Electronic Portfolio: Academic Writings

Pilot Synchronous Course
December 19, 2002

This course design was prepared by a study group composed of Ellen Blackmun, Josephine Deguara, and Kimberly Staten, for OMDE 631, Synchronous Technologies. As with other group collaborative projects, this specific one was very challenging, if for no other reason than the subject matter was particularly foreign. However, that is the true value of group collaboration -- when learners together create meaning where previously there was little common understanding.


This is an introductory course presented in a synchronous format. The course topics are covered in 5 sessions (2 hours each), including two lab sessions and a required exit exam at end of course. In this course, students will learn essential techniques for using a presentation program to create effective presentations. All participating students must have basic computer skills and be familiar with the Windows operating system. Initially, students are presented with a quick introduction to the Windows operating system. Upon completion of this course, students will have learned how to use basic features in a presentation program to create stimulating and effective presentations.

The following table is a breakdown of the weekly activities for the course.

Textbook Reference
Introduction to Course
Getting Started with Presentation Program Module A
Creating Presentation Module Module B
Lab Session Modules A-B
Modifying a Presentation Module Module C
Enhancing Presentation Module Module D
Lab Session, Review Modules C-D
User Groups

This course is intended for faculty members at Nevada College who would like to integrate multimedia presentations into the classroom. Since the course is presented in a synchronous format, it is limited to 10 students per session (Hakes, 1995). If enrollment exceeds 10 students, a new course will be created with a minimum of 5 students. For convenience, faculty may connect to the synchronous system from the College Computer Lab, their office computers or from home.

Pedagogical Objectives

Technology often becomes the primary focus in the online environment. In this course, the emphasis will be on the pedagogy to develop and deliver effective online courses, relying on technology as a tool to support online instruction (Hakes, 1995). The following are pedagogical objectives to be considered in developing the course.

  • Develop and apply good practices in online courses
  • Identify suitable learning activities to encourage collaboration
  • Develop course requirements, objectives and outcomes
  • Determine content and sequence of activities
  • Provide course material and access to resources
  • Identify problems encountered in managing the online environment
Technical and Technology Platform

The course will be provided as a real-time interactive learning experience using a synchronous, instructor-led virtual classroom and collaborative environment delivered via the World Wide Web. The College will contract with a third-party provider for the synchronous classroom system housed on its servers, customized to the College’s specifications. The system selected will provide live text and two-way audio, surveying and feedback, application demonstration and sharing of the presentation program, white boarding, synchronized Web browsing, a student “raise your hand” feature, breakout rooms for lab sessions, and session recording for playback. The course instructor will have control of all these tools and can assign students to breakout rooms or to take control of the classroom (Centra Web site, LearnLinc-Mentergy Web site, HorizonLive Web site).

Instructor and participants must have a Pentium class processor, Web browser, sound card and speakers, microphone, and Internet connection. Depending on the vendor selected, they may need to download and install Java.

Interaction and Collaborative Techniques

Interaction during the session will take place primarily via the audio capabilities, with text as a last resort if audio isn’t working properly. The instructor will verbally explain the presentation program demonstrations and students will be able to ask questions by utilizing the “raise your hand” feature. Voting and polling will be utilized to gather feedback from participants. The instructor can encourage individual participation by turning control of the classroom tools over to the participants at various points in the online sessions.

Collaboration will take place in small group breakout lab sessions, where groups of about 3 will utilize white boarding to plan the small group project and application sharing to complete the project using the presentation application. Each individual will work on one page of the presentation, while the others will critique and suggest improvements (Driscoll, 1998). At the end of the course, each of the breakout groups will present their sample presentation to the rest of the class.

Staff Requirements and Roles

Specific staff will be required for the development, delivery, and evaluation phases of this course. In the development phase, a subject matter expert will work with a course designer to develop the course modules and identify relevant Web sites with sample presentation applications. The course designer, subject matter expert, and course instructor must have expert knowledge of the presentation application being taught.

Before actual course delivery, the instructor must be trained in the navigation features, controls and tools of the synchronous classroom. During delivery, instructor and student technical support must be available from the vendor or the College, depending on the specifics of the contract.

