by Florence Martin and Michele A. Parker, JOLT
Virtual classrooms allow students and instructors to communicate synchronously using features such as audio, video, text chat, interactive whiteboard, and application sharing. The purpose of the study reported in this paper was to identify why instructors adopt synchronous virtual classrooms and how they use them after their adoption. An electronic survey was administered asking instructors from various institutions to describe their experience adopting a synchronous virtual classroom in either a blended or online course. In describing their reasons for adopting the technology, respondents most frequently cited institutional resource availability, increasing social presence, enhancing student learning, and the availability of technology. Along with audio chat, the features that most influenced the adoption of virtual classrooms and were used most frequently by respondents were the ability to archive conference sessions, see participants through webcams, and use text-based chat interfaces. Open-ended survey responses revealed that instructors used virtual classrooms to promote interactivity, develop community, and reach students at different locations. There were also distinct trends characterizing the demographics of faculty members who reported using virtual classrooms. These findings provide meaningful data for instructors interested in providing synchronous components in their online teaching and for administrators interested in promoting technology-enhanced learning on their campuses.
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