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Over the last few months the University has been testing WebEx, a real-time collaboration tool that includes video, audio, desktop, and application sharing. I have used WebEx a few times in my Information literacy course this semester already and found generally positive student reception to it. They indicated that while WebEx had a bit of a learning/comfort curve that the benefit of online real-time instruction in time savings and in efficiency (e.g. attending class from your dorm room) were valuable outcomes.

Students indicated in class feedback that more WebEx sessions would be welcome so I decided to seek out a guest speaker who could join our class via WebEx. Dr. Jeffery Loo, a Chemistry librarian at the University of California, Berkeley was kind enough to offer his time and is joining our class twice this semester to discuss Open Access and online identity issues. Jeffery uses a number of online and digital techniques in his instruction including an instructional video series on using PubChem, how-to guides and Hands-on worksheets for instruction.

For our first session we decided to gather the class in our regular classroom and used a low-tech approach to enable two-way communication. A computer with its video feed enabled faced the class so that Jeff could get some video and audio feedback of the classroom while we watched his presentation through the projection system.

We found that the microphone on the laptop was not quite good enough to pick up questions from the back of the room but was good enough to pick up questions from the participants up front. Although it would have been possible to have students join the WebEx session from their own laptops we thought that having them engage with the remote speaker in a traditional learning environment would give us the opportunity to fit Jeff in as part of a regular class and would encourage some discussion.

Jeff’s presentation is available on slideshare (see below) and he will be joining the class again in a few weeks to discuss online identity. I expect that we might tune our approach some based on our experience today but for the most part our approach worked. All instructional materials from today are available at: http://jeffloo.com/berkeley/2010/11/18/research-sharing/