Earlier this year I bought a Groupon deal for an indoor skydiving session. I’m not sure why I bought this particular deal, especially since I’m deathly afraid of heights and this just didn’t seem like something I would willingly do. Nevertheless, I suited up this weekend and took on the challenge! Even though it was not real skydiving, it was just as frightening as I would imagine it to be, it felt so real and with the video and fan blowing, the instructors had very seamlessly simulated reality. I even had that crazy sinking feeling in my stomach the whole time!
This got me thinking about Jacksonville State University‘s ability to simulate the experience of actually being in class…when in fact one third of their student body is taking their classes online. JSU is successfully creating an online version of the traditional classroom because they understand that to really connect and communicate with their students, they need to “reach the students where they are,” and incorporate a synchronous component to their online classes. Not only are the students able to attend the class lectures online, but they are able to connect with faculty using education technology for office hours, questions on assignments – all in real-time, all online. So that scary sinking feeling that you’ll be called on when you haven’t completed your assignments/reading for the week? Yup, it is just the same. Just as real – only your peers might not be able to see you actually turn red.
The end result: JSU has successfully created an online program that’s just as interactive and engaging as their in-person classes. Online programs like JSU’s and even the indoor skydiving session is proof that with the right tools, these environments can be as powerful and meaningful as face to face.
PS – I don’t think I’ll be skydiving for real anytime soon, if the indoor session is so much like the real thing, I think I need to pass for now!