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Global Communications in a Graduate Course on Online Education at the University of Tsukuba - page 5 / 30





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learning. Physical distance and the distinction between f2f and virtual venues fade in importance as the course elements link seamlessly to enhance communication.

Chronological summary of course activities

On the first day students learned various background information and computer techniques. They found that taking screen shots of Web pages to paste into their own documents was especially useful. They bookmarked the lecturer’s home page as a favorite in their browsers from which they could reach the various venues such as WebCT courses in Portland, Oregon and Adelaide, South Australia. They then were oriented to the WebCT functions such as syllabus and calendar that had been set up before the course. After viewing the home pages of mentors, with WebCT they made their own home pages for the first time. Mentors also utilized the Student Homepages function to become more familiar to the graduate students. Students were asked to take photos of each other with their mobile phones and mail them to the lecturer’s Web mail based in the U.S. The lecturer then passed the photo files to the students on a disk to add to their home pages, asking them to think about where the data had actually travelled, both wireless and wired, criss-crossing the Pacific Ocean almost instantaneously. The lecturer’s screen was projected throughout the course, and students reported afterwards that they could easily learn new technologies one after another, including the HTML programming language editor for making home pages.

In the afternoon the students experienced the Wimba Voice Board, a BBS where their recorded voices are still archived along with their written messages. They could ask as well as answer questions, discussing their past experience and how online education could be applied to TEFL in Japan or to their future studies and work.

Later the students learned about sites on the open Web where they could practice English or do machine translations between Japanese and English, and they were amazed at what was available for free. After class as well the lecturer could help students with their individual needs.

On the second day in the morning, utilizing the WebCT Chat function, there was a real-time written discussion with the mentors abroad. Besides defining online education, its problems (compared to f2f classes) and issues when introducing it into Japan were actively discussed in writing. Students found the pace too fast at times, with a response sometimes separated from the original message, but then posters adjusted by starting to mention the name of the person to whom they were responding. The graduate students found the chat exciting to experience for the first time and thought that secondary school students in Japan would enjoy this technology while acquiring English.

In the afternoon everyone went away from the computers, formed a circle and discussed the theme of “Global Online Education” based on the lecturer’s global survey results. The Tsukuba students were to look for patterns in the results, comparing various countries with Japan, on topics such as the state of the use of virtual learning environments, issues such as globalization and whether or not women were equally involved. The graduate students concluded that the introduction of online education should be discussed nationally in Japan.

On the third day in the morning there was an audioconference with several practitioners of online education abroad. There was a presentation similar to PowerPoint utilizing the HorizonLive conferencing system, and demonstrating other features such as instant polls with

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