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Online Student Sings the Praises of Wimba

Writer calls collaboration and interaction "the hallmark of an online environment"

Read the original blog post about Collaborative Tools for Online Teaching and Learning here.
by Bernadette Pollard

In the online teaching course, the most interesting topic that heightened my curiosity and interest was the technology component for online teaching and learning because there is so much out there that can support teaching and learning, and each has a unique function. All of the technological tools I have come across in the online environment are relevant and can contribute to improve the quality of the online teaching and the learning environment.

Over the course of 12 weeks, I came to know about the relevance of technology in the course room and learned about a variety of technologies that can enhance the quality of information, information sharing, and collaboration, specifically the wimba and wiki. I was able to understand and partake in the use of the two collaborative tools, the wimba in a training session, and the wiki while working on a group project. I was so intrigued about the capability of the wiki to facilitate group interaction and project development and completion.

The wiki permits interaction and communication in a virtual learning environment.  The wiki optimizes collaboration and interaction between the instructor and learners, learner and learner, and learner and the learning environment. The wiki has the capability to permit learner to learner collaboration, learner to instructor collaboration, and instructor to instructor collaboration. The wiki allows the instructor to access, assess, and evaluate the performance of learners and promote ongoing communication and feedback between the instructor and learners.

Since I had the opportunity to use the wimba tool and wiki to collaborate, I was able to decipher the differences between the two and the similarities, which allow me to determine which of the two tools best suit for effective collaboration. Thus far, both tools have tremendous advantages for online teaching and learning since collaboration and interactions is the hallmark of an online environment. The wimba tool is best for instructions and student feedback and engagement without the opportunity for ongoing discussion.  The wimba tool permits voice recognition through the audio-video feature capability of the tool making the interaction more personal and appealing to f2f contact. The interaction seems real because the interaction is occurring in real time through button prompts and communication. The limitation of the tool is that it cannot support a large group of people in a learning environment, discussion is limited, and the tool may only support lectures or presentation using power-point. To support ongoing discussion about a topic, a discussion thread option as a supplement is necessary and using the discussion thread in the course room was the alternative medium for ongoing discussion using wimba. 

The wiki is best for group project. It is a collaborative tool because it permits direct and active input through the edit/ease feature of the tool and a discussion thread that permits ongoing discussion without interruption. The wiki tool permits multiple people to access the wiki simultaneously, and permit viewing of the information by all people who has access and permission to use the information and the wiki. The wiki is truly a collaborative tool because it is open to multiple users and it permits people to establish a sharing atmosphere that support learning and growth, input, and feedback. The wiki is good for group collaboration and therefore using it for a group project is ideal. The wiki permits the use of video and photos, making the environment more appealing to a diverse group of learners.

Teaching is not easy, much less learning, and the instructor has the responsibility to enhance the learning environment, which may require the instructor to search and use the right technology to deliver course materials to support a high efficient and effective learning environment. Searching for the right technology is not an easy task and it requires that the instructor use some format of measuring quality and the applicability of the technology to achieve desired results.

In order to choose the right type of technology for a course, the instructor must first decide on the learning objectives and the many different learning styles in a course room to make the most appropriate selection. An online learning environment may need special features of technology, audio-video, multimedia, and high quality text and images to teach constructively to achieve learning objectives. The instructor is in the driving seat and must know when to use technology, how to use technology, know the best technology, and whether the technology will assist in meeting the learning needs of a diverse learning community.

The wimba and the wiki are excellent collaborative tools but determining when to use the tool and which of the two tools to use is driven by the learning objectives of the course. The instructor has the ultimate responsibility to evaluate the various tools use in the course room to enhance learning and determine the best and most applicable technology tools to achieve the learning objectives of the course. The wimba is good for presentation and lecture and the wiki is good for group project and ongoing sharing and collaboration.