Thursday, February 12, 2009

Technology Tools and Learning: A review of Elluminate Live

Credenda Virtual High School has been incredibly successful and it‘s been amazing to watch it grow. We certainly don’t take it for granted. It has taken a great deal of hard work, dedication, and creativity to reach the level of success that we have been able to achieve. We recently started the second semester with 227 eStudents. These are amazing numbers for us, and we are ecstatic. More and more eStudents are signing up for classes because they are excited to learn they can take live, synchronous classes with engaging eTeachers during scheduled class times. Many of these eStudents are not be able to access the courses we offer in their schools within their communities. Now they are able to graduate from high school with a full range of high school credits that allows them direct entry and access into post-secondary institutions without having to go through upgrading.

As proud as we are of how many eStudents are signing up for classes, we attribute much of our success to the people of Credenda. First and foremost, the eTeachers care about the eStudents and learning. You can’t necessarily teach that skill, it’s something specific to the individual that fosters a spirit of care and character in their own life. That quality then flows freely out to the eStudents, and they feel it. At Credenda, we believe that learning begins with relationship, and we strive to build that relationship with our eStudents.

When I was researching best practices back in 2005 in the creation of this online school, I learned quickly that just putting a bunch of text online and calling it a virtual school didn’t mean eStudents would learn. In fact the success rates of such an online school have been dismal largely because there is little interaction or relationship between eStudents and eTeachers. We knew that in order for us to replicate as close as possible a face to face experience for our learners, we needed to have the technology that would facilitate this phenomenon. That’s when we sat down with Elluminate.

Elluminate is a java-based software program that was designed for education that enables users to communicate in real-time via their Internet connection. eTeachers and eStudents are able to speak to each other via a headset with microphone, use the direct messaging or chat feature, raise their hand to ask a question, draw on a whiteboard, stream out video, share files, and much more.

Each live classroom session is recorded and archived for eStudents to access later for review, or completion of their assignments. This tool was tested against other leading communication tools and came out on top in every independent test, because of its ability to compress data without loss of audio. It was critical that we find a tool that was reliable as many of our eStudents are located in remote communities without the high-speed internet. We needed a communication tool that eTeachers could teach their lessons where the quality of the audio would not be distorted or drop off. Elluminate Live has done that for us. While the cost of the product is not cheap, it was important that we had the best product possible to ensure we had a quality eLearning program for our eStudents. In addition, many of our students do not have access to the most recent computers in their schools or homes, so we needed a tool like Elluminate that works on any PC or Mac computer that has java installed. In the end, we have been very happy with Elluminate, and it has a tremendously important communication tool for Credenda.

This technology helps students understand the world better in which they live and beyond in a greater way because it allows us to connect with people from all around the world. Last year, we had an eStudent taking live classes with us from Namibia, Africa. She was able to maintain daily contact with her peers in Canada, and also educate her friends online about life in Africa. Another eStudent would never have been able to graduate from regular high school because she was already 19 years old and a high fashion model in England, France, Spain, and New York. She was away from her home in Saskatchewan so much that she was unable to complete the work in a regular bricks and mortar school, but because we record our online classes daily with Elluminate, she was able to access the instruction and stay in regular contact with her eTeacher. In addition, she was able to share her career with all the eStudents at our monthly live eStudent assembly.

The technologies we use help eStudents gain valuable skills necessary to be competitive in a global business environment, because they are increasing their basic computer skills in the process of learning their subject. It’s amazing how comfortable eStudents are with using the computer after a few classes. Elluminate integrates word-processing, file sharing, video streaming, remote desktop sharing, Internet surfing and more into its operation. These are tremendous skills for everyone to possess in order to be competitive in a global environment, but more importantly, using Elluminate has really enabled our eStudents to increase overall success in learning. We believe this tool enables eStudents and eTeachers to connect and communicate in such a way that heightens the learning experience. Credenda wouldn’t be where we are without it. Read about our success story at Elluminate.
Post a Comment