IDL Best Practices
Best Practices for the IDL (Interactive Distance Learning) Classroom The distance learning environment is different from the traditional classroom and often requires different strategies to teach effectively. The following “Best Practices” were offered by IDL instructors who shared their firsthand experiences for success in the distance learning classroom. Travel to each distance learning site that has students, if possible. The students really appreciate this and even tend to engage more in class after you have been to their site to meet them. Take time on your first day of class to help demystify the technology for yourself and the students. It will be well worth your time. It is important to address any technology problems right at the beginning of each class. Contact IMCservice@westerntc.edu or 608-785-9107 for technical assistance as needed. They do staff later into the evening but even when they are not staffed, they will have someone on call that will be paged. Remind students at distance learning sites of the importance of communicating with you regarding any concerns with the video picture or sound. Consider assigning a student tech assistant at each campus to help out as needed with equipment troubleshooting at the distance sites. Asking for a volunteer on the first day of class usually works out well. Ask students to sit in view of the camera and near the front. Zoom in close enough on yourself so that students can see you clearly. It helps to start each class with an agenda. You can open the agenda on the computer or send that image to all campuses, or you could print your agenda and step through it using the document camera. Students also appreciate if you post your agenda to your Blackboard site for them to refer to during class or print ahead of time. Remember to look into the camera occasionally as you are speaking so that the students at the distance learning sites will feel like you are talking to them. Our tendency is to look at the TV monitor because we are looking at the student but unless you look into the camera in the back of the room, it will not appear that you are looking at them (from their perspective). Address background noise right away – tapping pens, shuffling papers, whispers, or eating food can be loud and disruptive. When you are presenting material on the document camera or computer, the students at a distance cannot see you. Try to switch back to the camera every 7-10 minutes or so, ask a question about the content you are covering for example, then switch back. If you are off camera too long the students at a distance start to stir a bit and “check out”. Asking students to say their name and campus when responding to questions will help you learn who they are and will help their classmates too. For student group work during class you can ask sites to mute their microphones, allowing two or more distance sites to communicate. Give them a time limit to turn their microphones back on or use a bright colored sign to ask students to return to class. You could even allow groups to leave the room to work in other spaces at their campus, again giving them a time to return. To aid in the facilitation of class discussion, consider calling on a site at a time, “Ok Tomah, we’re going to start with you. What do you think the answer should be for number 5?” Students on IDL tend to wait a few seconds longer to respond when you ask a question to the class because they wait to see who else might answer. It can feel uncomfortable at first but, you’ll want to wait an extra three seconds or so than you would in a fully face-to-face class. To aid the in-class discussion exercises, consider having students come to class with the answers to some questions. Another approach is the “pair and share” method where you let them talk to a partner at their site about the question you ask. Give students 3-5 minutes, then ask the whole class to come back together and discuss. You can have students do presentations during class. Have them come up to the instructor station at their site and switch the view from Student to Instructor to introduce themselves first. Then they can switch to the document camera or computer as needed. You can even have students draw on a flip chart and then hold it in front of the camera. Avoid using the chalkboard. Rather, use a light colored piece of paper and a felt-tip pen when writing under the document camera. This will make it easier for the students to see what you are writing. If you do not want the camera to flip to show the site where the sound comes, biggest on the screen. You can ask IMCservice to “lock in” the site that you are instructing from. You can send supplies for in-class work to each RLC via CESA delivery. Allow about a week or more. You can request students to printout what they need for in-class work or you can ask that handouts be printed at each site using the IDL material form. You will find a link to that here on the Faculty Resources website: https://facultyresources.westerntc.edu/full-timefaculty/regional-learning-center-rlc-contacts/ The system will deliver a message, “This conference is about to end.” when there is 5 minutes left. Since the system does shut off, it is good practice to answer questions from the distance sites before you take questions from those at the site where you are at. If the camera shuts down, you can continue the conversation by calling the classroom. There are small web/distance conference rooms as each RLC that you can schedule to have 1:1 meetings with students. To reserve a room, email Ann Cade firstname.lastname@example.org at the Viroqua campus. The IDL rooms in La Crosse are moving to 3rd floor Coleman and will have computers because they will be doubling as normal computer classrooms during construction. Those computers may move out to regular classrooms once construction is done unless funds are secured to keep them there and buy new ones for the new classrooms.