On Saturday, September 27, 2003, students in the Cultural Influences Ed.D. held their first online virtual class session with their professor, Ruth Reynard. Using the TutorNet software, the 21 class members were able to remain at home and still have class.
During the week preceding the online session, the class had two practice meetings to test the technology and individual access to the software. Professor Reynard says, "Even with this practice, the Saturday session still proved to be challenging because of weather conditions in some parts of the country. Nevertheless, every student managed to stay connected although some struggled to do so."
The session was organized into four segments: open chat in which all participants could chat freely; devotions during which one student "took the floor" and led devotions and prayer; formal discussion which the professor led, using a turn-taking protocol; and lecture during which Dr. Reynard took the floor and covered set material for the course.
Reynard reports that the online session was a success in at least one way. A higher than usual percentage of students participated in the discussion (18 of 21 or 86% as opposed to the usual 70-80%). Students reported that the session went better and was more effective than anticipated and that they enjoyed the convenience of staying home. On the other hand, in their feedback students also reported that they missed the face-to-face meeting.
According to Reynard, "Because the Ed.D. Program is built on a cohort model, students are familiar with the monthly meeting format; therefore, in a fully online course that familiarity with the monthly meeting format may not necessarily be present, and that aspect of expectation would need to be taken into account in the planning and execution of an online class session." (9/27/2003)