How do I make the most of my virtual classroom? Rachel Bolstad and Magdalene Lin September 2009
Research Overview <ul><li>In 2008-2009, NZCER carried out research into students’ experiences of learning in virtual classrooms. </li></ul><ul><li>We surveyed 250 students, and spoke to 55 students in focus group interviews. </li></ul><ul><li>This presentation is based on the research findings. It is designed to help you make the most of your virtual classroom. </li></ul>
<ul><li>This is my first time learning through VC, what can I expect? </li></ul><ul><li>Besides my teacher and classmates, who else is a part of my VC class? </li></ul><ul><li>What happens during a typical VC lesson? </li></ul><ul><li>I have questions for my VC teacher, must I wait until the next class? </li></ul><ul><li>I’m stuck on a homework question, what should I do? </li></ul><ul><li>What can I find on my class website? </li></ul><ul><li>Our class website isn’t very useful, how can it be improved? </li></ul><ul><li>How do I communicate with other students? </li></ul><ul><li>I feel uncomfortable talking to other students because I don’t know them, what should I do? </li></ul><ul><li>What is it like for students who are alone in their VC class? </li></ul><ul><li>Is it possible to have extra VC lessons? </li></ul><ul><li>I have a time-table clash, can I re-schedule my VC class? </li></ul><ul><li>My VC class isn’t working for me, what can I do? </li></ul>Frequently Asked Questions
This is my first time learning through VC, what can I expect? <ul><li>You will meet your teacher and classmates (who are at different locations) through </li></ul><ul><li>video-conferencing for an hour each week. During the rest of the week, you will </li></ul><ul><li>have scheduled study periods that can be used to complete projects, assignments, </li></ul><ul><li>or other learning tasks for your class. </li></ul><ul><li>Learning in virtual classrooms can seem quite different at first – but many students </li></ul><ul><li>quickly find that this is an enjoyable way to learn. </li></ul>
Besides my teacher and classmates, who else is a part of my VC class? <ul><li>Your VC support teacher </li></ul><ul><li>At your own school, there should be at least one teacher in-charge of VC students. They maintain contact with your teacher about your progress, and can help you with any questions you have or direct you to someone who can help. </li></ul><ul><li>Your ePrincipal </li></ul><ul><li>Each school is part of an eCluster, and each eCluster has an ePrincipal. They ensure that all VC classes are running smoothly. </li></ul><ul><li>Handy hint: Make sure you know who your VC support teacher and ePrincipal are, and feel free to approach them for help if you need it. </li></ul>
<ul><li>Your teacher might cover curriculum content, go through homework, direct questions at students, give students the opportunity to ask questions, or facilitate class discussions. </li></ul>What happens during a typical VC lesson? Handy hint: As a class, work out your preferred way of teaching and learning based on everyone’s needs, interests and abilities. Give your teacher feedback about whether their teaching approaches are working for you. If you’re not getting many opportunities to discuss your learning or ask questions, let your teacher know. “ In my class, it must be the nature of the subject, but [the teacher] reads through the notes, we do an exercise, and we move on.” (Student) “ We do things as a class like read passages, but we ask students from other schools, we talk with the other students, and the teacher also asks us things, so it’s like a big conversation through everyone. We are all learning as a group, we don’t do individual tasks really, so it’s good.” (Student)
I have questions for my VC teacher, must I wait until the next class? “ I found emailing my teacher was quite good. Like saying ‘this is what I understand, this is what I don’t understand’…Kind of through the email it was good because you could talk to someone and they could write down a response that you could read later.” (Student) No, you can contact your VC teacher through emails, phone/Skype calls, text/instant messages, etc. Handy hint: Be proactive about contacting your teacher – they will probably appreciate knowing how you’re getting on!
