Expanding Distance Learning Through Videoconferencing. Joan Hanor, Ph.D. Professor California State University San Marcos

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1 Expanding Distance Learning Through Videoconferencing Joan Hanor, Ph.D. Professor California State University San Marcos Katherine Hayden, Ed.D. Associate Professor California State University San Marcos Background The California State University (CSU) system has a history of supporting innovative course design and delivery of courses at a distance. As early as 1996, professional development funds were awarded to develop, conduct, and assess coursework through videoconference media. Faculty from CSU San Francisco collaborated with faculty from CSU San Marcos to connect their students through videoconference using the internal CSU system. The system connections were limited to the CSU institutions and did not enable external participation from the greater educational community. This process was very cumbersome involving complex procedures for setting up the connections for each session. Computers and settings had to be programmed at the start of each session and reprogrammed at its completion. However, the experience provided exciting new opportunities for student and faculty interaction with content, materials, and remote participants. There was sufficient learning and progress to motivate faculty to explore alternative platforms. Collaboration continued to play a key role in advancing distance learning and in identifying needs for videoconferencing. In the late nineties 28 faculty members from throughout the CSU system were designated as Chancellor s Teacher Preparation Scholars to develop a teacher preparation program based on the model of the British Open University. This resulted in the development of CalStateTEACH, an alternative, independent learning, online and multi-media supported pre-intern/intern program designed especially for practicing teachers who had not yet earned a credential. During its development, small teams of faculty from all over California would meet in person or remotely, always pushing the technology one step further, trying to accommodate their needs for visual as well as auditory communication. The technology team provided the leadership and vision to investigate efficient systems for applying videoconferencing for purposes of professional collaboration as well as instruction. In 2000, CSU San Marcos partnered with the San Diego County Office of Education, North County Professional Development Center, California Technology Assistance Program (CTAP), and over 22 school districts to develop a professional development program that directly benefited over 1700 educators throughout the region. This partnership, entitled Improving Learning for All Students through Technology (ILAST), provided innovative professional development for teachers and administrators at all grade levels and provided the foundations for using interactive videoconferencing to access subject area experts. Multipoint videoconferences were held regularly to connect teacher participants at four remote sites. The San Diego County Office of Education provided the bridge for multipoint ISDN (telephone line) connections. This platform was thought to be superior at the time, but later created the challenge of constant budgeting for the phone line costs. The implementation of the professional development program led to the development of a graduate class designed to help classroom teachers learn how to apply videoconferencing in their classrooms. First offered as part of the ILAST partnership in the fall of 2003, this class targeted the mission statement for the College to collaboratively transform public education by preparing thoughtful educators and advancing professional practices. 1

2 Campus Expansion of Distance Learning In fall 2005, CSU San Marcos identified a team of educators to explore the development of a "state of the art" distance-learning classroom. The location was to be in the brand new business building, Markstein Hall. The team of faculty, representatives from Instructional Technology and the Dean of the College of Business explored distance-learning models from other institutions and discussed best practices for distance learning. The team reviewed campus needs and recommended critical elements for the conversion of the classroom in Markstein Hall during the following spring. During summer, a series of three seminars were offered as professional development for faculty and for recruitment of faculty who would pilot use of the new distance-learning classroom during fall 2006 or spring The goal was to ensure that faculty were aware of best practices and utilized the capabilities that were embedded in the design of the classroom. These seminars included discussions, information and demonstrations that presented important considerations and pedagogy for implementation of distance learning in higher education. Incentives, including lunch, were offered for those who attended. During the seminars, faculty ideas were collected and the team documented critical support strategies that would be needed. The 15 faculty members who attended the series of three summer seminars were enthusiastic about the possibilities for using videoconferencing in their course delivery, and they expressed their appreciation for the opportunity to think and plan for future integrations and implementation of distance learning. Videoconferencing Models To best describe our experiences with videoconferencing (VC), and to help simplify the process, we have organized our files into sample VC models, each of which reflects a different community of learners. Graduate Classes One of the courses offered during spring 2007 was the graduate course for K-12 teachers offered previously in 2003, entitled Impact of Technology on Teaching and Learning. It was designed to support learners ability to design effective lessons for delivery through distance learning technologies. This project-based course included learning teams of teachers who collaboratively designed and presented lessons for distance delivery through their own engagement in meaningful and authentic distance learning experiences. The videoconferencing collaborations offered unique opportunities to add to the diversity of student experiences and provided authentic experiences on which they to build understandings. Reversing Role/ Cross-age Connections A VC session during spring 2007, partnered students from two pre-service classes called Technology Tools for Teaching and Learning with two classes (one middle school and one high school) at the Juvenile Court and Community School (JCCS) at North County Regional Center. This experience engaged university students, who would become future educators, with community school students. One of the high school students presented the software Garage Band to university students demonstrating the creation of custom music. Teacher candidates were empowered by the experience of learning from a high school student through the use of distance technologies. Our instructional technology staff supported the session by providing laptops for participants. Several instructional technology staff and College of Education staff attended the videoconference and participated in the demonstration by the high school student. The session was captured using Media Site, a tool provided in the distance-learning classroom for later reviewing of sessions by students absent for the session. This model provided insight into how connections with local classrooms could expand understanding and experiences of pre-service teachers. 2

