Course Syllabus: Synchronous Classrooms


Welcome | Instructor Information | Technical Support | Course Information
Course Goals | Course Structure | Course Requirements | Course Communication | Pedagogical Rationale

Description of Course Content Modules

Module 1 | Module 2 | Module 3 | Module 4 | Module 5

WELCOME

Welcome to Synchronous Classrooms. Moving beyond the well-known asynchronous learning environment, this course will explore the ideas behind and skills needed to teach online in real time - synchronously. By addressing the pedagogical foundations first and then identifying and practicing the new skill sets, the course will prepare participants to better plan and manage the synchronous classroom. Please note that there are no textbooks required for this course. All materials are available online!

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INSTRUCTOR INFORMATION

This course will be taught by two instructors who will team together to challenge you and model best practices in the synchronous classroom.

Susan Manning is an experienced virtual instructor with the MVCR program. Susan generally teaches Online Learning: An Overview and Technology Tools for Education. More about Susan can be found at http://www.mvcr.org/instructors/biography.asp?instructor=24 .

E-mail: smanning@uillinois.edu
Phone: xxx-xxx-xxxx

Kevin Johnson is an Instructional Designer and Instructor for the Illinois Online Network. He has been teaching technology for over 10 years. More about Kevin can be found at http://www.knowledgerules.org/kevin/

E-mail: kejohns@uillinois.edu
Phone: xxx-xxx-xxxx

Both instructors will be active in the virtual classroom on a daily basis. For questions regarding this course, you may E-mail Susan and Kevin directly by sending a message to MVCR-Synch@uillinois.edu .

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TECHNICAL SUPPORT

If you experience technical problems, please consult the FAQ section of the course first. If you don't find a fix, contact the instructor (see above for contact information) or you can contact Kevin Johnson, this course's assigned Technical Assistance Advisor at (217) 265-8177 or kejohns@uillinois.edu

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COURSE INFORMATION

This course runs 4 weeks. You will probably spend a minimum of 10 hours a week working on the course itself, including time spent reading, writing to respond to questions and interact with classmates, downloading and installing necessary software and attending the required synchronous sessions. While the asynchronous online format provides flexibility as to when and where participants learn, the synchronous classroom requires real time meetings. This course will meet on the following days and times for one hour. Please be prepared to schedule a minimum of a half an hour before each session to configure your computer, etc.

Participants are required to log on to the course a minimum of 3 times a week, but as discussions develop, you will probably log on more often (4-5 days a week). Topics to be covered in this course are the following:

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COURSE GOALS

At the end of the course, participants will be able to

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COURSE STRUCTURE

The course has a modular structure, which is consistent and predictable. The course Web site has a straightforward design and is easily navigable. Instructions and due dates for activities and assignments are clearly articulated so students know what is expected of them and can easily stay on track. Due dates of weekly assignments are staggered throughout the week (see the course calendar ) in order to give participants time to read and comment on their classmates' work before the scheduled synchronous session. The course design is based on principles of collaborative learning and active participation, as well as sharing of thoughts and problem solving.

For each course module, participants will be presented with a text-based lecture along with hyperlinks to related online articles. Participants will engage in guided discussions about these topics via the asynchronous conferencing forum. Discussions will be prompted by "advanced organizer" questions inviting participants to consider the topic as it relates to their own personal teaching situations. At the end of each module, participants will experience a synchronous session modeling the theme of the week and further exploring the salient issues. Each synchronous session will last one hour.

At the end of each module, participants will submit a short summary of what they believe are the most important things they learned that week and how it relates to their job.

Assigned readings and responses to discussion questions should take place during the module in which they are assigned in order to get the most benefit from the discussions. Instructions and due dates for activities and assignments are clearly articulated so students know what is expected of them and can easily stay on track. Due dates of module assignments are staggered in order to give participants time to read and comment on their classmates' work. We know you have lives beyond the scope of this course and since professional adults often have free time on weekends, we have also taken that into consideration. However, if you will be unable to complete an assignment due to professional obligations notify the instructor. Better yet, prepare the assignment early and post it. This will give your classmates a head start in reading and responding to your work. See the course calendar to get an overview of when assignments are due.