<ul><li>Talk to your VC teacher or VC classmates (they may have the same problem as you). </li></ul><ul><li>Ask the VC support teacher or other subject teachers at your school for help. If no one teaches the subject, find out if anyone at your school has a background in the subject area. </li></ul><ul><li>Search for the answer on the Internet. </li></ul>I’m stuck on a homework question, what should I do? “ You have to be committed to the subject, the teacher will of course try to teach you but the student actually has to want to learn. It’s a trust thing, unlike if a teacher is in a class with you they can pull you up if you’re misbehaving, because [in VC] you are at a distance, if you are doing something wrong, they can’t come physically to help you. You have to be able to help yourself learn from their instructions.” (Student)
What can I find on my class website? This depends on the features that are available on your class website. Some VC classes use learning management systems (e.g. Moodle, KnowledgeNet), while others have b logs, forums or wikis. Many virtual class websites enable you to download class notes, upload completed homework, and interact with your teacher and classmates. Handy hint: If your virtual class doesn’t have a website, blog, forum or wiki, why not suggest this to your teacher? Or if you have the know-how, you could offer to set this up for your class. “ My teacher has a blog, it helps. We can pass learning not only from the teacher [to students] but among other students as well.” (Student) “ It’s good to have course plan and notes online so you can look at them whenever you want. It’s all organised, they have it set out what we’re going to do in the year, and the times we are going to do them.” (Student)
Our class website isn’t very useful, how can it be improved? <ul><li>Have discussions with your VC classmates about what’s not </li></ul><ul><li>working well, and what other features you would like to have </li></ul><ul><li>on your website. Pass on the feedback to your VC teacher </li></ul><ul><li>and VC support teacher. </li></ul>“ We gave the VC [subject] teacher feedback and now he puts stuff into games, crosswords, space invaders on the [eCluster] website. He does a lot of work online as well, doing activities like space invaders.” (Student) “ Maybe mimic the way social networks function. Just using a blog, I find really helps.” (Student)
How do I communicate with other students? “ Yeah we flick around emails, every person has at least one other person from their school so we just discuss with that person, and flick emails around.” (Student) Outside VC class time, you can send them emails, phone/Skype calls, text/instant messages, etc. You can talk to them during your weekly VC lessons, or just before and after your lesson ends (even when your teacher is not there). “ Because it’s only once a week, you’ve got to make the most of the chance that you have to talk to them face-to-face. I think because there’s only three of us in the whole class, everyone is sort of keen to talk to each other.” (Student)
I feel uncomfortable talking to other students because I don’t know them, what should I do? Many students take a while to get used to talking to students at other locations. But once you break the ice, you may find that you have a lot in common with your distant classmates. One way of getting to know other students is by participating in group discussions on your class website. Instead of having direct one-on-one conversations with your classmates, you can start by contributing your ideas to particular topics or responding to a comment that another student has left. “ My teacher has set up a [subject] link, we have a website and let’s say if we learn a definition we can add to the glossary and talk to other class members about our class work and stuff, it’s cool.” (Student) Handy hint: What about creating a Facebook group for your VC class?
What is like for students who are alone in their VC class? <ul><li>Some students enjoy the ability to work on their own, at their own pace, and with fewer distractions. However, they might also feel more isolated in certain situations. </li></ul>“ In my class there’s me, then a group of six, then one other single person at another school. The group of six, they’re the ones who make it awkward. They kind of sit there and joke on mute, and you can see they are laughing, and you don’t know why. It’s kind of embarrassing, they can talk to each other but they are not including you.” (Student) “ At [this school] we do have a shared learning thing going on, but I can’t help but think the other school students feel isolated. There is a big group of us who kind of dominate the discussions.” (Student) Handy hint: Think about what you can do to help all students in your class feel engaged and included in your class discussions.
Is it possible to have extra VC lessons? <ul><li>It may be possible to negotiate with your VC teacher for </li></ul><ul><li>additional tutorial time if you require this. Some VC classes </li></ul><ul><li>have two VC lessons per week. </li></ul><ul><li>Handy hint: If you can’t have extra VC time, remember that there are many other ways to keep in touch with your teacher and classmates. Ask for help when you need it! </li></ul>“ This year… I have another period available for VC. It has generally been a one-on-one tutorial. Has been very effective, very interactive”. (Teacher)
I have a time-table clash, can I re-schedule my VC class? <ul><li>Approach your VC support teacher or principal, your school </li></ul><ul><li>may be able to help you with time-table clashes. Some </li></ul><ul><li>students have their VC lessons during their study periods or </li></ul><ul><li>lunch breaks. </li></ul>“ What we did one year was with our VC students, we actually re-arranged the time-table so that all the VC students [had a] class in their study time and this seems to give them that much more focus and continuity and they don’t miss either class, [so] they don’t feel angry that they’re having to do one in priority to the other.” (Teacher)
My VC class isn’t working for me, what can I do? <ul><li>You should convey your concerns to your VC teacher and VC support </li></ul><ul><li>teacher. Depending on the situation, your teacher could modify the </li></ul><ul><li>content that you’re covering or change the structure of your VC class </li></ul><ul><li>(have one-on-one tutorials with you, etc). </li></ul>“ It just wasn’t working…. there was no interaction between the other students, and little interaction from the other students with the teacher as well, so there wasn’t room for that kind of expanded learning… [the teacher] was saying that because I want to learn, and have the potential to go beyond what we were going to be doing in that class [it was a good idea to make a change].” (Student)
Key Points <ul><li>Maintain regular contact with your VC teacher, let them know how you’re going and ask them any questions you have. </li></ul><ul><li>Access your VC website for class notes, homework and to have discussions with your teacher and classmates. If your website does not have features which you think may be helpful, let your teacher know. </li></ul><ul><li>Take the initiative to get to know your classmates, you may find that you have shared interests. </li></ul><ul><li>Find out who the VC support teacher at your school is and approach them if you have any questions regarding your VC class. </li></ul>
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