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Michael Sankey and Marian Lewis discuss virtual classrooms and student to student interaction

Michael:
Hello, I’m joined by Marian Lewis from the Faculty of Education. Marian has been using the virtual classrooms very successfully over the number of years here at USQ and we’re just going to be talking about the use of student to student interaction in virtual classrooms. Now Marian you have got a large number of first year course of students and you’re using virtual classrooms as an interaction tool with them but you also use it for student to student interaction, can you explain a bit on how you do that?

Marian:
Well basically it’s a perspective education course which is largely philosophy of education and one of the main approaches in the course is for students to work together in groups of six to eight students engaging in a philosophical enquiry. So that they would choose a big philosophical question that interests them and then they would engage an enquiry into that question, they would reflect upon that and that becomes a part of the assessment piece. So if you are an online student you can do that asynchronously because you can use discussion forums and alot of people do that as it gives them the freedom of coming and going to the discussion when it’s suits them. There are quite a number of students who prefer to have the or be it virtual face to face discussion with their group and so they use virtual classrooms in order to be able to meet on a fairly regular basis. So within the course and on the StudyDesk we have a list of about six Wimba classrooms and we give them a name like, The Blue Room, The Red Room or the Pink Room and there is a wiki booking sheet so groups can come in and actually book the classroom provided they don’t book the classroom every day and stop other groups from coming in. But they can actually come in and discuss face to face their questions. On the StudyDesk we’d have the student groups where they can book their classrooms, we’d also have a wimba classroom setup for each of the teachers. If there is an overbooking generally there is one of the staff members that has got a classroom that is free at the time, and a group wants it.

Michael:
So students can go and book their own rooms, there is no one overseeing them in these rooms? they’re looking after themselves?

Marian:
They are, they are looking after themselves. They prefer the real-time aspect of discussion when it’s something that is probably fairly challenging for them. They can record that if they want to, and many of them do.

Michael:
So you give them the rights to control the environment, do you? To put up PowerPoint’s as well and things?

Marian:
That has never been a question that has been asked, I don’t know any reason why they wouldn’t be able to do that if they need to but it’s just more of a discussion rather than a presentation.

Michael:
So do you see the majority of students take advantage of that?

Marian:
Some groups, just want to keep on discussing and they have a regular spot which might be for a couple of hours. And they book the rooms at all sorts of crazy hours like 10:00 at night but I guess it suits their study schedules. Some students just have no interest in engaging in the virtual classroom where as others just find it just really suits their way of working and if we can provide the option for them to do both, either engaged asynchronously in a discussion or meet virtually face to face in a virtual classroom then that is good.

Michael:
And you have been happy with the use of this tool over the years?

Marian:
Yes, sure, it have been good.

Michael:
Very good, thank you alot.