Online Synchronous Tutorials in Distance Education– Reflections one year on!

Delaney, L., O'Keeffe, Noeleen, Walsh, Elaine, Costello, Eamon, Brunton, James, Fox, Seamus and Morrissey, Anne (2012) Online Synchronous Tutorials in Distance Education– Reflections one year on! In: AISHE-Conference 2012: Responding to Change: Effective Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 30th & 31st August 2012, Dublin City University, Ireland..


Universities with a commitment to distance education tend to be at the forefront of adopting new technologies to improve the teaching and learning experience of their students (Cakir and Basak, 2004). Social interaction has been found to contribute positively to knowledge construction, higher order learning (Vygotsky, 1975 ed), achievement (Hrastinski, 2009) and successful completion (Rosenberg 2001, Salmon 2000). Technology provides distance education students with enhanced education delivery together with opportunities for social interaction, an element often missing in traditional distance education. Inclusion of the opportunities provided by technology is crucial to help ensure that all elements of enhanced teaching and learning are present in distance education. Following an evaluation of several web conferencing tools, Oscail Dublin City University opted to use Wimba Classroom to provide live, virtual tutorials. Wimba was piloted in the academic year 2010/2011 for tutorial delivery. It was found to be relatively easy to use and generated a positive user experience. The most successful feature of the software was the archived versions of the live tutorials with 83% of students accessing the archives as a revision resource (Walsh, 2010). Following the positive outcome of the pilot, synchronous online tutorials were introduced to all programmes in 2011/2012. This paper reflects on the students and tutors experience engaging with Wimba. The findings of the pilot project have been corroborated; the resource remains popular for tutorial delivery and revision. Additionally, we have found that Wimba has presented a significant opportunity to students for social interaction and knowledge construction. Many use the classrooms to form study groups, enhancing opportunities for online collaboration. The use of Wimba has been extended to include webinars, student presentations and student feedback sessions. This paper also outlines the contribution web based technology can make to preparing distance education graduates for the digital age.

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