe Connect to create a live webinar on citations for students, in collaboration with a Langara librarian. She felt it was a great experience to be able to work jointly with a colleague from another department, especially since Janet teaches from Vancouver Island and is rarely on campus.
Additionally, she attends her department's regular meetings that are hosted using Adobe Connect and feels that being able to connect online with her department members is really helpful in building a sense of connection to her program and colleagues.