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Faculty and Student Support Without Borders

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2009-12-08 02:00 pm EST

Presenter: Jon Sizemore & Beatriz Potter, Valdosta State University

Valdosta State University, located in Valdosta, Georgia, USA has made extensive use of Wimba Classroom to support the institutional course management system. In a time of budget constraints and rising fuel costs VSU, like many institutions, is now expanding use of Wimba Classroom in lieu of travel. Conducting University business via Wimba Classroom has become the norm. At the same time, VSU has become a leader within the University System of Georgia in inter-institutional collaboration for online programs. As web conferencing has become a mission critical component of online learning, the VSU Distance Learning Department has embraced the challenge of delivering faculty and student support without borders.

Building on a successful Wimba Classroom implementation, VSU has expanded its use into international studies, study abroad, professional development, and global collaboration. Wimba, Inc. has been instrumental in providing support for building and delivering these innovative collaborative programs. In this presentation we discuss our shared international experiences, successes and challenges with Wimba Classroom. Examples of international collaboration, application issues, cultural differences, audience considerations, international scheduling, and technology support are explored.

VSU Distance Learning is utilizing Wimba Classroom to provide online programs with state, national and international appeal. For example, VSU offers an online Doctor of Public Administration degree to a global audience with Wimba Classroom as a component of the instruction. Typically, online students are orientated on the use of Wimba Classroom. Since the ability to make web-based presentations is becoming a required competency in graduate studies, students and faculty may also participate in free online professional development opportunities offered by Wimba, Inc.

Web-based conferencing has become an integral part of Study Abroad opportunities for faculty and students participating in exchange programs. Through Wimba Classroom, international faculty can engage with students, faculty and content, prior to coming to campus. Likewise, VSU faculty traveling to international campuses have the opportunity for advance engagement with host institutions. Exchanging faculty can continue to teach VSU online courses from their international settings, through live conferencing with their U.S. students. For international students studying on the VSU campus, Wimba Classroom provides communication with their home campuses.

Wimba Classroom has tremendously expanded the horizon for international faculty collaboration. VSU is currently collaborating on a new international baccalaureate degree program in Trans-Atlantic Studies that presses the advantages of web conferencing. Similarly, VSU is facilitating international collaboration via Wimba Classroom with the National Autonomous University of Mexico to develop a culturally sensitive degree program in Psychology and Counseling.

Furthermore, VSU has extended faculty opportunity for conference presentations through Wimba Classroom. VSU faculty have made conference presentations via Wimba Classroom at educational conferences in Russia, Turkey, Slovakia, and Czech Republic. Further developing this concept, VSU faculty, distance learning staff, and Wimba, Inc. hosted a two-day professional development workshop for faculty at Palacky University, Czech Republic as part of an educational exchange.

These examples showcase how global initiatives are becoming the standard for distance learning. The capability to span borders with web-based conferencing is adding dimension and value to the online learning experience.