I spent a wonderful snowed-in week-end in Portland. Seriously, it was glorious. Portland does not believe in snowplows, so after the 3rd snowstorm, we had no roads left. Then once the melting ice got frozen over on Sunday, not even the cross-country skiers were out. All this winter wonderland tale is an intro to why I was beamed into class today.
My ChassW14 class however couldn’t care less about winter wonderland – they have a midterm on Wednesday and today I was going to reveal 6 midterm questions. The groups were going to work on the questions in class, and we were going to make sure everyone understood the questions and how to go about organizing the material to answer each questions with at least 1000 words. Exams are always high-anxiety moments, and this was not a class we could cancel.
Back in Portland, I was at my desk at 2pm, and at UCR, my fantastic TA Judi and amazing graduate assistant Steve proceeded to set up the classroom. A camera was set up and pointed the students – and that camera was hooked up to a Google Hangout. Once we were connected, I could see the entire class, and hear them perfectly. They could see me on one screen, and the powerpoint presentation with the exam questions on the other screen. And below the screens, Judy wrote all the important point made in my conversations.
As has been my experience with Google Hangouts, the technology melts away pretty quickly, and it all worked beautifully. I could not have done it without Judy and Steve, or Spencer and Julio who live-tweeted the course and settled students in. I imagine they might have been a bit worried when it looked like I was not going to show up for class – I hope the giant screen and the awesome on-site support from the team more than made up for it!
I am writing this from the airport – the snow is melting – and I am headed south. Will post more about the experience when we have digested it – input from students and TAs is next!