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Global Communications in a Graduate Course on Online Education at the University of Tsukuba - page 3 / 30





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recognized as a new discipline in the first place for it to appear in the curriculum. In Japan if not most non-Western countries, the institutional culture for EFL practitioners, which delimits the scope of pedagogical practices, has impeded experiments the infrastructure would have allowed. In any event, it was not until 2004 that this author had the opportunity to teach online education per se to EFL pedagogy majors and aim for the ultimate goal of actualizing the globalized classroom.

Course preparations and conditions for successful learning outcomes

There are certain necessary conditions to fulfil in planning and implementing such a course. The first set of conditions was to conduct the course in a computer lab with a terminal for each student. They were to also bring headphones with a microphone in order to engage in audioconferences and asynchronous voice technologies. Because of these, besides the Web browser and other software one would expect to be installed, special software needed to be downloaded and installed in each terminal, particularly java runtime for the voice technologies. The computer lab should be networked and connected to the Internet all the time, even though there will be offline activities. That, not necessarily distance communication, is what constitutes online education.

High-speed or broadband connections can be expected at Japanese universities, but a relatively up-to-date lab should be secured, because older system software or slow connections cannot handle conferencing systems. Indeed, WAOE mentors in rural Brazil and Malaysia, outside of the Multimedia Super Corridor around Kuala Lumpur, could access the chat functions of the virtual classroom, but even though they had java runtime installed, they could not access the voice portion of the audioconferences. Across continents the backbone and infrastructure can cause congestion as large amounts of data pass through areas of narrow bandwidth along Internet gateways.

Another condition, not so much of necessity as of optimum effectiveness, is to have a projector set up so that the instructor’s computer screen is always visible to the students. When the projector is on throughout the computer-mediated activities, students can most easily perform one operation after another that they are trying for the first time. While designing the student interface is quite challenging for instructors, the student view in learning management systems is relatively easy to navigate. Most Web-based technologies are a matter of following instructions that are not as difficult as mastering most computer programs.

A high level of curiosity or interest in the content is another precondition for a successful learning outcome. The unprecedented number of the cohort signing up for the course indicated positive expectations. What they had seen beforehand was the course flyer that is appended to this article, a colorful diagram of e-learning concepts to brainstorm in class, and the course description.

Preparations included arranging to use WebCT at Portland State University (PSU) in Oregon as a course platform. PSU hosts the author’s virtual organization WAOE as an international public service. It was also possible to reserve the HorizonLive Internet conferencing system or virtual classroom platform, because it allows for PowerPoint-style presentations and other functions, integrated with WebCT. In addition, the author arranged with NetSpot Pty. Ltd. in Australia to try Wimba asynchronous and synchronous voice technologies integrated with their WebCT platform in Adelaide. HorizonLive and Wimba started to merge their companies

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