Barriers to classroom-based education such as high gas prices, inclement weather, and job and family requirements often make travel to campus more difficult for people who want to continue their educations (Fletcher, 2008). The promise of synchronous tools such as Wimba LiveClassroom can provide a cost-effective alternative to a real-time classroom experience by allowing students to attend a class wherever they are, thus allowing a classroom experience despite geographic barriers. Indeed, other reports have also indicated that hybrid learning can result in increased student outcomes when compared to traditional classroom learning (Brunner, 2006; McFarlin, 2008). To attempt to overcome these barriers, a mid-sized public university piloted Wimba LiveClassroom as a platform for a blended class to allow distant students to be able to take advantage of the University’s classes via the Internet.
The pilot course, Sociology of Work, was offered at the main campus of a mid-sized public university and simulcast using Wimba LiveClassroom to a student who attended a branch campus about 30 miles away. The nature of the class required that the students be able to view videos simultaneously, participate in discussions, as well as make and react to student presentations.
Despite our early and thorough planning, the pilot identified significant technical and organizational obstacles that needed to be overcome on behalf of the faculty member and the support units at the university and the vendor. This project required the successful interaction of the professor, the instructional technology support staff, the networking staff, and Wimba employees, and the computing equipment of the university (both the classroom and the network backbone), the student’s provider, and the student’s home system. Any problem with one element meant that other elements would not work, and with so many parties necessary for success, inevitably there were problems.
Video of class sessions and extracts from communications after each class will illustrate successes and frustrations. The paper will conclude with recommendations for future directions of research and suggestions for restructuring technology and organizations to facilitate future success.
Laubach, Marty and Laura J. Little. “Trials and Triumphs: Piloting a Web Conference System to Deliver Blended Learning across Multiple Sites.” Journal of the Research Center for Educational Technology, vol. 5, no. 3, 2009, pp. 56-67.