During the Fall, 2009 semester, I used Adobe ConnectPro for my online office hours in addition to the open lab we hold on Wednesday and Thursday nights for students in the ICC Web program. I did some tracking to determine how frequently students took advantage of these opportunities to learn more and obtain additional help. A quick analysis is below.
- Online office hours using ConnectPro – 42 student visits during the semester (average of 2.2 students per session).
- Open lab – 304 student visits (average of 9.8 students per open lab)
While the online office hours may not seem like many students, this is a vast improvement over previous semesters. Every online session (with one exception) this semester had at least one student stop by for online assistance. During most previous semesters, online (and in person) office hours were a complete waste of my time. Many semesters, not a single student stopped by during the allocated time. To answer the question you likely have – the reason for this is that I tend to respond very quickly to email and online messages throughout the entire semester (and average many messages per day). Therefore, in the past office hours were pointless as I handled the questions as they arose (and did not wait for a specific time to meet with students). However, we are required to hold office hours so I waited patiently (and worked on other lessons) while no one ever stopped by. However, using ConnectPro meant that I could actually share my applications and desktop with students visiting and we could quickly solve problems that students had encountered. I also set up a few additional sessions for students who needed help at a given time (rather than waiting for the required office hour time). Was it a perfect solution, no. Sometimes, there were voice problems with various microphones (and not all students had microphones). However, this was a vast improvement over previous semesters. It is likely I will continue to use this tool and hold online office hours in this manner for some time to come. This also meant that I was able to communicate much more clearly with students in other states and countries who are taking our classes. Personally, I am sold on the use of ConnectPro. I would be interested in comments from students regarding their experiences with the ConnectPro environment.
I also included a note about the open lab (which both Shari and I make available to students who are in the area). Part of the reason for this is that I have heard comments from some who question whether anyone actually shows up for these open lab sessions. Obviously the answer is yes. Since we had an average of almost 10 students per session throughout the semester, these seem to be a good use of an otherwise empty room on campus (empty at that time of the night).
As an aside, I believe that the above numbers also demonstrate that students prefer to have actual personal interactions (rather than virtual) for help with specific problems as they learn web technologies. And to answer the obvious question asked by many students – we have to do the classes in online fashion only because of the number of students we have from other states and regions. In this manner we can serve the greatest number of students who want to learn web systems. Yes, it is harder to take online only classes (it is also harder to teach them). However, I believe that tools like ConnectPro help us get closer to the physical in-class experience desired by most.