Preaching to the online choir

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Adjunct professor, Laura Brenneman, PhD

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!

One Response to “Preaching to the online choir”

  1. Don Tyson

    Brian, This was exciting to hear about students sharing their sermons with each other via WebEx. I have done something similar with success in the MSN Management course. At the end of the semester each student has to make a presentation to the board of directors (the class) in regard to convincing the board to hire them to solve a major problem in their department. They need to discuss why they are a transformational leader, as well as how they would implement the theories and concepts learned in the semester, to solve a major problem. Using powerpoint, each student does a 20 minute presentation. This presentation occurs after having used WebEx in 3 other sessions during the semester with guest speakers, thus the students are well versed in the use of WebEx. I do need to spend a few minutes providing instructions in how they use PPT for the presentation and giving them the “presenter” feature in WebEx.