Technology fails in distance learning

Jovanna Garcia

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Tony Waters teaching his hybrid online class, Sociology 300. Photo credit: Jovanna Garcia

Chico State Distance and Online Education students are suffering from a technology breakdown in online classes.

Blackboard Collaborate is a program used to connect distance learners to a classroom on campus by providing live video and audio from their class.

Recent problems with both video and audio have caused frustration from both students and professors.

“Last week there were delays in webcast, and some distance students have said they were being dropped from the video stream,” said Tony Waters, a sociology professor.

Waters teaches a hybrid online class where he has around 23 students in the classroom and another 76 distance students who watch the class either live or in the video archives.

Waters said there are many problems with the Collaborate program this year, problems that did not exist last year. Some include:

• People being dropped from the video stream
• Delay in video and audio feed
• Distance students not able to hear the students in class
• Video lectures not being saved into the archives properly

“The system we are using has a new level of complexity,” he said. “I really like technology but it has to run smoothly in order to teach well.”

Mandee Perez, a distance student and sociology major, said her experience last year was very good, however, this year has been terrible.

“I get errors logging on at times, I have not been able to access live classes at times and have been kicked out of class during class and could not get back on,” she said. “The lagging is horrible.”

Laura Sederberg, manager of the Technology and Learning Program said there have been some issues, some have been technical and other have been more software, but they are in the process of being solved.

“The program is still in its infancy, of course it’s going to have a few hiccups,” she said.

About a week ago, Blackboard Collaborate went down and the video and audio were not available. One professor in the sociology department had to cancel class.

“The program didn’t only go down for us, it went out all across the country,” Sederberg said.

She said in order to solve some of the tech issues going on they will stay in contact with Blackboard.

“The company has been very apologetic and they seem willing to hear our concerns,” she said.

Other things will help solve the issues students are having are:
• Changing from to newer video technology and helping faculty remove old video files and convert them.
• Hiring more student/staff assistants to help faculty set up in the beginning of class and making sure video lectures are uploaded and things are shut down properly.

Mike Magrey, director of Creative Media and Technology said this summer there was a complete replacement for the classrooms technologies that cost between $5,000 and $8,000.

Within the complete replacement there was a change in microphones to make hearing in the classroom and for distance students better.

Laura Sederberg, Tony Waters and other members of the sociology department will be meeting to next week to continue discussing their concerns and to find solutions.

 

Jovanna Garcia can be reached at [email protected] or @Jo_garcia19 on Twitter.

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