This past spring and summer, two Eastern Mennonite Seminary online courses – both taught by adjunct professor and EMU/CJP alumna, Laura Brenneman – featured creative uses of our real-time web conferencing platform, WebEx. At EMU, WebEx is integrated into our Moodle environment, giving instructors easy access to real-time virtual interactions with their online students.
The most common use for Moodle-integrated WebEx is the conducting of virtual class sessions, where students and instructors gather at a specified date and time and have an online class session. Laura facilitated both this kind of interaction and also “virtual office hours” with WebEx in her spring course, which I described a few months back.
But in her summer online course on the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew’s gospel, chs. 5-7) – Laura took a cue from Jesus’ practice of preaching/teaching to the crowds in the biblical text in question, and assigned each of her students the task of preparing their own sermons and delivering them to their peers in a live WebEx session.
One way students were able to “ease” into this kind of more advanced use case was by first participating in the more common WebEx activities described above. For my part, I provided a scheduled training session on how to share files (such as PowerPoints) and present in WebEx; sessions that only a handful of students took advantage of. And best of all, I received zero cries for “Help!” during the sessions where Laura and her students were meeting, an indication that both she and the students were well acquainted with WebEx by the time this preaching assignment rolled around in the latter half of the course.
Reflecting on her teaching of these two back-to-back online courses with multiple uses for WebEx supplementing more standard Moodle activities, Laura said that using WebEx helped “develop a classroom community.” She also added, “I’ve appreciated becoming a believer that, with some hard work, a professor can design an online course that is just as exciting, demanding, and rewarding as in-class settings.”
As an instructional technologist for online education at EMU, this is music to my ears, and of course goes in my “pick-me-up” file of faculty feedback. My thanks again to Laura for teaching these courses and partnering with me to dream up and implement these kinds of innovative online teaching and learning activities!