All these staff members will also participate in the evaluation of the course, discussed below.

Evaluation Methodology

“Formative evaluation is conducted in order to improve instructional programs through revision” (Hakes, 1995 p. 141) while summative evaluation will help in the design of future courses. In addition to evaluating instructors, participants’ attitudes, online design and instructional processes, the technology and tools used to facilitate this course will be evaluated to identify any possible barriers to a successful learning experience (Barclay, 2001, Hakes, 1995).

The evaluation methodology will rely on self-evaluation, interviews, observation, and, to the greatest extent possible, on the tools embedded in the medium itself. The specific evaluation methodology will include:

1. Pre-test:

• Polling and multiple choice questions to establish technology and course subject familiarity

2. As course progresses:

• Sporadic closed-ended questionnaires using yes/no capability to check understanding, pacing and comfort with technology
• Mini-evaluations during sessions using text-chat capability for open-ended questions regarding course relevance to learners
• Observation, conducted by a third party using checklists, of instructor’s presentation methods and students’ engagement, participation, interaction and use of tools (Hakes, 1995; Hofman, 2001)
• Ongoing self-evaluation by teacher and technical staff regarding overall effectiveness of course, students’ attitudes and technology performance

3. At end of course (Summative)
• Presentation and test at end of course to determine students’ achievement
• Possibly further observation at learners’ place of work since learners are all at Nevada College (Hakes, 1995).

In this case, interviews can also be held with participants for more qualitative feedback regarding course effectiveness and applicability, learners’ satisfaction and overall system impact (Hakes, 1995).

Results from such evaluation methods will help determine whether instructors need extra coaching and training in presentation methods and more familiarity with technology while delivering instruction in order to develop a “human connection.” Results will also reveal whether learners need extra orientation sessions. For successful teaching and learning in the online environment, technology must be “transparent” (Barclay, 2001; Hillman, Willis and Gunawardena, 1994).

Implementation Plan

A number of strategies will be implemented to make up for certain disadvantages and barriers associated with this online environment. Such barriers include lack of visual cues, a sense of anonymity, limited class time that limits interaction time when compared to face-to-face or asynchronous methods, teacher cannot gauge understanding from students’ facial expressions, students’ apprehension to interact in a synchronous session, the necessity for students to attend classes at specific times (Barclay, 2001; Frank, Kurtz and Levin, 2002).

These implementation strategies include:

• Ensuring that instructor has had enough training to conduct this course
• Distributing certain materials beforehand
• Conducting several trial-runs, possibly using students or other staff as participants
• Ensuring all equipment is working to perfection
• Ensuring that Internet links work
• Asking students to log in ten minutes ahead of time to interact informally
• Ensuring participants, instructor, and course are properly introduced
• Providing an agenda to aid in pacing, but which is flexible and adaptable
• Asking questions frequently to ensure interaction
• Addressing students by name to hold their attention
• Using available tools to engage students
• Providing technical assistance
• Possibly working with a teaching assistant
• Recording the session


Barclay, K. (2001). Humanizing learning-at-distance. Retrieved from http://www.stratvisions.com/dissertation/dissertation.html
Centra Web site, retrieved from http://www.centra.com.

Driscoll, M. (2002). Web-based training: Creating e-learning experiences. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Frank, M., Kurtz, G. & Levin. N. (2002). Implications of presenting pre-university courses using the blended e-learning approach. The Journal of Educational Technology (Forthcoming).

Hakes, B. T., Cochenour, J., Rezabek, L. L., Sachs, S. G. (1995). Compressed video for instruction: Operations and applications. Washington, DC: Association for Educational Communications and Technology.

Hillman, C. A., Willis, D. J. & Gunawardena, C. N. (1994). Learner-interface interaction in distance education: An extension of contemporary models and strategies for practitioners. The American Journal of Distance Education, 8(2), 30-42.

Hofmann, J. (2001). Synchronous exercises from scratch. Retrieved from http://www.learningcircuits.com/2001/may2001/hofmann.html

HorizonLive Web site, retrieved from http://www.horizonline.com.

LearnLinc-Mentergy Web site, retrieved from http://www.learnlinc.com.