New lesson format and inexpensive virtual conferencing

I carried out a lesson
at the Lappeenranta University of Technology, Finland, under a course
held by Prof. Kirsimarja Blomqvist and Lassi Köppä. It was a journey
from the elements of network society, new actors like pro-ams, through
FLOSS and Open Content to bottom-up emerging technologies like blogs,
wikis and information aggregation. I highlighted the need for a
personal learning environment, which is not controlled by some
inistitution but the users themselves.
The point of this post is not my presentation but the way I
brought Stephen Downes in right in the end to wrap up the day with a brief introduction to eLearning 2.0.

I don’t like traditional conference or lesson formats, so I wanted to
try something new. In the beginning of the day I registered the
students to our Open Source Dicole
system to use wikis and blogs to write down some ideas they might have
while I talk and maybe to connect some fresh ideas coming in through
some information feeds I had selected beforehand. Things worked pretty
well, they shared their notes through the system with others.
I believe that if students have a few weeks to get used to
such a way to participate in lessons, they would be more natural in collaborating their
rising ideas and questions. Later they could analyze the most prominent
questions online.
The other idea started when I suggested Stephen Downes a couple of days before my talk to participate through Skype.
I would setup a a chat room for students where they could chat with each
other and propose questions to each other or Stephen while Stephen
talks. For the chat room I used CGI::IRC,
a web based IRC client which was among the wikis and blogs in the
online environment. Stephen wanted to show some slides and pointed at S5, a very nice XHTML/CSS/Javascript -based slide system.

The problem is that S5 is only designed to display slides in your end.
We wanted it to work so that when Stephen changes a slide, the slide
would also change in our end. One of my programmers, Martti Leppänen,
took the challenge and the next morning I had S5 working as
client-server through some AJAX voodoo.

In summary we used a chat room (Open Source), a modified version of a
slide system (Public Domain) and Skype (free as in beer). It was very
exciting for the students and I think it was for Stephen as well when
the students started to flow in the chat room to say hi.
We had the ability to remix software to do what we wanted and
we did. Skype+S5+CGI::IRC and you have a very different experience. No
plugins or software installations required for students, only Skype at
the teachers computer and you are set.

The code of the modified S5 is here. It doesn’t work out of the box but it’s not hard to figure out either.

2 replies on “New lesson format and inexpensive virtual conferencing”

Teemu, dump Skype and tell everybody else to do so.We need open standards on VOIP.Skype is a propietary system owned by money grabbing freaks (eBay). They will NEVER open it up.A reasonable alternative is: or the Google Talk, which is also more open than Skype.(until we have a good floss alternative)


smau, you are right. Even if the software is closed, it should operate on top of open standards to be acceptable. Well, Skype has an open API, which is always better than a closed API.Qizmo looks great. I will have to look at it more closely.


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