3 Connecting Sites for Thesis Defense In fall 2007, another type of collaborative session connected students who were attending a graduate course in Capistrano School District (50 miles north of campus) with College of Education faculty. Faculty who were chairing students for their culminating experience thesis and/or projects were able to meet individually and collectively with their students through videoconference sessions. Some faculty remained on campus and others facilitated the VC connections with students at the far end. At a session held at the end of the fall 2007 semester, students defended their theses or projects over videoconferencing. This session included faculty students and guests on campus, with faculty, guests and students at the far end. During the session, three students presented from campus and six students presented from Capistrano over videoconferencing. College faculty felt the sessions gave them insight into the use of videoconferencing for other classes. This model provided an alternate means of connecting students and faculty from two locations to facilitate the collaboration and thus alleviating travel time. Remotely Connecting Faculty with Students A third model was developed through a collaboration with special education faculty. The instructor for this induction course regularly met with students to review development of a portfolio with reflections demonstrating evidence of meeting standards in their program. The distance learning classroom provided a connection among students on campus and those at a remote site near their teaching locations, using the San Diego County Office distance learning facility, some 30 miles from campus. The students at the county facility typically drove to campus from South County schools during high traffic times. During this session, the instructor used PowerPoint and the Internet to facilitate discussions and prompt a question and answer period. The students and the instructor felt that the use of videoconferencing provided a valuable support for their course goals and learning, as well as saving valuable travel time. Plans were made to further explore this option during the upcoming semester. In this model, students were at a distance and the instructor was on campus with some of the students, thus expanding the reach to meet student needs. Meeting Instructional Needs This model developed unexpectedly and is an expansion of the above model. In this case, the instructor was remote and all students were on campus. When a faculty member was not available to teach a Spanish class on campus, an instructor was brought in through videoconferencing to teach for the entire semester. Because of the positive student response to this opportunity, we anticipate replicating this to increase flexibility for future course offerings. For instance, our campus has a Riverside campus that offers limited courses seventy miles away. Videoconferencing and the distance-learning classroom will be used to support expansion based on the model used for the Spanish class. Peer Collaboration Students from a CSU San Marcos credential class presented strategies for working with English language learners to teacher candidates on the East coast. Working in teams, the students presented using a document camera, posters and other visuals to showcase their ideas and strategies for effective teaching. Peers from the remote classroom asked questions and discussed what they learned from this exchange. PowerPoints were shared through to allow the screen to connect the two audiences visually. This model for collaboration between campus students and instructors and remote peer classes offers an extension of learning for a global collaboration and sharing. 3

