I know that a bunch of us have tried online office hours (with varying degrees of success). Our campus uses Bb, and so my only real option for online office hours is to either use their Chat or “Virtual Lecture Hall”. Of course, it is really difficult to represent mathematical symbols in chat rooms. I have started using Jing for that, but it still makes for a choppy conversation.
As far as the “Virtual Lecture Hall” in Bb goes, it doesn’t seem to be stable. I am fairly sure that I am capable of downloading the correct Java plug-ins, and that I have every updated plug-in known to man on my computer at home, but the VLH crashes every 5 minutes or so, completely freezing up and then we all have to exit Bb, re-enter Bb, and go back to the VLH to continue. So… let’s just say I abandoned that pretty quickly.
One other gripe about this is that you can’t hold simultaneous office hours in all your classes using one of these systems because it has to be opened in a specific class. To give you an idea of how it would have to work, you could have an office hour for algebra on Monday from 7-8pm, an office hour for Algebra II on Monday from 8-9pm, and an office hour for caclulus on Monday from 9-10pm. But wouldn’t you just rather have a long, flexible office hour period where any of your students could attend (more like what we do in person)?
So… on to my little experiment… I’ve been searching for a better platform to hold office hours and I came across this platform called WizIQ in the Distance-Educator.com newsletter. Here are the features I’ve found from my initial screening:
- It has a whiteboard with drawing tools.
- It has mathematical symbols BUILT-IN to the system.
- It has graph paper built in!
- It can do audio and webcams.
- It’s free for educators.
- It seems to be stable. (i.e. not prone to crashing … I played for a while and you can see a couple of my screenshots)
But, to really test this as my suggested platform for online office hours, I need a whole bunch of people to log on and play at the same time and see what WizIQ can take and how it works on a variety of system configurations. If you’d like to participate in my experiment, send me an email and I’ll send you an invitation to join the “WizIQ TEST” session. The session will be held at this URL.
When? Sunday night (11/11/07), 9pm EDT (that’s 6pm for the west coast). I figure none of us have class conflicts at that time.
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