Scholarly article on topic 'Synchronous Interaction in Online Learning Environments with Adobe Connect Pro'

Synchronous Interaction in Online Learning Environments with Adobe Connect Pro Academic research paper on "Educational sciences"

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Abstract of research paper on Educational sciences, author of scientific article — Emel Dikbaş Torun

Abstract Universities now have the potential of Web 2.0 technologies to facilitate learning opportunities to support, communicate and interact with learners of all ages from all over the world. This study focuses on the use of an online collaboration and virtual classroom system, Adobe Connect Pro, in an undergraduate distance learning programme of an international university. Virtual classroom's 74 students of the online Web Programming course including the content of .NET programming with Visual Studio 2012 participated in the study. Course's perceived teaching and learning quality, interaction, instructor's support, live tutorials, technical issues and challenges are reported as the key dimensions of the synchronous e-learning environments.

Academic research paper on topic "Synchronous Interaction in Online Learning Environments with Adobe Connect Pro"

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Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 106 (2013) 2492 - 2499

4th International Conference on New Horizons in Education

Synchronous Interaction in Online Learning Environments with

Adobe Connect Pro

Emel Dikbaç Town*

Pamukkale Un iversity, Faculty of Commun ication, 20200, Den izli,Turkey

Abstract

Universities now have the potential of Web 2.0 technologies to facilitate learning opportunities to support, communicate and interact with learners of all ages from all over the world. This study focuses on the use of an online collaboration and virtual classroom system, Adobe Connect Pro, in an undergraduate distance learning programme of an international university. Virtual classroom's 74 students of the online Web Programming course including the content of .NET programming with Visual Studio 2012 participated in the study. Course's perceived teaching and learning quality, interaction, instructor's support, live tutorials, technical issues and challenges are reported as the key dimensions of the synchronous e-learning environments.

©2013TheAuthors.PublishedbyElsevierLtd.

Selectionandpeer-reviewunderresponsibilityofThe AssociationofScience,EducationandTechnology-TASET,SakaryaUniversitesi, Turkey.

Keywords: Interaction; Synchronous Learning; Virtual Classroom; Adobe Connect

1. Introduction

During the last decade the use of computer and internet increasingly changed many concepts in our lives. The internet has also changed the way we communicate and transformed our learning. The rapid growth and integration of internet-based learning technologies has emerged the phenomenon known as e-learning.

E-learning requires a set of applications and processes such as computer-based learning, web-based learning, virtual classrooms and online collaboration. The evolution of e-learning continues with the e-learning 2.0 as the consequence of online innovations.

* Corresponding author. Tel.: +90 258 3777671 / 1234; fax: +90 258 3778291 E-mail address: edikbas@gmail.com

1877-0428 © 2013 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.

Selection and peer-review under responsibility of The Association of Science, Education and Technology-TASET, Sakarya Universitesi, Turkey. doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2013.12.286

Generally, e-learning can be defined as an open and distributed dynamic learning environment allowing instructors and learners interact with well-designed web based technology tools in order to share and reuse course materials at any time from any place. In a professionally designed system, e-learning can provide accessible, relevant and high quality learning opportunities so that every learner can achieve his/her own personalized learning. Content delivery can be synchronous (all participants are logged on at the same time and communicate directly, e.g. Virtual classrooms, video conferencing, two-direction live satellite broadcasts) or asynchronous (participants cannot communicate without time delay, e.g. CD-ROM, self-paced courses, videotaped classes, email, discussion groups) (Gallaher, 2002).

Synchronous e-learning tools such as video conferencing (e. g. Skype), web-based seminar (e. g. Elluminate, Wimba, Blackboard Collaborate, iVisit and Adobe Connect), chat rooms and instant messaging are used to enrich the e-learning environments by facilitating online participation. Implementing a synchronous learning platform in an online course may improve students' participation and motivation (Hudson et al., 2012). Synchronous e-learning environments are described as virtual classrooms or digital version of classroom meetings (Almpanis et al., 2011).

Asynchronous technologies such as Blackboard, Moodle, Web 2.0 tools and learning management systems (LMS) give students the ability to communicate with their teachers and peers together with a full-time open access to content including course materials, lecture notes, tutorials, messages and recordings. However the lack of interaction or real-time learning experience in an e-learning environment can lead to a low level of participation. Contemporary e-learning technologies can offer solutions (Stewart et al., 2011) to various problems such as attracting students and providing support.

On the other hand, the new generation teachers who use technology effectively in their classrooms now play the role of mentor, coach (Volman, 2005) and facilitator (e-moderator) (Salmon, 2004) by using online technologies rather than being a transmitter of knowledge or using ICT in their classrooms. Teachers also try to adapt new technologies and educational changes into their teaching environments in order to enhance the quality of education (Ham & Davey, 2005). Teachers need to be able to give emotional and social support, observe learners' performance, provide encouragement and immediate feedback in order that students develop their own knowledge and learn at their own paces (Entonado & Diaz, 2006).