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COURSE REQUIREMENTS

The following activities and requirements apply to this course:

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COMMUNICATION TOOLS

Several forms of communication will be used during this course.

Moodle Forums
Moodle discussion forums are the heart of this online course. It is where you will submit all of your assignments, and where you will discuss your work with your classmates.

Text-based Chat
We will use Moodle's chat function to meet synchronously during Module 2.

Voice-based Chat
Skype is a synchronous tool that allows users to chat using both text and voice. We will be using Skype's voice tool during Module 2. Please refer to the Course Requirements section of this course for instructions on how to install the necessary software for this tool.

Elluminate
Elluminate is an example of a multi-modal synchronous delivery system. We will use this tool during Module 4. Please refer to the Course Requirements section of this course for instructions on how to install the necessary software for this tool.

E-mail
You have the ability to subscribe to Moodle discussions so that you can read course activity within your email client. This is also one means of communicating privately with classmates or instructors.

Telephone
The telephone is still sometimes the most effective mode for troubleshooting technology problems or other issues related to the course. Your instructor's phone numbers and other contact information can be found above.

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PEDAGOGICAL RATIONALE FOR ASSIGNMENTS

Course Orientation
Within the first three days of the course, students will submit a short biography of themselves to the forum area. This assignment gives participants practice with using the conferencing program and creates a sense of community. It also helps students find common links among themselves.

Module Discussion Questions
The questions serve as advance organizers to encourage critical thinking and informed participation. Due by the date they are listed on the course calendar , specific discussion questions (requiring a 150-300 word response) will be assigned to individuals with ensuing discussion from all course members. The time specified for the initial posting ensures that all participants have ample opportunity to interact.

Planning Documents
Participants will periodically plan synchronous sessions on paper, with careful consideration given to the pedagogical rationale for using the tool, and an agenda that includes sample activities, prompts, and troubleshooting ideas. These assignments underscore the need for planning and help participants begin to identify skill sets they may need to develop.

Best Practice Wiki
As a shared knowledge building activity, participants will add to and edit a class document that identifies and explores best practices in teaching in the synchronous classroom. This activity encourages critical thinking and informed participation.

Module Summaries
At the end of each module, students will submit a 100-200 word summary of what they feel to have been the most important points covered in the course that week and relate this to their own teaching goals. This exercise has four functions:

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ASSESSMENT CRITERIA

Since this course serves as a model for students as they design their own online courses, assessment, grading criteria, and procedures are important to articulate and model. With this in mind, the assessment criteria that apply to this course have been carefully laid out. See the assessment page in the course orientation for the course assessment procedures. Also, as assignments are made, rubrics to those assignments will be linked when appropriate.

MODULE 1 - WHAT IS SYNCHRONOUS LEARNING?

Overview

We will begin to look at the general topic of synchronous learning and compare and contrast this with asynchronous teaching. A specific learning objective for this module is to develop a functional understanding of the difference between the two methods and the appropriate pedagogical considerations for each. Furthermore, the group will articulate best practices in synchronous and asynchronous teaching and will use asynchronous tools to develop community through introductions and thoughtful dialogue.

Module Goals

After completing this module, you will have:

Time Estimates and Due Dates

It should take approximately 10 -12 hours to complete this module's reading and activities. This module lasts 1 week.

Readings

1.
Online Interaction Tools Resource Sheet
http://www.fullcirc.com/community/toolgrid.htm


2.
Synchronous WWW-Based Course-Support Systems: Tools for Facilitating Online Constructivist Learning
http://www.usdla.org/html/journal/APR01_Issue/article03.html


3.
Using Computer Mediated Communication in Learning and Teaching
http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/services/cap/resources/pubs/eguides/cmc/
Read the first 2 sections: Overview of CMC and Using CMC in teaching and learning


4. The Use of Online Synchronous Discussion Groups to Enhance Community Formation and Professional Identity Development
http://www.ncolr.org/jiol/issues/viewarticle.cfm?volID=1&IssueID=3&ArticleID=59
This link will take you to an abstract from which you can download the entire article in pdf.

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MODULE 2 - Text and Voice Chat

Most people are familiar with the chat environment and immediately think of text-based tools such as AOL Instant Messenger, Yahoo and MSN Messenger. These tools allow us to log on to our computers and be connected with family and friends instantly. No phone, no long distance bill, no problem.

