Published evidence suggests that online students are unwilling to participate in both synchronous and asynchronous online discussion. To measure ‘social presence’ as an important component of Community of Inquiry model, students’ interaction and participation in the class activities in an online environment is imperative. As a result, we developed an innovative strategy using Google Wave to facilitate synchronous discussion among online students who were enrolled in an intermediate epidemiology course. During the class session, the instructor prepared a set of questions based on the lecture materials for the week. The instructor then called students in turn to address the questions posted during the online class session. Other students were allowed to provide comments based on the initial response. This strategy increased the presence in the classroom and also facilitated social interaction in an online environment. The instructor survey the class at the end of the semester and the following are a select comment from students: "I think it is very beneficial to an online class, so yes, I liked it a lot!" Another student said " I like the Google Wave session. I have taken several online classes and this is the first to use Google Wave...And it seems to be engaging!".
In spring 2010, I was assigned an online Epidemiology of Infectious and Chronic Disease course to teach. From my past experience and the available literature, it was evident that getting students to participate in online class activities appeared to be a problem. Therefore, I utilized the newly available online technological tool called ‘Google Wave’ to facilitate an online synchronous discussion among students enrolled in this course.
At the begining of semester, each student opened a ‘Google Wave’ account (this was free) and a time was set aside to meet in an online environment. During each online session, the instructor took a roll call and asked students to vote for the continuation of the session. The voting procedures gave students sense of ownership and the impression that the instructor was just there as a moderator. The instructor then posted a set of prepared questions online and called students turn by turn to address each question. The instructor reinforces and praised students when the qualities of their responses were high. For example, the instructor might say “I am very impressed by your responses”. The feedback from the instructor encouraged other students to freely participate in the class discussion.
At the end of the semester, the instuctor evaluated students participation by the number of blips per student. A blip is a Google Wave window frame, that holds real online information about each student's discussion. The minimum average number of blips per student was five and the maximum number was twenty. Per the graph below, the average number of blips per students peaked a week before the midterm and final examinations. All students who joined the online session contributed at least two blips.
This practice is related to all the five pillars of Effective Practices:
1. Innovation: I personally believe that using a 'Google Wave' to facilitate an online discussion synchronously is very innovative. It increases the presence in the classroom. It gives students sense of ownership and are not intimidated to participate.
2. Replicability: The strategy is replicable with any technological tools that facilitate real time discussion. In fact, with the demise of 'Google Wave', I am now replicating the method I used for Google Wave with Novell Pulse. I will compare the effectivness of Google Wave with Novel Pulse in fall 2011.
3. Potential impact: Several impact on students learning have been observed. It has increased students participation in online discussion, it has improved students understanding of epidemiologic concepts, it has facilitated social interaction, and forces students to stay on target, and it facilitated easy document sharing.
4.Supporting documentation: Evidence of effectiveness is available on request.
5. Scope: Increased social presence in the class also increased the cognitive presence
Overall, students and the instructor expressed their satisfaction with the use of Google Wave evidenced by the comments of students at the end of the semester. The outcome of this research has been presented at the Sloan-C Annual International Online Conference in Orlando Florida in 2010.
The online equipment is the availability of internet access with a standard webrowser.
The cost in terms of equipment ranges from $300 for a lap top.
Novell bought the copy rights for Google Wave and the beta form of Novell Vibe is out now. I am actually testing the beta with the hope of using it in Fall for my online epidemiology course. It is free right now for a group not more than 20 people. Check out more information about it on vibe.novell.com.