Online Courses or, How I learned my school was doing them wrong (Part 2)
10 minutes!! And the homework is done…
Today I was browsing the Internet when I remembered that I had to do my homework for my online American Literature course. I logged onto Blackboard, where all our online classes take place, wrote my discussion board for the week in 10 minutes and logged off. Now I won’t have to go back on Blackboard until next week. It’s true; I enjoy my online classes because they are simple. Once a week, I have to participate in a discussion board and besides a few papers on the side, that’s it.
I’ve taken one online class for every semester that I’ve been in school and I haven’t complained once. It’s no mystery that regular online classes are an enriching and engaging experience, it’s just that my university professors who teach the online classes don’t use their resources to their full potential (much like some of our in-class professors).
Blackboard has IM, Blogs, Calendars, Groups, Journals, Messages, and Wikis to use for online classes, just to name a few. Most importantly, the website has something called “Collaboration Sessions” that “allows the Instructor and Students to participate in real time lessons and discussions.” That’s literally all I know about it, because not one of my classes online or in the classroom has even come near or even noticed the “tools” tab on Blackboard. WizIQ, being one of the top companies when it comes to virtual classrooms, has a free trial of their virtual classroom that anyone can try out to get the jist of what their company is about. I tried it to see what my University was depriving me of (as I found out, WizIQ works with Blackboard, too).
After I filled out a quick information form, the virtual classroom loaded quickly and I was in! Immediately I was immersed in a crisp and clear full screen white board, with a small box put to the side. Along with a whiteboard that professors could write their notes on, there was also a pointer tool that was clearly used for drawing the student’s attention towards something. Also available for the whiteboard was a variety of shapes and lines, graphs, smiley faces, and an eraser.
What I found most useful about the whiteboard was the text box option. Instead free handing their notes on the board, professors could simply type their notes into the text box and it would appear on the board. This is probably far easier than writing with the virtual marker that is supplied. In fact, everything seems to be far easier in a virtual classroom. For one thing, in a real classroom you have to submit everything through email and you don’t get it back for a few days. If you’re working on something on your computer, you have to raise your hand and wait for the professor to get around to you. This is the same for if you want to share a video or some sort of media.
And still more…
When on WizIQ, that’s all solved. You can upload documents right into the class. The professor could read them right then and there and you would get a grade. You can also share your desktop screen with the whole class so everyone can see what you’re working on. There’s a media player for all your video, music, and picture needs. What isn’t there to love about all of this?
My absolute favorite feature is the raise hand option. Let’s say for instance your professor doesn’t see your question in the chat box or doesn’t hear you ask your question (because this is possible through a webcam), there is a raise hand button that alerts the professor that you have something to say. Essentially, it all works the same as a regular classroom; it’s just far more advanced.
Why can’t Universities modify their traditional methods by introducing Blackboards?
If Blackboard’s collaboration sessions are anything like my 5-minute trial of WizIQ, I highly suggest that some of my online professors begin using it. We could still keep doing their precious discussion boards, but maybe instead of having to read 100 pages a week, they could start lecturing us. My university has the ability to create powerful online courses right at their fingertips, they just need to take some time to back away from the norm and expand their minds to higher education virtual classrooms.