Academic Digital

Testing Wimba

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been helping out at a couple of sessions at getting groups of students to use Wimba (I’m looking at ways of trying this more widely in the institution, but not there yet – think I may have to hang out in the dining area!). The students will then be interviewed for focus groups, and it will be very interesting to see their feedback.

The sessions were run by a pair of tutors, with one taking the lead on Friday, and one today. They had been on Wimba Classroom training sessions, but the use of the software was anticipated to be very “conscious” (the tutor always has more to learn than the student). I was available in the classroom to help calm nerves (so that the tutors could concentrate in another room), and ensure that the audio worked well (it’s what we’ve had the most issues with… Wimba’s not alone with these – I’ve been on the #jiscel10 conference all week, and a few people having issues there too!).

Friday Session

Friday was a 9am start (not always a great time), and we had 90 minutes for the session with First Years. Set up and log in was fairly straightforward. Students weren’t using their mikes so only needed to be able to hear. We recommended that they plug in the headphones before booting the browser. For some we also had to go into the control panel and change the settings as several were set to mute, but it was all pretty straightforward. I was not required to help calm any student nerves… they were straight in, experimenting with the different functionality. The tutor was running a seminar session based upon the previous day’s lecture. To a certain extent the students were a little distracted by the technology, but as they settled engaged with the interactivity that the tutor was putting forward. Inevitably, as they were in a room together, the group dynamic also came into play (and it would be interesting to see what would be different if they were all working from home computers), so there was quite a bit of laughing & joking (again, that was part of my role to ensure that didn’t get out of hand!). When the students were allocated to ‘Breakout Rooms’, the eBoard that we thought we’d disabled appeared, and the students greatly enjoyed doodling… of the most primitive kind! 10 minutes were given for them to work on the breakout material, maybe too long? The general feedback from the students was really positive, with some of them wondering why they’d had to come in (most of them only a few metres from students halls!)  as they reckon they could easily have done it from home… it’s just straightforward. And yes, they all looked like “typical age” students.

Interestingly one student was ill and hopes to access the archive, and another couldn’t get in, so joined from home… both exactly the kind of situations that Wimba is designed for (but tutors need to work with the software before it’s required really, so that it’s more natural, and they can concentrate on the content, rather than the tech). We’re currently investigating what button we haven’t pressed to access the archive!

Thursday Session

Today, students had been in a lecture for the hour beforehand, and this seminar followed on from the lecture. Students were around 5 minutes late into the room, but logged in quickly. We initially couldn’t find the Classroom, but it was just in Moodle ‘shuteye’ mode, so once that was opened (and the browser refreshed), students were in. The process with the audio was the same this time, with all on fairly easily. We had 60 minutes for the session, and students weren’t all in until 26 minutes in (for distance sessions, we’d recommend that students log in 15 minutes beforehand). Students seemed to be more ‘with it’ from the beginning, and knowing that we hadn’t resolved the eBoard issue (which turned out to be that it is ALWAYS available in breakout rooms), we were clear that tutors can see into the breakout rooms, and as soon as they were announced I gave the students 60 seconds to play then encouraged them to move on to answering the queries. Students were again positive about this, and with the next session (not til Feb) we are planning to ask the students to bring in mikes as well as headsets, and seeing where we go with that – as the students found that in typing they lost some of what they wanted to say. In this we will need to ensure good etiquette for speaking (particularly with a slight sound delay on the audio) – common in the #jiscel10 conference is that people are asked to put their hand up and the chair nominates the next speaker. Seems to work well…

Staff were keen to help develop a ‘quickstart guide for dummies’ for Wimba Classroom, based upon what they wished they had known (even after the training!), although they are also aware of the material available here.

Well, that’s my “off the top of my head” feedback….


"Letters from the Edge: Keep Calm and Carry On" @jamesclay #jiscel10 #uksnow

Below is a blog entry written by James Clay for the currently ongoing #JISCEL10 conference, drawing upon a title I suggested for our talk at #PELC10 (Keep Calm and Carry On – my PhD research included this topic). As we are running into another freezing cold snap, the issues we raised at that conference are raised highly again. At the University of Winchester as we look to embed the use of Wimba amongst staff (and students, although we’ve been running some test sessions with them, and they don’t need any guidance, but dive straight in and experiment with the tools), this re-emphasises the need for using such software, although there’s a clear feeling at the moment that’s its more of a choice/add-on.

Moor LaneLetters from the Edge

Keep Calm and Carry On
November 24, 2010 12:47pm | Categories: question, views
Tags: snow
posted by James Clay

The BBC is reporting that:

The UK is entering a prolonged cold snap which could bring one of the earliest significant snowfalls since 1993, according to weather forecasters.

Northern and eastern parts of the UK are expected to bear the brunt of the wintry conditions.

So more snow and more prospects of snow closing institutions… despite the fact that we currently have the technology to enable institutions to remain “open” virtually, whilst keeping the physical site closed.

One of my favourite quotes from Terry Pratchett is that “million-to-one chances happen nine times out of ten”. When something awful happens, or freakish, we hear news reporters say “it was a million-to-one chance that this would happen”.

In February 2009 we had the worst snow for twenty years. Across the UK many schools, colleges and universities closed for a few days as travel made it impossible (and unsafe) for learners to get to their lessons and classes.

As it was the worst snow for twenty years, any idea of planning to use the VLE or similar to support learning from home was thrown out of the window, as it was obvious that such bad snow probably wouldn’t happen again for another twenty years…

Of course less than twelve months later, we had even worse snow. We saw even more closures and for even longer!

What were the chances of that happening?

What are the chances of it happening again?

Probably less than a million-to-one!

Even if it doesn’t snow really badly next year, other things may happen that result in the physical closure of the educational institution. It could be floods, high winds (remember 1987), flu or similar viral infections, transport strikes, fuel crisis, anything…

So how should educational institutions be responding? How should they prepare?

Personally I think that it is not about preparation, but having the staff and learners in the right frame of mind about using online and digital tools before any such million-to-one chance happens.

Changing the culture is going to take time, having access to the right tools can help, but attitude towards those tools is just as important. Culturally we have some way to go I think before snow or any other “disaster” only closes the physical location and doesn’t close the institution.

This is something that I have been talking about for ages and discussed during a symposium at the Plymouth e-Learning Conference.

“million-to-one chances happen nine times out of ten”


Recording of the “Keep Calm and Carry On” debate at PELC10.

e-Learning Stuff Podcast #030: Snow Joke Two

e-Learning Stuff Podcast #012: It’s Snow Joke

Digital Event

Wimba Classroom (Workshop)

The final session prepared for Wimba, although I need to go back and re-edit my Voice and Pronto presentations!

Academic Digital

Wimba Pronto

A session that I taught this morning. I need to re-edit some of the content (as with all the Wimba material, I’m learning by teaching – it’s the best way… learn it the week before/prepare well, but plenty of flexibility for unexpected questions…), and also there’s a few things that are not functional on the uni system (which they were at home), so a bit of sorting to do there…

Academic Digital

Introduction to Wimba Classroom

We’re currently continuing our implementation of the Wimba Suite at the University of Winchester.