Friday, September 20, 2013

Collaborate is working well in the online class. I used it for the initial real-time chat with the first group instead of Blackboard chat. There were only two students attending, and they loved it. They even suggested having an all-class session. After my experience in the blended class this summer, I agree that would be something to pursue in the fully online class, but before requiring one or maybe two real-time all-class webinars, I would prefer the dates be published in the schedule, so students are committing when they register. Maybe I will pilot this during winter session. I usually only have 10-12 strong students enrolled. Spring will depend on how that goes.

Neither of the two students used the webcam, and I did not either. I used a mic and talked to them, and they typed questions for me in chat, and also interacted with each other using text chat. They planned to try using it for their four member group this week, without me. I will have to follow up with them to see how that went.

On campus had been more troublesome. The drivers were installed in my classrooms late last week, so I decided to test it on Tuesday. I had a packed agenda already, but since it was mostly a lecture class, I thought it might be good to have it recorded. Absent students or the online class could watch it. This was the day where I schlep a suitcase on wheels full of common school artifacts to class. That alone is hassle enough (as the LC level is not very accessible), but this email arrived shortly before class.

All in all, the class turned out good – I was “on” and students were on their best behavior, also very participatory and engaged with the objects and material. But the webcam didn’t work, I got an update Windows administrator log in prompt. I didn’t have time to waste on fooling with it, what with the Provost’s office & Economic Development videographer taping class.

In the evening class, I wasn’t optimistic that it would work, and it didn’t. The same Windows update prompt came up when I plugged in the webcam. A barrier to trying to troubleshoot in this class was that while I had spoken to them briefly about Collaborate on the first day, I hadn’t bothered to show it to them, because I already knew the drivers wouldn’t be there. Just me plugging in the webcam and pointing it at class made them apprehensive. The evening section this semester has more slightly older than traditional college-age students who work full time. They are very serious and a little anxious and overwhelmed. So I cut my losses, and told them the only time I would use it (assuming I can get it to work at all) is in November on their presentation day.

I contacted classroom tech support again, and they tested it this morning. The Windows update prompt came up, but apparently the webcam will still work (at least in Windows Movie Maker, which is how they tested it) after doing nothing but closing the pop-up. So I will try it in Collaborate next week.

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