On Thursday, I met with my Public Speaking class. Meeting with them isn’t unusual. Meeting with them online was. I decided to try using Wimba Live Classroom for the first time. Here are some things I learned:
- Make sure all of your students log into Live Classroom a day or so ahead of time and run the wizard to ensure that their computers have all the necessary software (Java, etc.) to make things work smoothly. At Georgia Southern University, Wimba is accessed through WebCT Vista, which makes it relatively easy for the students to log in smoothly.
- To add content to the classroom, click Add & Manage Room Content. Then – at least on my computer – when the pop-up window opens, maximize it, otherwise you will not be able to see or access the button for adding new content. (I nearly pulled my hair out over this one.)
- When you import a PowerPoint presentation into Live Classroom, it breaks the file into individual slides. That part I knew. What I didn’t realize was that it would call each slide by the same name. This made it really difficult to skip around in the presentation. Next time, I’ll print up the entire PowerPoint nine slides to a page, and number them (by hand, on paper) using the number that shows in Live Classroom.
- Organize your slides and other media in the order you plan to use them before students enter the Live Classroom. For example, right after I talked about the photo sharing service Flickr, I showed the students my Flickr page with a captioning error made by Savannah’s WSAV. (The TV station inadvertently showed Barack Obama with a caption under him saying “Ardsley Park Shooting Suspect.”)
- Showing a YouTube clip wasn’t the smartest idea. Depending on the students’ bandwidth, the clip took varying lengths of time for them to see.
- Just because a microphone works fine on one computer doesn’t mean it will work fine on another. About 15 minutes before class, I made a snap decision to use my notebook computer rather than my desktop, because my notebook was closer to my wireless router and had a better connection. It took some fiddling, but it ended up working in the end.
- Build in interactivity. I rarely talked more than two or three minutes without asking them something. Sometimes I had them indicate their agreement or disagreement with a statement by clicking on the checkmark or x. Other times, I asked an open-ended question and had them type their responses in the text chat area.
- Use the polling feature. I had a presentation on social media that I was using, and in the presentation were lots of stats and other numbers. I used Live Classroom’s polling feature to have them make predictions before I showed the slides. For example, I had them guess how many blogs were online now (fewer than 2 million, about 20 million or about 200 million), then I showed them the slide that indicated there are about 200 million blogs.
- Realize that even if you think your microphone is off, they may still be able to hear you. I unplugged my mic to “be sure,” and one of my students texted me that he could still hear me typing. I forgot that the video camera – even when off – also has a mic that may be live. (I know I’m in good company having a rogue hot mic, though.)
- And finally, it’s always a good idea to have the Wimba Classroom Presenter’s Guide available so that you can troubleshoot as you go, just in case.