Trialing synchronous online virtual classroom technology in Biology

In Session 2, 2013 a Faculty Partnership Program (FPP) Project, involving Dr Paul Duckett, Biology Department, and the Learning & Teaching Centre, trialed synchronous online virtual classroom technology. This short-term project enabled Paul to develop new approaches for his teaching, by utilising the support and expertise of the Macquarie University’s Learning and Teaching Centre.

The focus was a new Marine Science and Management unit being developed for delivery in Session 3, 2013. The inclusion of virtual classroom (VC) technology was seen as an advantage for both the convenor as well as students. A virtual interactive learning experience with academics, guest speakers, peers and students would not only allow secure access from any location, but also provide a rich learning environment with practical and applicable skills to students.

The aim of this project included developing protocols for a successful online classroom environment through a pilot of Blackboard Collaborate in order to ensure it could be seamlessly integrated into future Biology units. It also aimed to provide support and build capacity for the academic lead in the use of the VC technology and its integration into the unit, with a focus on gaining a greater range of effective online classroom management techniques for improved learning and engagement.

During the course of the project, which culminated in the successful utilisation of Blackboard Collaborate into the Session 3 delivery, the academic lead and team members mastered many of the elements and functionality of the Blackboard Collaborate interface, with the primary focus being on how to use it efficiently and successfully to support student learning.

As a result of the project, recommendations were made for training, online sessions and documentation to enhance VC session effectiveness, success and academic proficiency. In addition, a range of Blackboard Collaborate resources were sourced and/or created to provide a useful starting point for professional learning resource development and user guides. A Synchronous Virtual Classroom @MQ Toolkit was also developed to provide a planning scaffold and reflect prompt for academics using Blackboard Collaborate.Mowbray

For enquiries about this FPP Project, please contact Lee Mowbray from the Learning & Teaching Centre.

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