4 Instructional Strategies that Worked Best in a Videoconference Environment In our work with teachers, faculty, staff and guests, we continuously collect data from participants to determine what they valued most about their experiences. Through their reflections, participants have identified specific instructional strategies to be most effective within a VC environment. 1. It was helpful to contextualize the videoconference within a broader spectrum of communications such as pre and post conference exchanges, phone calls, postings and documents. 2. Common points of discussion were clarified and critical thinking was encouraged when advance organizers and handouts were provided. 3. Development of a videoconference script alerted participants of camera shots, anticipated timeline, and expectations for individual, group, and teacher interaction during the session. 4. Established protocols among participants, including etiquette, supported equitable participation and successful communication. 5. All VC sessions required advance organization. These varied from simply setting up tests for connectivity to providing practice controlling or using the system. 6. For some occasions, greater individualization occurred when participants assumed specific roles and responsibilities such as group leader, facilitator, recorder, researcher, group spokesperson, cameraperson, demonstration leader, etc. Conclusions & Suggestions Videoconferencing collaborations offer unique opportunities for participants to relate to others who would not ordinarily be part of their campus environment. In our research, we are finding that the same characteristics of an engaged learning activity, as suggested by Dewey a century ago, remain applicable to contemporary learning environments of videoconferencing. Key factors of engaged learning can be identified as being: Relevant to students lives and experiences, Pertinent to the curriculum, Involving critical thinking and problem solving, Stimulating creative thinking, and Supporting collaborative decision making by the group (Tanner, 1997, p. xii) Based on our experiences to date, there are several factors to consider when using videoconference equipment. There are currently two ways to make connections: either IP (Internet Protocol) or ISDN (telephone lines). Videoconferencing requires a two-way connection/conversation so you will need to be compatible with your connecting site. You will find some excellent suggestions for equipment and for program development in the book published by ISTE, Videoconferencing for K-12 Classrooms by Cole, Ray and Zanetis. Research on best practices by Hayden (1999) provides models for VC that support constructivist learning environments. In the long run, videoconferencing can save time and money. Through the use of this technology, professional development and course offerings become affordable to a school or district that may not otherwise be possible. References Cole, C., Ray, K., & Zanetis, J. (2004). Videoconferencing for K-12 classrooms. Eugene, OR: International Society for Technology in Education. Hayden, K. (1999). Characteristics of videoconferencing that support a constructivist learning environment. Retrieved April 29, 2008, from 4

5 Pepper, C. (2003). Digital handbook: A videoconferencing guide for teachers and students. Retrieved May 25, 2005, from Tanner, L. N. (1997). Dewey s laboratory school: Lessons for today. New York: Teachers College Press. Wiggins, G., & McTighe, J. (1998). Understanding by design. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. About the Presenters Joan H. Hanor, Professor in the College of Education at California State University San Marcos, received her doctorate with an emphasis on Educational Technology from UW-Madison in In addition to teaching educational technology courses, she directed a state funded professional development collaboration called ILAST: Improving Learning for All Students through Technology. This partnership increased and improved opportunities for distance learning within the greater educational learning community. She has been actively involved in videoconferencing for over ten years and has taught workshops, seminars and courses to educators teaching them how to apply videoconferencing to their K- 12 classrooms. Address: California State University San Marcos College of Education 333 S. Twin Oaks Valley Drive San Marcos, CA Phone: Fax: Katherine L. Hayden, Associate Professor of Educational Technology at California State University San Marcos, is past President of the Board of Directors for Computer Using Educators, Inc., a non-profit technology organization supporting teachers in K-20 teaching and learning. She has developed online courses and mentoring for teachers and administrators. Her dissertation research was on Characteristics of Videoconferencing that Supports Constructivist Learning Environments. Dr. Hayden is a member of the Distance Learning Team who investigated development of a distance-learning classroom focusing on the use of videoconferencing. She currently teaches five fully online courses including one focusing on the design and pedagogy for distance-learning courses including videoconferencing for the nurse educator. Address: California State University San Marcos College of Education 333 S. Twin Oaks Valley Drive San Marcos, CA Phone: Fax:

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