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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Virtual classroom caters to all abilities

Anyone with a UA NetID can now access Elluminate, a free, virtual, collaborative web-conferencing system, headed by the Office of Instruction and Assessment and University Information Technology Services.

Elluminate is an interactive network of Web-based video sessions with text and images. It also features an online whiteboard, a button to notify professors of questions and chat features. The system is designed to meet a variety of students’ needs, from those who simply missed class, to those with disabilities.

“”I think if you are creative in how you teach, Elluminate is a wonderful tool to put in your toolbox … for teachers of any discipline,”” said L. Penny Rosenblum, a UA adjunct associate professor of disability and psycho-educational studies.

Rosenblum works training teachers of visually impaired students in Arizona and Nevada. She spent hundreds of hours restructuring her techniques to incorporate Elluminate, after first learning about the program last October.

“”I thought, ‘Wow, this could be the answer to my prayers. This could be the solution for the need to break down information for students,'”” she said.

Michele DePuy, a UA master’s student in disability education and a pupil of Rosenblum’s, noticed the effects in her class the first time she used the system.

“”I’m not an incredibly high-tech person but this is so easy to utilize,”” DePuy said. “”We’re all in different places … but we’re all right there too.

“”It just felt very normal, we’ve only met once but the familiarity is still very much there through this program.””

Dolores Rivas Bahti, a UA adjunct instructor of Spanish and Portuguese, teaches students with and without disabilities.

“”It opens up greater opportunities for student creativity to be reflected in the work that they submit to their teachers,”” Rivas Bahti said. “”For example, students with disabilities in a traditional setting can sometimes become leaders in a virtual setting.””

Feedback from Rivas Bahti’s students last semester said the system was “”worth learning.”” Some students thought more awareness and training could be helpful, and observed that many successful projects resulted from hybrids of virtual and real meetings.

Rosenblum noted that although students with disabilities might have trouble accessing the system, the university also thought there were going to be problems with D2L when it first began.

Started as a pilot program in August 2009, the UA is in its second semester of a three-year contract with Elluminate.com.

It has been successfully used by colleges like NAU and businesses such as the Princeton Review.

Thousands of students can use the system at the same time, as long as they have Internet access and the Java application to access these virtual classrooms.

Wayne Brent, who works with the Office of Instruction and Assessment, is excited by the product’s ability to build interactions between teachers and students.

“”There’s going to be a growing demand for this type of tool on campus,”” Brent said.

 

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