In the article “Interaction and Engagement in LEEP…” Ruhleder identifies several possible problems dealing with having simultaneous audio broadcasts and chat room postings. Those who have worked in the CRG environment can testify to the dual threads that can run concurrently, but not in parallel.
Synchronous online environments change the instructors’ role and control of the class while allowing for more interaction & engagement by the students. However other questions arise:
As the focus of the two threads diverge, can cognitive overload be avoided? Some will say that 21st Century Learners are multi-taskers and can handle multiple input streams. While this may be true, how much is absorbed in real time & how much gets picked up by reviewing the session log?
The technology offers instructors flexibility and spontaneity; but at the expense of control. A pedagogy can be developed around this synchronous form of delivery so that the discussion stays on subject, inaccurate statements get corrected, and learning can take place. But it involves the students taking on more responsibility to make this happen. The course must be designed to include activities that foster a sense of community early on. Peer monitoring can be more effective than heavy-handed didactics. This is more true in the synchronous learning environment. The instructor cannot monitor activity on both streams But the students can. By loosening the reins, the instructor may be able to exercise greater control.
Ruhleder, K. (2004). Interaction and engagement in LEEP: Undistancing “distance” education at the graduate level. Duffy, T. and Kirkley, J. (eds). Learner-Centered Theory and Practice in Distance Education. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.