E-learning can also play a critical role in training the new generation learners of all ages from all over the world. E-learning provides collaboration and networked communities for learners to work and conduct research together or to share problems, innovations, and various course materials. E-learning can also transform the traditional paradigm of teaching and learning. Considering the value of e-learning in enhancing the skills of learners, it is possible to generate the successful and skilled students who can easily transform the information into their own knowledge.

The present study contributes to the related literature in this field of research by investigating the learners' perspective of an e-learning course which is processed in an international university's online learning platform. It is important to understand the dynamics of an e-learning environment in order to provide better e-learning opportunities for distance learners who search for effective learning. The investigation addressed the following research question:

• What are the learners' perspectives on the effectiveness, usability and the challenges ofan e-learning

environment?

• What implications does this study provide to improve the virtual classrooms for e-learning?

2. Research Method and Data Collection

2.1. 'Partieipan ts

This study was conducted over a 13-week semester during the first half of 2013 with the participation of 74 students aged between 18-44 from a distance education course of an international virtual university. Participants were undergraduates in the final year of a four-year management information systems degree. Approximately half of the participants work part time or full time during the day. Table 1 shows the characteristics of the participants.

Table 1. Characteristics of participants

Category Number

Gender Female 18

Male 56

Total 74

Age 18-30 25

30-40 40

Job Part time 17

Full Time 48

None 9

2.2. 'Virtual Classroom with Adobe Connect Pro

A web-based, centrally-hosted platform; Adobe Connect Pro web conferencing tool which students enrolled the e-learning system's virtual classroom was used in this study. The subject being taught was Web Programming II course which is a 4th year undergraduate course module for Management Information Systems. The module ran over 13 weeks and required minimum 45 minutes ofsynchronous session study per week during weekdays.

Figure 1 illustrates a typical virtual classroom layout, with the video/audio, instructor, attendee list and shared whiteboard window panes. The panes such as text-based chat, polling, timeline, application and file sharing were also revealed.

Figure 1: Screenshot of an Adobe Connect interface, showing (from left to right) camera and voice, attendee list, screen share- file share and chat panels. The instructor has taught web programming and code development synchronously with Visual Studio 2012 .NET platform.

The instructor constructed a theory-practice teaching process for this course that students had the ability to learn code writing in Web Programming II online class with live tutorials in Visual Studio .NET 2012 platform.

The first 15-20 minutes ofthe webinar include theoretical presentation ofthe course content based on the curriculum and the rest was live tutorials for coding practice with Visual Studio .NET 2012 platform. Web Programming II class consisted ofthe chapters such as Visual Basic .NET, Asp .NET, SQL and ADO .NET. These topics, by their nature, are not usually suitable for simple PowerPoint presentation type ofwebinars and have to be taught and supported by a live tutorial so that synchronous learning and communication would be more attractive for the students.

The course content based on the curriculum was available in the LMS 24/7 for the students and instructors which were programmed as interactive Flash educational softwares by the content experts and consultants. The flow ofthe synchronous session presentations and the tutorials ofthe chapter for each webinar were constructed purposefully by the instructor in order to reach the teaching and learning process goals at the end ofthe semester.

2.3. Data Collection

A questionnaire including 5-point Likert scale, multiple choice and short response sections was developed and administered by the researcher at the end of the semester by using the online survey (see figure 2) option of Google DriveTM. The questionnaire's Likert Type section was partly adopted from Falloon (2011), translated into Turkish and evaluated. Expert reviews were taken into consideration during scale development process. The short response section of the questionnaire was developed by the researcher and transcribed. A mixed methods approach (qualitative for participants' short responses and quantitative for analysis of 5 point Likert Type questionnaire data) research design was adopted.

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Fig. 2: Screenshot from the questionnaire showing multiple choice and short response sections.

3. Results

This study focused on the students' perceived learning outcome, their experience and preferences related to the use of the virtual classroom and synchronous e-learning environment. Due to questionnaire section types, results were analysed quantitative/qualitatively and a large volume of data has been examined. In the questionanire's Likert Type section results (see Table 2), a slight majority of the students (88 %) agreed or strongly agreed that virtual classrooms of e-learning improved their learning and it was nice to be a part of a virtual learning community.

Similarly, 66 students (88%) of the total 74, indicated that they had new skills in the virtual classroom during learning online. 63 students (85%) evaluated e-learning and learning in a virtual classroom as beneficial, and the

same percent of the students' reported that the instructor's shared information and course materials helped them to learn. However, 23 students (32%) were neutral in ease of self expression during online sessions ofthe virtual classroom. On the other hand students' perception of learner isolation was critic. 26 students (35%) reported that they sometimes experienced isolation, while 36 (49%) students disagreed and 12 students (16%) were neutral about learner isolation.

