Navigate 1 – Commercial vs. Open Source Virtual Classrooms

The following blog is an assignment for my EOTC Navigate class.

The nice thing about this unit so far is I began my career working in distance education.  I was working at the University of Mississippi.  My department was responsible for Project LEAP.  Project LEAP was a distance education program.  We broadcast  adult literacy programing to locations across the state and country.  At the time we won awards for the program.   The program was broadcast via satellite to the different locations.  The students would go to the locations in each county to watch the class with other students.  The teachers would teach the class for approximately 30 minutes.  Then the students could call in on a telephone and we would connect them to the teacher live on air.  The students would answer questions and work out problems with the teachers.

My second experience in distance education was a college class in a distance education room.  I was in charge of being the site facilitator.  There were students in 3-4 different locations and the teacher was over 300 miles away.  Each location had cameras and microphones.  Each room had 2 monitors and a document camera.  The teacher was able to ask questions and the student were able to answer the questions live.

Both experiences were both synchronous because even though the class was being taught at a distance.  The students  had to attend class at a certain time and location to participate.

My next experience was an online class that I was taking to get my administration endorsement.  This class was both synchronous and asynchronous.  We had online assignments and weekly online meetings.

In a school setting I would be hesitant to use open source software except in minor situations.  When using technology in the classroom, there is always a chance of failure.  If a school is using something on a regular basis, they need be able to call for help.  Open source software may not offer that option and might depend on the teacher to find out the answers.  Teacher need to have 95% up time with technology.

 If a teacher is using a open source solution on an occasional basis it could be used to get a specific job done.   I was using a website for instruction at  a new school.  Since it was a new school the network was frequently down.  When this happened I would have the students shut down there computers and return to the desk.  Then I had to find another activity for the students to do.  This was new subject for me and I had very few resources.  Thankfully I was able to get help from the vendor.  This was a stressful year for me.  I would be not want to try the same thing with open source software.

I have always been an early adopter of new technologies and most of my problems occur as a result of inexperience with a new product.  I willing to try new things but I do not want to rely on them to get my job done.  I will continue to try new things once they have been tested by others.


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