28 June 2007

On Synchronous Media for 'Office Hours'

Dear Folks,
I have discussed this topic before but it may be worthwhile to recapitulate here.
With global e-learning, online tutoring requires a team approach for 24/7 availability and service. In other words five or six tutors taking turn being online and available. Google Talk would be very clear and useful in one-to-one tutorial under the auspices of 'open office hours'.

Several problems are arising however.
(1) the tutor(s) may be repeating the same thing to each and every student. Some mega-universities have millions of students, and several thousand on a single course simultaneously. So therefore FAQs (frequently asked questions) need to be put up online (for asynchronous learning - like the standard Help function).
(2) the tutor and student should be engaged in objective teaching-learning discussion, but chat can easily turn to family problems, work or stress conditions and subjectivity. We do not need this synchronous interaction to become sexual or personal in any way. Students must limit their topic to the mind and education, not the heart. Teachers are generally well-trained in this, but students are not.
(3) At the Polytechnic University of the Philippines Open University, several thousand students turned up at the door of the tutor for the open-office tutorial just before the examination ... One-to-one Google Talk cannot cope with several thousand in need at the same time.

Several advantages pertain.
(1) A student can get instant direct help at the right time and right place 24/7. Pre-sent emails should communicate the essence of the difficulty and the time of the online meeting. If several students are requesting a Google Chat, the tutor can allocate five-minute chunks to each in sequence, so students are not on-hold queuing online. And the tutor can get feedback from the student instantly - emoticons are not so many but adding a photo could help fill in for the limited choice of available emoticons in Google.
(2) Google Talk is available on Windows. While windows-users don't necessarily appreciate this gift, Mac-users would opt for iChat and use live-camera and voice. Now of course Mac-users can also use Google Talk. I am not sure yet about Linux which is used significantly in developing countries.
(3) Personally I find only a few students would want to use open office hours, so the few who do should have no difficullty getting through and having a sufficient long and satisfactory tutorial. I find students who write out their problem clearly beforehand end up solving their own problem by themselves through the writing process, reflecting, and aesthetic reading which co-occurs during writing.

Well, three disadvantages aand three advantages seem to constitute an adequate balance, but not by any means a comprehensive review. A more comprehensive review and inquiry would need to ask does WestGa have open-office hours on WebCT ??
More later.
All Best Wishes

No comments: