The New Virtual Classroom.

Author:Fillicaro, Barbara

The New Virtual Classroom, by Ruth Clark and Ann Kwinn, Book, 2007, Pfeiffer & Company, $50.

Ruth Clark and Ann Kwinn's The New Virtual Classroom: Evidence-based Guidelines for Synchronous e-Learning offers "evidence-based guidelines for synchronous e-learning."

People toss around the term "synchronous e-learning" as if everyone knows what it means. It's probably good, though, to define it quickly. Think of it as answering your telephone when it rings and talking to the caller immediately (synchronous) versus listening to a message the caller has left.

In other words, synchronous means live interaction. It's like having an appointment or meeting you must attend at the same time as the presenter and other participants.

The book is meant to be used to create synchronous, not asynchronous, content. Why does that matter? Because the lecture, assignment, and communication components are designed and developed differently to accommodate an audience using them as self-paced on-demand learning.

Clark and Kwinn believe synchronous events can be designed to be more productive. The environment generally used for them is referred to as a "virtual classroom" because the communication and conferencing software has been designed to simulate a physical classroom, down to being able to raise your hand, speak to the presenter and other participants, chat privately with the presenter or a participant, observe slideshows and full-motion video, and watch live video feeds of the presenter.

As conference software has become more sophisticated, breakout rooms for small group work and the ability to view another participant's computer desktop have been added.

The paradigm of the virtual classroom is being challenged as a delivery platform, but for workplace learning and performance professionals using such platforms as Elluminate and WebEx, this book is a welcome addition. The audience for The New Virtual Classroom is "facilitators, developers, and evaluators of courses to be delivered with synchronous virtual classroom technology." Issues of pacing content, using media, and exploiting the power of audio and video communication are discussed.

The book has four parts:

* Learning in the new virtual classroom

* Engaging participants

* Optimizing a virtual event

* Creating effective learning events

A companion CD-ROM has lesson examples and planning and support documents. A virtual classroom readiness checklist tool is...

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