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Chat (4)

Chat provides an easy method for communication. The software is free and very easy to use, and the interface with Netscape makes it possible to discuss reasonably involved situations.

It seems to take one chat session before students are used to that format and can use it effectively. The 'instructor' must be able to type fast, and handle several chat windows simultaneously. It is confusing to have chat sessions with more than 6 or 7 people, but splitting up into groups seems to work very well. The Chat sessions required very careful preparation to be successful.

What is lacking is a method for students to provide 'longer' answers to tasks, or to work cooperativly on one document. Chat restricts real-time interaction to one or two line statements.

In my experience, students really liked this mode of communications. I used it for a summer class to reduce traveling times for everyone, and during the past year to occasionally hold 'virtual labs' which would normally take place Friday afternoons.

Other possible uses include 'virtual office hours', 'virtual tutors' where students or faculty could answer questions about a class or topic during fixed hours, communication with students or faculty at other schools, communication with people in foreign countries (for languages), etc.

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Bert G. Wachsmut
Last modified: 05/03/00