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March 21, 2008

Report on Tech "Experiment": Teaching from home

posted by Elmer Masters

With permission from Prof. Jonathon Ezor of Touro Law Center, I wanted to share this post from the teknoids mailing list. Prof. Ezor made good use of available technology to hold classes that would have otherwise been canceled.  This provides a reasonable prototype that other schools can look at for developing distance ed applications.

From the Teknoids post:

I thought the Teknoids community might be interested in the below report I
sent to our faculty and deans regarding an experimental effort that allowed
me to teach my Cybercrime class from home twice this week, after various
family illnesses made it probable that I would otherwise have to miss the
class.  Special thanks to Touro's IT professionals (including frequent
Teknoids participants Peter Stanisci and Matt Perna, along with their
colleague Rich Quinn) for their enthusiastic, last-minute help in making this
work.  {Jonathan}

---------------------------cut here--------------------------------

To my colleagues:

As promised, I am reporting back after my experiment teaching my Cybercrime
class from home.  Although I had initially only planned on doing so once, on
Monday, I ended up having to do so again this morning as well (again on very
short notice--kudos to the IT department), so my report is based on two days
of experiences.

In short:  It worked.

More specifically, it worked adequately, particularly given how little
advance planning had gone into this impromptu experiment.  We used two pieces
of software: the free audio/video chat program Skype (http://www.skype.com),
and a free Skype add-in called YugmaSE (http://www.yugma.com) which allowed
me to share my computer screen and/or a window (in this case, a PowerPoint
presentation) with the students via Skype.  Peter Stanisci and the IT staff
had already built a rolling computer setup with an attached video camera they
call the Kramer Cart (after Lynne Kramer, who used it first to record her
trial advocacy students), which had Skype installed on it.  They added the
YugmaSE software and brought the cart into the classroom, pointing the camera
toward the students and using the room's screen and projector to show the
Kramer Cart's computer display.  They connected the entire setup to the
Internet.  On my end, I was running Skype and YugmaSE from home, connected to
my home Internet router, with my own Webcam and microphone.  At the start of
class, we established a standard Skype connection (audio and video), then
started the YugmaSE software and set up the screen sharing on both ends.
Once I began the PowerPoint presentation, the students were (from what I've
heard) able to see the slides and hear me clearly (I turned off my camera
while showing the presentation, to save on bandwidth).  Although the
classroom lights were out to make the screen more visible, I could see the
students fairly clearly, and hear them as well (although it was easier to
hear them when I was wearing headphones, versus using my laptop's own

It was not entirely bulletproof.  During the first day, the PowerPoint
connection froze and had to be restarted in the classroom, although I was
able to continue the lecture and discussion portion.  Today, it was my
computer that crashed (probably because I hadn't prepared it appropriately
before starting), and the students had to wait for 5 minutes while I called
the room via telephone and rebooted my machine.  The students also had to
bunch themselves together a bit in their rows to fit the camera's field of
view.  That said, this very cobbled-together, free setup saved me from having
to reschedule two classes, and I accomplished real teaching.

I would not recommend this solution for everyone; it requires a reasonably
high level of technical sophistication by the teacher, and needs an IT person
in the room just in case.  It does, though, give us a backup for certain
situations, and shows a method that (with the right, non-free resources)
might scale up to reliable ways to do this.  Beyond that, it was just fun to

I welcome your feedback, and would be happy to show you the software on my
office laptop.  Thanks for your collective interest.  {Jonathan}

Prof. Jonathan I. Ezor
Assistant Professor of Law and Technology
Director, Institute for Business, Law and Technology (IBLT)
Touro Law Center
225 Eastview Drive, Central Islip, NY  11722
Direct: 631-761-7119  Fax: 516-977-3001
e-mail: jezor@tourolaw.edu


March 21, 2008 in Technology -- in general, Technology -- in the classroom | Permalink


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