Karaman, S., Aydemir, M., Kucuk, S., & Yildirim, G. (2013). Virtual classroom participants’ views for effective synchronous education process. Turkish Online Journal of Distance Education, 14(1), 290-301. Retrieved from http://tojde.anadolu.edu.tr/tojde50/index.htm
In this case study, 20 participants associated with a theology degree programme were interviewed about their virtual classroom (VC) experiences. The aim of the study was to identify the key components that make the VC environment and teaching and learning methods effective.
In this study the common features of the VC included file presentation and screen sharing, chat, audio and video conversation, and whiteboard capabilities. All the VC sessions were supported by technical staff, who installed video and audio materials prior to the sessions and supported the instructor throughout the lesson. All sessions were recorded and subsequently published for students by technical staff.
Analysis of the interviews identified four aspects of the VC environment that were essential to success. Different communication formats were important for interaction between instructor and student, especially for motivation and when clarification was required. The lack of technical stability and technical problems diminished effectiveness, and motivation was linked to the amount and immediacy of technical support. Scheduling of classes must suit students and instructors noted that the typical one-hour classes were not long enough. Finally, students were more motivated when different learning materials from those on their Learning Management System were used, and in different formats. Students wanted video summaries and problems to solve.
The other key component to success is teaching method. Active participation, through questioning techniques as well as problem solving, was an effective motivator. However, some participants wanted specific times for questions so as not to disrupt flow. Even though online, the instructor should express enthusiasm through voice and body movements but should not engage students in ways that could be distracting to others. The material should be related to real-life issues and situations wherever possible to increase motivation. The degree to which the students are prepared before the lesson (ie. previewed the reading material) greatly affects engagement in the VC session.
Semi-structured interviews were conducted with only 20 participants (8 instructors, 10 students and 2 technical staff), which reduces the ability to generalise the findings. Another limitation was that participants all came from one programme. The focus on the VC teaching environment and methods has identified keys concerns for both instructors and students, as well as highlighting the importance of comprehensive and timely technical support. While the article was light on detail, the qualitative interview approach gives me some insight into the thoughts and feelings of those involved in VC instruction.