Saturday, 26 December 2009

How to learn or teach online using a free platform

It is not easy to find the right time for training teachers in technology. Teachers are usually very busy teaching, marking tests, filling reports, correcting homework or preparing classes. So, Saturday mornings or some evenings are the only possible meeting time, but these are not the most popular times. Teachers – usually women – also have a family, dinners to prepare or children to look after, so virtual meetings may be an interesting possibility to solve this problem.

WIZIQ is a web based education platform powered by teachers who continually improve it in response to its users’ feedback. This collaborative web conferencing environment is amongst the best online teaching solutions in the world, and it integrates the following set of online tools: synchronous (happening at the same time) and asynchronous teaching through virtual classrooms, online tests and a content sharing and messaging system.

Pros: Wiziq is absolutely free of cost for teachers and students; it enables participants to communicate synchronously using audio/video or only audio broadcast or through text chat; all classes are automatically recorded and you can download the recordings; pdf, doc, xls, ppt or flash files can be uploaded easily; teachers are in full control of the environment: they can share the online interactive whiteboard (IWB) with multiple tabs, simple click start and stop functions and full-screen sharing; teachers can allow students to speak or activate their webcam,

and they can also disable the chat to make students concentrate on the class.

Wiziq members can participate in community discussion forums where they get connected with members from around the world, participate in discussions, learn from the experiences shared by other members and/or ask questions and get answers in community discussions. The platform also has an official blog where users can read about its latest updates.

Another interesting resource is the fact that teachers can create tests and students can attempt and get their score. One new feature is that images can be uploaded and included in tests now. Here is the link to an example for testing basic English level: http://www.wiziq.com/online-tests/460-basic-english-test

Seeing that this platform has so many advantages, I decided to try it myself with a group of co-workers (four). I would play the teacher’s role and they, the students. I invited my students via mail a week in advance the virtual class in order to give them time to get registered. This is very simple from Wiziq website http://www.wiziq.com/.  Once the user has completed some enrolling steps, one is ready either to give or take a course.



I set a date and then sent an invitation to my “students” with the link to the corresponding virtual classroom. I prepared a class with slides to make it more interesting, but when the date came and I wanted to upload the slides in advance, I realized I made a mistake: I did not book the classroom 10 minutes before the starting time, so I did not have access to it till the exact moment. This fact is important to have in mind to avoid losing time: reserve the classroom some minutes before your class in accordance to the material you are going to use, slides or weblinks, or for other reasons such as socializing or checking audio/video. 


Another thing to make it clear in advance is how long the class will be and which netiquette rules you will follow to make the class more organized. Remember you will give a virtual class and in spite you can see your students if they have a webcam, you cannot solve some situations as you do in a face to face class. For example, you can see students are not following or understanding you very well from some face gestures. Working as an online teacher is quite different from working face to face. You are not just doing the same thing using a digital tool. Online classes have their own characteristics (Perhaps this is a topic for another article).

The final thing I would like to recommend is to have a set of headphones – not speakers- and a microphone to get the best kind of communication. The incorporated microphones of a laptops or netbooks seem not to have the best quality for this particular purpose although they may be exceptions, of course.

Summing up, I can say the results of my first experience as a teacher* were very good. My colleagues did not find much difficulty even though they are not digital experts. We used our webcams and microphones and the platform did not collapse during one hour class, but I must point out that it takes some seconds to change the mic or web permission to students. It is advisable to use mics in turns so as to avoid sound interference. I could uploaded slides and display them very easily and played on the IWB. The platform saved a copy of the class automatically. Wiziq may be considered an inspiring resource for creative teachers and curious students with little time for face to face classes.

* I have used this tool as a moderator in the Social Networking Congress (visit this link http://englishvirtualcommunity.blogspot.com/search/label/socialnetworking ) as well as participant in many online events.

10 comments:

Mihai Anton said...

great, u're always comin' up with new-interesting-useful articles.

thanks ...

Tony Watt said...

I have attended some online lectures and presentations in wiziq and thought it could be a viable way to teach or do teacher training online. Do you know if you can (or how to) integrate wiziq into moodle?

Prof. Nelba Quintana- La Plata- Argentina said...

Thank you, Mihai for your comment. I am very happy you find my posts interesting.

Prof. Nelba Quintana- La Plata- Argentina said...

Hi, Tony. thank you for your comment. I think you can integrate Wiziq to MOODLE. If you visit WIZIQ'S blog, I am sure you will find all the info there. I am sure I will post about it when I start using WIZIQ in MOODLE ;-)

George Machlan said...

Dear Prof Nelba,
Thanks for encouraging others to join the WIZIQ community. The more, the merrier! I bet it was hard to keep your introduction under 500 words! It is like going to Disney World for the first time, you really can't explain it except in generalities. But there is magic and vision enabling technology at work there.

I would like you to visit the blog a few of us are working on in conjunction with a series of "How 2 WIZIQ" classes. We are hoping that non-English native speakers would consider re-recording the modules about using WIZIQ in their native tongue.

I am afraid that we are denying non English teachers and students the opportunity by only offering tutorials in English. Thanks for your consideration.

God's speed to you and yours

George Machlan

OOPS here is the link:
www.how2wiziq.blogspot.com

Prof. Nelba Quintana- La Plata- Argentina said...

Thank you, George for your comment. Yes, it was difficult to summarize all WIZIQ's features in 500 words. Thank you for your invitation to read your blog, too. I am sure I will lurk at it because I think WIZIQ is a very interesting tool and would like to know more about it.
Regards from Argentina.

George Machlan said...

PS linking the article in several places starting at my blog!

On reviewing some of your other articles you may wish to also view my main blog. I am a very playful man and many of my blogs are fun but directly related to teaching online and tricks and tips for spicing up classes.
here is the link:
www.myESLfriends.blogspot.com

marry said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
marry said...

Blogs are so informative where we get lots of information on any topic. Nice job keep it up!!
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