And nowadays we can extend that instant communication to voice! Voice-based chat tools are an answer to slow typists and those who miss the warmth or raw emotion connected to the human voice.

Online companies that support text and voice chat tools offer chat rooms where multiple users are able to hold discussions surrounding specific topics. In this environment, the chatroom is open 24/7 and discussions are ongoing and rapidly changing as people enter and leave at will.

Online educators often include some of these more informal chats in their classrooms for activities such as virtual office hours and ice-breaker sessions. However, they also conduct more structured chat activities where discussions are moderated, held on a specific date and time, and have predetermined goals and objectives. As you can imagine, these activities require a commitment from both the instructor and student, and the planning for text or voice is pretty much the same. After all, it is the educational objective that is central, not the medium. The instructor must understand the tool in which he/she chooses to implement and have the ability to appropriately facilitate each session so that the goals and objectives are met, interaction and collaboration among attendees occurs, and each session directly supports the course objectives. The student, on the other hand, must commit to attending at a given time and be willing to actively participate in the session.

In this module we will look at both text-based and voice-based synchronous classrooms without additional graphics, presentation tools, whiteboards, etc. We will discuss appropriate uses of this method of teaching, and we will identify characteristics of the successful online facilitator, as well as course management issues.

Module Goals
After completing this module, you will have:

Time Estimates and Due Dates

It should take approximately 10 - 12 hours to complete this module's readings and activities. This module lasts 1 week.

Readings

1.
Strategies for Effective Use of Chat
http://www.onlinelearning.net/InstructorCommunity/tips_sep2000.html


2.
The Interplay of Content and Community in Synchronous and Asynchronous Communication: Virtual Communication in a Graduate Seminar
http://www.cjlt.ca/content/vol28.2/schwier_balbar.html


3.
ONLINE CHAT SESSIONS! CHAOS OR....?
http://168.144.129.112/Articles/Online%20Chat%20Sessions--Chaos%20or....rtf


4. Finding Your Voice Online: An Inquiry into the Use of Online Voice Applications in Higher Education
http://www.elearn.wa.edu.au/kt/edition05/download/Coghlan.pdf


5. Distance Learning and Synchronous Interaction Use this link
http://tinyurl.com/5fb2u

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MODULE 3 - PARTICIPATING IN A MULTI-MODAL ENVIRONMENT

Are you an instructor who loves small-group work and have found the tools that we have discussed thus far somewhat limiting in this area? If so, this is the the Module for you.

Up until now, we have discussed using text-based and voice-based chat as ways to interact with students. The next step is to put the two together. Multi-modal tools not only allow users to communicate via text and voice, but many of them offer additional features such as interactive whiteboards, polling, breakout rooms, quizzing, and video. These features allow instructors to develop synchronous activities for students to complete in pairs and small groups.

In this final module we will experience one of the newer technologies that allow instructors to deliver real-time instruction with voice, graphics, text chat and sometimes video.

Module Goals
After completing this module, you will have:

Time Estimates and Due Dates

It should take approximately 10 - 12 hours to complete this module's readings and activities. This module lasts 1 week.

Readings

1.

View a Presentation
http://www.learningtimes.net

View one of Jonathan Finkelstein's archived presentation on synchronous sessions available through Learning Times. To do this, visit http://www.learningtimes.net , login and click the archive option on the far left menu. Once inside the archives, enter the "Archives of Live Webcasts" folder and choose one of the webcasts from Jonathan Finkelstein that is relative to Collaborative and Group Activities in the Live Virtual Classroom. There are three or four to choose from. You are only required to view one.



2.
Elements of Group Interaction in a Real-Time Synchronous Online Learning-By-Doing Classroom Without F2F Participation
http://www.usdla.org/html/journal/APR02_Issue/article01.html


3.
Managing the Synchronous Blend
http://www.learningcircuits.org/2003/oct2003/hofmann.htm

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MODULE 4 - PROVE IT (PUTTING PRACTICE TO ACTION)

In this module be responsible for developing and presenting a synchronous session using Elluminate Live!

Module Goals
After completing the readings and assignments in this module, you will,

Time Estimates and Due Dates

This module should take approximately 8 -12 hours to complete. This is a 1 weeks module.

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