Table 2: Likert type section statements and number of the responses

Statement Number of Responses 1. Strongly disagree 2. Disagree 3. Neutral 4. Agree 5. Strongly agree

1 2 3 4 5 N

The use of virtual classroom in e-learning improved my learning 5 3 33 33 74

The virtual classroom had a positive effect on my relationship with others in the e-learning environment 2 9 30 21 12 74

It was easy to interact with the instructor 2 36 36 74

It was nice to be a part of a virtual learning community 3 6 35 30 74

Sometimes I experienced learner isolation during virtual sessions 9 27 12 20 6 74

Virtual classroom had a positive effect on my studies 2 51 21 74

Virtual classroom would be used more frequently in e-learning 8 39 27 74

It was easy to express myself during virtual sessions 3 23 27 21 74

I had new skills in the virtual classroom during learning online 2 3 3 39 27 74

E-learning and learning in a virtual classroom is beneficial for students 11 27 36 74

The instructor shared us the information and course materials that helped me to learn 11 27 36 74

The results of the responses for multiple choice section reported students' perspectives on virtual classroom session time, the technical features and challenges of the environment, live tutorials that the instructor presented and the time limit ofthe live tutorials. All ofthe students (32: very beneficial, 42: beneficial, 0 neutral or non-beneficial) clearly indicated that the live tutorials were undoubtedly beneficial for their own learning processes in the virtual classroom. 16 students reported that the technical background ofthe virtual classroom system was

inadequate and needs to be developed. Some of the students criticized the time limit of the live tutorials and the synchronous virtual classroom sessions. From students' perspective, in a virtual classroom environment the live presentation and tutorials need to be used more frequently and longer, therefore they reported that the total time (45 minutes) ofthe virtual classroom session was inconvenient.

The short response section ofthe questionnaire focused on the students' implication and critics about the e-learning and virtual classroom sessions. Due to the large volume of qualitative data some of the main transcription topics are reported in this section.

From some of the students' perspective in this course, online learning and virtual universities are the most beneficial dimensions of the e-learning in providing a degree chance for the students with difficulties and disabilities.

Students also reported that synchronous environments would be much more effective on students' learning processes, collaboration and communication as well as the instructor's teaching and communication processes when supported with asynchronous environments via LMS such as recorded virtual classroom sessions. Students indicated that the video archive of the live sessions guided and supported them too much. The students also reported those uploaded content as very useful and helpful to study. The instructor's information messages days before the next session, including the session and tutorial topics leaded to a kind of self-awareness at the students' side. Students' short answers concluded that instructor's informing posts remind them of the self-awareness about the course and guide them to an increased level of online presence.

The most challenging issues reported by the students were about the network connection and technical problems. In this study, as stated before, the instructor carried out the practice sessions on code development in Visual Studio .NET 2012 platform. While connecting to the platform the Adobe Connect System cancels the session for a while and this cancellation results as the loss of the internet connection. This is a big disadvantage for engagement, synchronous learning, social presence and attentional processes waiting for to be addressed in terms ofquality ofthe connection.

4. Conclusion

In this study, findings indicated that perceived teaching and learning quality, time, live tutorials instead of slide presentations, collaboration, learning outcomes and technical issues are the valued dimensions of synchronous e-learning in a virtual classroom setting.

Virtual classroom tools as Adobe Connect are widely available for use in e-learning. However, there is a need for more research and practice on how effectively incorporate these tools in maximizing the learning outcomes. This paper has presented students' experiences and perspectives on the use of virtual classrooms of synchronous e-learning. Further, the lessons learned from this study may then be used as a basis for implementing virtual e-learning system and settings. However, more research is needed to combine different scenarios of virtual synchronous e-learning environments and guide the students to enhance their own learning outcomes. Further research may also provide new implications for future development of virtual classrooms of synchronous e-learning.

References

Almpanis Т., Miller E., Ross M., Price D., James R. (2011). Evaluating the use of web conferencing software to enhance flexible curriculum delivery. In C.A. Shoniregun & G.A. Akmayeva (Eds), Proceedings of the Ireland International Conference on Education (IICE-2011) (pp. 317-322). Dublin: IICE.

Gallaher J.W. (2002). The Adoption of E-learning Across Professional Groups in a Fortune 500 Company. Doctoral dissertation. Graduate College of Education, University of Illinois, Urbana.

Volman M. (2005). A Variety ofRoles for a New Type ofTeacher: Educational Technology and the Teaching Profession. Teaching and Teacher Education, 21, 1 (pp. 15-31)

Salmon G. (2004). E-moderating: The Key to Teaching and Learning Online (2nd edition). London: Routledge Falmer

Ham V., Davey R. (2005). Our First Time: Two Higher Education Tutors Reflect on Becoming a "Virtual Teacher". Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 42 (3), 257-264.

Entonado F.B., Diaz L.A. (2006). A Training Proposal for E-Learning. Teachers' European Journal of Open, Distance and E learning,

Stewart A.R., Harlow D.B., DeBacco К (2011). Students' experience of synchronous learning in distributed environments. Distance Education, 32 (3), 357-381.

Hudson T.M., Knight V., Collins B.C. (2012). Perceived effectiveness ofWeb conferencing software in the digital environment to deliver a graduate course in applied behavior analysis. Rural Special Education Quarterly, 31(2), 27-39.