There was an elluminate meeting last night to discuss strategies for managing technology glitches in online education. The meeting started with everyone marking on the map below where they were connecting to the session from. Most of the group were people enrolled in the Facilitating e-learning communities course, although Derek Chirnside from the TALO email group also attended (from Sydney).

location.jpg


After that initial ice-breaker everyone collaborated to

1. Create a list of technologies which they are using or planning to use in their teaching.

2. Make a mark next to the technologies which each individual is planning to use in their teaching

As you can see from the diagram below most people are either using or are planning to use most of the technologies on the list.

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Technologies such as flikr, youtube, video conferencing, slideshare, podcasting were less popular probably due to lack of familiarity. These are all technologies that we haven’t really investigated in any great depth in the course so far.

After this primer, we discussed the different technology glitches that could occur when using the above technologies and strategies that could be used to manage them. A summary of the strategies follows.

Strategies for managing technology risk

Have plan A & plan B (& also maybe plan C)

Back-up communication channel

  • Skype
  • Audioconferencing(http://www.arkadin.com/)
  • check with OP Property & services
  • Email-groups
  • Point of contact in case of emergency

Prepare for technology use

  • Making sure students and staff download and are able to access tech well before use
  • Practice & play with the tools before you use them

Managing server risk – communication channel with people who look after the server

Having a 2nd person involved

 

The first two strategies are quite strongly related. It’s quite important that if everything turns to custard there is a back up plan. A back up plan might be to use a secondary communication channel if the original proves to be un-usable, although there are other options.

Skype, audio-conferencing, and email-groups were all mentioned as possible back-up communication channels.

Skype worked quite well for some of the class last time, and the synchronous nature of the communication is probably quite well suited to salvaging a synchronous elluminate session or something similar.

The benefit of audio-conferencing is that it is independent of the computer, so if there were network connection problems, audio-conferencing would still be able to be used. The downside of audio-conferencing is that there is generally a reasonable cost associated with it’s use, and that network problems are likely to only affect a couple of participants.

For a back-up communication channel to be effective, all participants must be clearly informed that if the primary channel fails for some reason the back-up channel is to be used. It’s also a good idea to have a point of contact for someone in an emergency situation (e.g. if a student has a problem with their local connection).

Preparing for technology use is also fairly important. If Skype is to be used in a teaching session, all participants must have downloaded & installed Skype before participating in the session. It’s also a good idea to have time to play with and get familiar with the technology before using it for an important session.

Having a second person involved in teaching/facilitation was mentioned as a strategy that might be useful in managing technology glitches. Using Elluminate as an example, if the facilitator’s connection went down for some reason it’d be handy to have a second person on hand to continue the facilitation of the lecture.

When technology issues are related to the server (e.g. Elluminate), it’s probably a good idea to have clear communication channels between the server managers and the academic staff who are using applications that are server dependent.

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