Ed-Media 99 Roundtable

R. Katz 6/22/99

Virtual Teaching: Lessons in Shifting From Standup Classes to Online and
Distance Learning.

Why this work is important

Schools and teachers are just now beginning to adapt to what students
already know: Learning from afar or relaxing the time and place of learning
profoundly enlarges the teaching and classroom environment.

Definition of Virtual Teaching: (1) providing interactions of Students and
Course material online (via E-mail, Telnet, and
the World Wide Web) [different time and different place]

(2) providing non-interactive presentations of Course materials via
Television and/or Videotape [Same time, different place]
when live broadcasts, and [different time, different place] when relayed via

(3) providing interactive presentations of Course materials via Closed
circuit, interactive Television and multiple receive sites.
[Same time, different places]

Online Classes

Advantages and Disadvantages compared with Standup classes:

          € No classroom

          € Interruptability

          € No Travel; access at home via Computer

          € Shift from Centralized equipment/facilities
          administration to distributed student

          € Follows the VCR model: student convenience
          in rescheduling time and increased efficiency
          written [visual] emphasized over oral
          presentation [Auditory]

          € Student articulation [response improvements]

          € Adjusted cost in time for instructor (Course material
          update, maintenance) increased

          € Student interaction dispersed and increased;

          € travel time decreased; rescheduling of time flexibility

Non-Interactive Television/Videotape Courses

Advantages and Disadvantages

          € Recordable TV presentations for subsequent study

          €No direct Student-teacher interaction (after the fact only)

          € Harder to pinpoint/reference Instructor inaccuracies or Student
          misinterpretations of information

          € Harder to teach non-linearly [TV/Videotape time seen as more
          precious than in person time]

Interactive Distance Learning

Advantages and Disadvantages

          € Teacher can't see [remote] students

          € Students can talk to Teacher

          € Students can be identified by teacher both by voice and by
          system login

          € Teacher can bring to bear a variety of presentation modes:
          Prepared presention on
          Laserdisc or Computer, Ad hoc hand annotated paper and pen,
          classical Stand up lecture, Computer demonstrations

          € Teacher orchestrates the sequence of modes for the Interactive
          TV Broadcast.

Traditional Standup Classes

Advantages and Disadvantages

          € Immediacy of Students and Teacher

          € Natural Interaction among Students/Teacher

          € Variety of presentation/Teaching Styles

          € Less dependence on equipment

          € Scheduled Time and place

          € Centralized School resources dependence

As can be seen from the consequences of these teaching modalities, moving
from traditional Standup classrooms to Virtual classrooms requires planning
and forethought to surmount the challenges and to exploit the opportunities
for teachers, students, administrators and Course developers.

Therefore, the discussion topic: How to transition to Virtual Teaching is

Discussion topic: How to transition to Virtual Teaching

Topics for discussion would include:

(1) Mapping how the school registration, Instructor, and Support staff
currently work to deliver Courses to Students.

This is an important starting point, particularly if a school has no
experience with Virtual Classrooms.

(2) Diagramming multiple viewpoints, (of the Student, Instructor, Registrar,
Computer system administrator).

Virtual Classroom solutions can then begin to overlay the essentials of the
course delivery.

Questions like the following need to be resolved:

          € How can the Student register if not in person?

          € How does the Instructor contact the Student and inform them of
          how they connect to the Virtual (online) class (by the time the
          class starts)?

          € How does the Instructor know the student is
          who they say they are (throughout the course)?

          € How can the Student connect to the class using their own

          € Should the class be on-demand or scheduled?

          € What is an optimal class size on-line?

          € What is the instructor/student class ratio?

          € Can multiple instructors serve much larger classes?

          € What are the requirements of the Computer Servers to handle
          multiple students in a class and multiple classes online?

          € What are the prerequisites of Students in terms of

               accessibility, Computer literacy (keyboard skills), Knowledge
               and use of Computer tools that will be Course implementing

               personality characteristics (sense of adventure, flexibility,
               independent, self-starting)?

          € What are the prerequisites of the instructor in terms of
          multiple kinds of accessibility, writing
          skills, knowledge and use of the underlying computer system and
          implementing mechanisms as well as the course content?

          € Dealing with unexpected situations (forgotten passwords, URLs,
          Client or Server Computer down times)

(3) The transition continues with Developing the Course which requires new
guideposts for the student, for whom this may be a
brand new experience, and "how is it going?" mechanisms for the instructor
to gauge whether communication and learning are taking place. Examples may

          € Extra tutorials (directed procedures for the students to follow)

          € Scheduled times for Students and Instructors to be online and

          € Instructor surveys of who is or isn't participating (who has not
          logged on to the server, how many and which URLs are being

          € Simply asking the student about the speed of the instructional
          delivery (Too fast? Too slow? just right?)

