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Conferencing Strategies for Teaching at a Distance Discussion Questions

Question 15

Discuss the idea of "valueadded" in terms of adding video, audio and real-time activities to a text-based asynchronous on-line learning program.

In certain subject areas, there could be considerable added value to an online course if video, audio and real-time activities were included in the program. For example, with language learners, sound and visual components add a tremendous amount to comprehension during communication. This is because tone of voice, facial expressions, gestures, and body language add a lot to comprehension. However, purely text-based activities also have merit, especially during writing practice. The following are examples of how video, audio, and real-time activities could enhance an asynchrous online foreign language course:

Short video segments of feature films in the target language can be followed by discussion questions in the Virtual Classroom pertaining to character description, plot, story line, idioms, etc. Also, many foreign language textbooks have accompanying videos that supplement the chapters in the book. These could be placed online to be downloaded and viewed at the students’ convenience.

Audio files can do wonders for pronunciation exercises…MUCH better than the phonetic alphabet, and when used in conjunction with the phonetic alphabet, can even be better.

Real time activities:
Activities such as video conferencing when used one-on-one is like a telephone call with video. Students can be paired up with partners across the globe and carry on real conversations in the target language. This activity can be followed by discussions in the Virtual Classroom, e-mail correspondence, and other language practice exercises.

Note: the added use of video, audio, and real time activities does not come without a price tag. The use of high tech activities such as these increases the chance of problems with the technology itself. Many things can go wrong, which would spoil the activity and cause frustration detracting from the learning experience. Technology should have a purpose, and not be incorporated into a lesson just because it is possible to do it! In the examples above, the addition of audio, video and real time activities would add value to an online language course, however, they would greatly detract from the course if the activities didn’t run smoothly. Another problem is that with the addition of theseadd-on technologies, there could be problems with accessibility. Does everyone in the class have the ability to download and view/listen to these files? Does everyone have a mini video camera on their computer which would be necessary to participate in the video conferencing activities?  Is it feasible to ask our students to equip themselves with all of this paraphernalia?

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