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Web Conferencing: New Ways to Learn and Teach English

Think about these questions before you start listening and then find the answers in the recording:
  1. What is Web conferencing and how can it be used to share ideas and learning language?
  2. What Web conferencing services can you find online that would best work for you in your situation?

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[ What are these different audio choices? ]
First, there was the Internet . . . finding newspaper articles to read, but little interaction and few learning opportunities. However, as the Internet has evolved, a newer tool, Web conferencing, has redefined how learning takes place. Basically, Web conferencing is the use of multiple tools (c.g., Web Pages, voice over Internet Protocol, file sharing, voice and text chat, etc.) to create a rich learning environment fostering interaction between one or more people in often, real-time communications.

To give you an example, I once participated in a Web conference where I was the presenter on authoring audio for the Internet. I had to show a PowerPoint presentation to the attendees. At the appointed hour, teachers logged into the Website where the presentation was being held and listened to my presentation. The attendees could view and flip through the PowerPoint presentation and ask me questions via text chat. The entire dialogue between me and the attendees was archived so they could come back to it later and print it for their reference.

Web conferencing can also include voice and/or video chat where participants can see each other using a Web cam. There are also other Web conferencing tools that allow the presenter to launch files to the attendees, play media files, and even use the mouse pointer to draw picture or illustrate diagrams that appear on the people's screens. All of this interaction is to try to simulate actual face-to-face learning and teaching.

There are a number of technical and pedagogical issues that need to be examined and expanded to make this a truly long-term viable option, but the need for distance education is pushing Web conferencing along at a rapid pace.



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