Whizzy WizIQ!

I’ve just finished my first online lesson, a 45 minute whizz around some Web 2.0 tools I recommend for use in FE and HE.  I used WizIQ and, overall, found it to be a breeze with only one or two very minor glitches.

The classroom is very easy to use and, vitally, very simple to navigate from the learners’ perspective.  It isn’t “all seeing and all dancing” but it’s robust and it allows for a range of media to be uploaded, used and displayed. I was able to play a brief YouTube video with no buffering issues by downloading and storing it to the media player before the lesson started.  However, even though the links on my PowerPoint presentation opened to their respective webpages very quickly on my screen, the learners couldn’t interact in the same way.  I’m assuming that they could if I played with the settings or uploaded the presentation to a shared folder for later use, but as a noob I’m going to have to work that out before the next session.  Maybe I need to pay to upgrade my account…which I think I’m going to have to do anyway, because some interesting-looking features such as interactive polls and classroom branding aren’t available through my free account.  But I digress.  

It was great to be able to move fluidly from whiteboard to Media Player to PowerPoint presentation with no issues at all.  My onboard mic and webcam worked smoothly with no feedback (that I’m aware of), so no need for Alan Partridge-type headphones either. Win!

I decided that by using a webcam and audio the lesson would have more ‘humanity’: that is, the learners would be able to see and hear a living, breathing human being, giving them more of a bond with the screen in front of them.  This decision didn’t come without its drawbacks: one learner made some admittedly flattering comments about my voice before making more lascivious comments about my appearnace.  This made me but more importantly, the group, very uncomfortable, but did mean that I had to quickly learn how to block learners from the classroom. When I attempt to write a users’ guide to WiZIQ for the college I’m going to need to mention this very carefully. (However, I did make the class public as opposed to making it available by invite only, so I only have myself to blame.)

Time flew past, with my 45 minute session overrunning by a good 10 minutes -so one tip I would give is too book more time than you think you need.  WizIQ gives a 5 minute warning and a chance to give yourself further time (up to 120 minutes total class time), but setting the time for a good 15 minutes more than you think you need would probably be a cool thing to do.

So, apart from some minor trolling, I was really pleased with the session and finished on a real high – something I love about my job.  The learners haven’t given any feedback as yet, but did say that they enjoyed it – to the extent that I’ve booked another for next week (looking at using Facebook in education).  However, I’m aware that people do feel obliged to say nice things while the teacher’s in residence, so it may have been an unmitigated disaster!  We’ll see if anyone turns up next week…

I believe the session was recorded too, so I’m going to see if I can embed or link to it somehow.

So – all went well, ran smoothly, no techy issues from me or the learners (I think) and it’s really easy to use from both the teacher and learner perspective.  I’ve learnt a bit in retrospect (as ever), so hope that next week’s session is even better.

Fingers crossed!

Playing with WizIQ…and need some willing volunteers to attend an online session please!

As part of my role I’ve been asked to check out some virtual classrooms with a view to implementing one of these as a Cornwall College ‘standard’. There are a couple that have caught my eye – but one that keeps attracting my attention is WizIQ.

I first heard of WizIQ a couple of years ago, and did manage to set up a couple of sessions as a test bed to see just what the application could do.  Bandwidth issues meant that my experiments were met with mixed results, and the concept of a virtual classroom was put to bed for a while.  A shame, as the *free account and the ease of which a session could be set up were very attractive, as were the features the classroom environment gave: the abilty to share screens, use a whiteboard, share documents and webpages, play YouTube movies and have up to 4 others using webcams (though an unlimited number of learners can attend if using audio only) being just a few that roll off the tip of my tongue!

Having looked again at WizIQ, I notice that it seems to have been rebuilt on a much more robust structure – and is now fully Moodle (1.9 and 2.0) compliant.  This means that by simply downloading a plugin and installing it on to a Moodle server, learners can log into the VLE as always, click on a link and take part in an online session that is recorded and, importantly, can be tracked: an attendance report is generated automatically, and a weekly report is sent to teachers looking at how often recordings of the lesson have been viewed or downloaded retrospectively. 

Before I make my recommendation as to whether or not Cornwall College should adopt this as the virtual classroom of choice, the best thing to do is to set up a short, informal class that will give me the chance to use and feed back on the experience (from a teacher’s perspective, at any rate).  I’ve set up a free, 45 minute lesson to be delivered next Friday looking at Web 2.0 tools in teaching and learning, and invite anyone with a shred of interest and 45 minutes’ free time to attend -as I would really like some feedback from the learners’ perspective as well as my own.  Comments on this blog post from teachers who already use WizIQ would be great too!

(*A free presonal acount with limited features: to set up pay-to-attend courses and certainly to use within an institution, WizIQ does cost a few dollars!)

Teaching Further and Higher Education with Web 2.0 Tools by Rebecca Ferriday

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