IDL Best Practices

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.
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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.

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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 cadea@westerntc.edu 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.