Can this technology help solve the distance learning isolation issue?

Best practices in using clickers to unite classroom locations into a one-class experience.

clickers-location-distanceIt’s a common problem facing universities with satellite campuses and distance learning options: How to keep students from feeling isolated from on-campus classrooms.

For example, in 2007, Auburn University ran a synchronous video conferencing pharmacy program between the main campus (125 students) and the satellite campus in Mobile, Alabama (25 students). Over 3 years of operation, they learned that Mobile students should have been better connected with the main campus and that improvements were needed in the area of ensuring that students at the “distant site do not feel isolated from the instructor and that content is always visible for them” (Fox, McDonough, McConatha, & Marlowe, 2011).

A premier health science university, the Adventist University of Health Sciences (ADU) was fully aware of the challenges encountered by the Mobile students as ADU embarked on a similar teaching modality not long after Auburn’s experience. Students were required to journal and document their learning experience as students at offsite locations were anticipated to have issues with engagement and visual connection with the main campus. Seeing the instructor on the screen rather than in person, students in offsite locations were less likely to be fully engaged.

The engagement issue was further compounded by technical challenges, pedagogical variations, and logistical difficulties. In order to achieve a one-class learning experience, ADU spared no effort in providing in-depth training of instructors, maintaining quality video and audio connection, and using a variety of interactive tools.

The outcome of the one-class learning experience was that students at the offsite locations should no longer sense they were offsite. In short, the goal is “turning” them into one. One of the very useful interactive tools is the virtual clickers.

(Next page: 7 best practices in using virtual clickers to unite locations)

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