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Alternatives to the Online Lecture

conferencing


When you adapt course or teaching materials to the online environment, be sensitive to the advantages and disadvantages of the Virtual Classroom. Web-based learning is well suited for communications, collaboration, and information acquisition, but not for reading long text files. It is difficult to read screen after screen of text on a computer, although recent developments in e-readers and tablet computing may be changing that. In the Virtual Classroom, text-based lectures should be short and few. With that, where will students get the information they need to meet the learning objectives?

Design the curriculum of an online course to cause dialogue among the students. During online discussions, the participants collect information and send it to the virtual classroom for comments, critiques and more discussion. In order to generate this type of information, students must actively seek out the required material. The synergy of the discussion is itself a learning tool. With that in mind, the participants themselves discover and share much of the information presented to the class.

 

See the following list of methods for information dissemination in an online environment. We identify ways to use each method as well as the possible benefits and drawbacks associated with each one. Facilitators need to be aware of problems that can arise as they use these technologies. For example, while the "lecturette" can be an effective online tool, we do not recommend long written lectures. Neither do we suggest exercises that do not require students to comment on each other's work.

 

 


Textbooks:
They are used for the following purposes:

  1. Assign a segment of a chapter to an individual.
  2. Assign a segment of a chapter to a team.
  3. Provide discussion questions that require students to summarize the reading, or ask students to come up with their own discussion questions.
  4. Provide discussion questions that require students to synthesize the material.
  5. Provide an activity that requires students to apply the information from the reading.

Benefits

  • They are relatively inexpensive.
  • Students do not need any additional equipment to use the material.
  • Students can go back and retrieve information when they need it.
  • Some learners need the hardcopy for reading and studying.

Drawbacks

  • They require distribution by mail or retail network.
  • They convey information only by written language and figures.
  • They do not afford a channel to give direct feedback to or ask questions of the author.

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Video Programs
Basic concept of the course content subject or resources for the virtual classroom discussion can be provided through video. Whole films can be used in online courses in ESL, literature, any foreign language, creative writing, etc. Students can watch the film outside of "class" and then discuss/critique it in the virtual classroom. During online discussions, students can compare the film to the book, discuss character profiles, plot, theme, symbolism, historical context, etc.

Benefits

  • Facilitator can distribute information such as visual or procedural concepts that are hard to express in textbooks. For example: in a manufacturing management class, a short film showing a real factory may effectively illustrate certain concepts and provide a springboard for discussion questions.
  • Supplemental video may help learners whose basic learning style is not text-based.
  • If all the students view the same material, assign discussion questions or projects on the topic.
  • If publishing to the web is available, the information can be accessed asynchronously, with each student viewing the material at his or her convenience.
  • TV broadcasts can be recorded for later study or review.

Drawbacks

  • Students need to have the corresponding viewing equipment.
  • Some programs are only available at certain designated times.
  • Physical media can only be distributed by mail or retailing network.
  • When distributed via the WWW, video files are large, require long download times, and use substantial memory. These issues are diminishing with time.

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Audio / Radio Programs
Basic concept of the course content subject or resources for virtual classroom discussion can be provided.

Benefits

  • The cost and technical requirements are less than for video and/or TV.
  • Audio files can be downloaded from the Internet.
  • If all the students listen to the same material, then discussion questions or projects can be assigned to generate discussion on the topic, the information will be presented equally as well as using a textbook or related articles.
  • Radio broadcasts can be recorded for later study.

Drawbacks

  • Audio files lack a visual component.
  • Although much smaller than video files, audio files are quite large and slow to download.

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Guest Speakers
Guest speakers can be invited to hold either a synchronous chat session with the class, or post a lecture and be available for 2-3 days to answer questions from the group.

Benefits

  • Students can learn about what is happening today in the real world pertaining to the course content subject.
  • The guest speaker is able to bring outside resources to the course.

Drawbacks

  • It may be difficult to find an appropriate person to invite as a guest speaker. If your guest is unfamiliar with your technology or the basic principles of online learning, supporting them becomes your job.
  • For synchronous chat sessions: (see drawbacks below)

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Interactive Computer-Assisted Instruction software

Benefits

  • The material can be used in a self-paced manner.
  • As with video, material which is not easily adapted to text format can still be covered in the course.
  • Programs can contain short tutorials for specific skills/information that students need to know, then require them to apply that knowledge in exercises.
  • Software can be distributed through the Internet.

Drawbacks

  • Students must have the software in hand to use it (download or purchase media)
  • Learners must know or learn HOW to use the software.

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Articles from Web Sites
Each participant finds outside, related articles on the Internet; then reads, summarizes, and shares a critique with the other participants. Classmates can then choose to access the article themselves, and/or comment on their classmate's critique in a discussion forum format. A lot of learning can come from this activity.

Benefits

  • It allows students to choose what to focus on and take control of their own learning experience.
  • The number of articles and amount of information which students can access is unlimited.
  • It brings outside resources into the course.
  • It provides participants with an extensive list of summaries of related resources that they can choose to read, or archive for later use.
  • Students are learning and practicing research skills--searching, summarizing, demonstrating what has been learned, integrating new information into already-learned material.

Drawbacks

  • Information literacy is assumed of participants.
  • Web sources vary in their accuracy, legitimacy, and reliability.

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Newsgroups and Weblogs
This includes subscribing to or even just browsing newsgroups on topics related to course content.

Benefits

  • There is a large quantity of material generated every day.
  • Most newsgroups and blogs have excellent archives of previously posted material.

Drawbacks

  • There is often a high percentage of "noise" (garbage) to sift through.

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Listservs
These are focused email discussions on topics supplemental to course work.

Benefits

  • Discussion lists exists on virtually every academic subject and/or related field.
  • Discussion provide an exchange of ideas with people not enrolled in the class who are, nevertheless, good resources on a given topic.

Drawbacks

  • Reading time may increase exponentially when there is a large number of messages generated by a busy discussion list.

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Interactive Web Sites
These include web sites where users can read information updates, view stills and video, and listen to audio related to their course work. For example, the ESL Cafe http://www.eslcafe.com puts ESL students in touch with other language learners around the world as well as offers expert help in grammar and vocabulary and a chance for students to publish their writing online.

Interactive, Online Writing Labs (OWLs) , such as the ones offered by
the Purdue University, http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/,
Capital Community College
http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/ ,
Colorado State University
http://writing.colostate.edu/ and
the Writing Centre at the University of Ottawa, CA http://www.arts.uottawa.ca/writcent/hypergrammar/grammar.html can be resources for students in online ESL classes or undergraduate English and writing courses.

Benefits

  • Students have direct contact with other learners
  • Students have direct contact with a variety of teachers and are exposed to different teaching styles.
  • Students have "real-life" communication through email and chat with other learners and teachers.

Drawbacks

  • This activity may distract learners from other study tasks.

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