Byrne, J. (2020) REACHING ACROSS THE VOID - BOOSTING INTERACTION IN SYNCHRONOUS ONLINE CLASSES. 14th International Technology, Education and Development Conference (INTED). pp. 8068-8073.


The integration of technology in blended and fully online modes of learning provides higher education institutions with a means of promoting access to education, improving the student learning experience and of supporting the development of 21st century skills. With developments in web conferencing software, fully online learning has evolved to use a combination of asynchronous learning methods and synchronous online classes. The synchronous class allows all members of the learning group to meet in a digital space to share, discuss, ask questions and get guidance. Equipped with webcam, microphone, chat box and white board functionalities, it is designed to support vibrant and lively interaction which is a valuable part of the higher education experience both in terms of developing students' learning and their sense of connection and community. The synchronous online class is a distinctive learning space which presents students and lecturers with its own opportunities and difficulties. For lecturers, making the transition from face to face teaching to synchronous online teaching, can be fraught with emotional and pedagogical challenges. These challenges can occur even when the lecturer has acquired the relevant technical skills and is familiar with the virtual learning environment. This paper, drawn from a project in Trinity College Dublin in Ireland with online students and lecturers, presents a selection of the findings from lecturers on how to promote interaction in fully online higher education. The paper reveals how the synchronous online class can feel more like a void than a vibrant space and uses the community of inquiry framework to analyse the behaviours and tactics deployed by the lecturers to reach across the void and boost interaction in their synchronous online classes.

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