          € Getting feedback by giving a Course in Dress Rehearsal form or
          as "prevues" and making appropriate Course corrections

(4) Conducting the Course requires concentration and a shifting viewpoint.
Because of the heavy dependence on lots of
computer and phone equipment, flexibility is essential. The facilities of
the Computer system should be exploited.

          € Using mailinglists to deliver E-mail to the entire class
          membership at once.

          € Using Schedulers to send out tests to the class at a specific
          date and time.

          € Having multiple ways to be connected to the server using
          multiple windows (sessions) to accomodate real time
          conversations with multiple students concurrently.

          € Producing a diary of Instructor activity/happenings so the
          course can be faithfully replicated and/or repeated in the future.

          € Upgrading of Computing Systems, Network Downtimes are normal

          € Remaining cognizant of student activity or inactivity, and abuse
          or denial of service.

          € Programs to determine last login or last E-mail they sent.

          € Contacting student also by phone or letter, in case of questions
          or problems.

          € Rehearsing commands/actions before doing them for real.

          € Creation of a Frequently Asked Questions File accessible by the

(5) Considering Open Issues in Virtual Teaching

€ Copyright/Duplication of Instructional materials

€ Adjusted time to develop and deliver instruction online

€ Course workload for Online classes greater than for Standup (Daily
availability vs reduced travel time)

€ Designing Courses for minimal computer technology (That means E-mail only)
provides the greatest accessibility
for students, geographic, and multi-school participation. More sophisticated
technology (e.g. audio/visual Web based)
will scope the class and may exclude potential students.

€ What is the proper compensation for Virtual Teachers based on course size,
and workload?

€ How to further verify real students?

(6) Absorbing Lessons learned from [1] Standup to Online, [2]
Non-Interactive Television/Video Tape and [3] Interactive Television:

Standup to Online

€ Use online counterparts to standup classes (e.g. class questions and
discussion = mailinglist; Individual question
and answer=E-mail messages, Hand annotated grading of homework and
tests=Computer quotation of annotations in Email to ease
the Training effect on your Students and allow them to more quickly adapt.

€ Time lag to return graded material severely reduced

€ Standup Classes can benefit from providing Course materials on the Web and
teaching from them.

Non-Interactive Television/Videotape

€ Not purely one mode of presentation; also used Express mail, Web site,
mailing list among students, E-mail to Grading assistants, professor,

€ Frustrating Time lag between when homework, tests handed in and graded
work returned

€ Frustrating Time lag between when questions were asked of Teaching
assistants or instructor and when they were answered

Interactive Television

€ Can't See Students, This affects visual presentation of instructor, who
must face the camera and make believe
it's human to come across as talking directly to the viewer.

€ Teaching in an empty Studio. Audience is totally remote. The energy
expenditure is much greater than when
face to face where an energizing exchange can occur.

€ Teacher must use Commerical TV-like gimmicks to maintain the attention of
the student. (i.e. Outrageous statements,
visual gags, (i.e. disembodied (3rd) hand as pointer to chart)

I envision that the roundtable would talk about the virtual classroom models
in turn where participants can discuss what techniques worked or didn't work
to overcome the limitations or exploit the inherent opportunities made
available by the medium.

About the proposer:

Robert Katz, B.S., M.S. (Math) is a Senior Systems Analyst at the Boeing
Company and a part time instructor at Highline Community College in Des
Moines, Washington. He has taught part time at the Community College level
since 1982 in Mathematics and Computer Information Systems as well as within
the Learning and Development Division of Boeing.

He has participated in all of the following endeavors:

Contributor to A Cooperative Community College project:

Lentini, Marc,Access On-Demand: Developing New Technologies for
Instructional Delivery,Green River and Highline Community Colleges, July 1,


Highline Community College CIS 215, UNIX on the Internet, has been taught 8
times since June 1997


Stanford University Distance Learning Course: CS242 Survey of Programming
Languages January-March 1997 4 Credit Hours


Boeing Educational Network [Audio Interactive] Television System, 1995-1998,
UNIX Concepts and Facilities (21 Hours)


Standup courses in Mathematics, Math Laboratory, Computer languages (Basic,
C), Introduction to UNIX, UNIX Shell programming, UNIX System Administration