Trends in Education and Technology: Best Practices in Online Instruction

Presentation by Shelley Constant, Wimba and Jason Rhode, Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center, Northern Illinois University

With the emergence and fast-paced evolution of distance learning, educators are challenged by, and seeking ways to offer effective online classes that are innovative and imaginative. Elements of collaboration include voice, social presence, chat, share (sharing applications with students and peers), video, and content. During this presentation Jason Rhode, Ph.D., Assistant Director, Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center at Northern Illinois University, will share how NIU piloted Wimba Classroom as well as how they are using the tools to conduct online faculty development sessions. Drawing on this experience, the common instructional and social challenges encountered and the valuable lessons learned that can be implemented into your own distance learning program will be shared.

Session Outline

Engaging and Interactive Elements

Overview of Wimba Solutions

  • Wimba Classroom
    fully-featured, live, virtual classroom solution that includes audio, video, application sharing and content display
  • Wimba Pronto
    academic instant messaging platform designed to bring informal learning settings online
  • Wimba Voice
    web-based voice tools facilitate and promote vocal instruction, collaboration, coaching, and assessment
  • Wimba Create
    convert your Microsoft Word documents into content for your Blackboard and WebCT courses

NIU's Experience Piloting Wimba Classroom

  • Concept paper requesting funding submitted as part of NIU's Strategic Planning Initiative (Oct '07)
  • Demonstration given to Council of Deans (Jan '08)
  • Approval for funding of 6 month pilot implementation (Feb '08)
  • Resources page developed, compiling helpful information for faculty (Feb '08)
  • Additional demonstrations given for faculty (Mar - May '08)
  • 2-day intense on-site hands-on training for faculty participating in pilot (spring break, Mar '08) 
  • Demonstration offered for all NIU faculty & staff (Mar. '08)
  • Pilot implementation in Blackboard (Mar '08 - Aug '08)
  • Online faculty development sessions offered (beginning spring '08)
  • Featured in a podcast episode faculty exemplar (May '08)
  • Survey of faculty participating in pilot (Jun '08)
  • Report of feedback shared with Provost's Office (Jul '08)
  • Approval for funding for 2008-2009 academic year (Jul '08)
  • Article featuring Wimba Classroom to be included in Fall 2008 newsletter for NIU faculty/staff (in progress)

A Few Responses from NIU Faculty

I am excited about the possibilities offered by this new feature in Blackboard. The Wimba Classroom adds new dimensions to online teaching affording the instructor a variety of presentational strategies. One of its best features is the opportunity to transmit live video adding a more personal feel to text-based on-line instruction. The ability to gain immediate support is also a big plus. Adding the Wimba Classroom will enhance and strengthen on-line education.Laura Vazquez, Department of Communication

I'm very interested in using it (Wimba Classroom) and will probably try to use it with my master's seminar later this semester as it is a smaller class and I have already substituted several online sessions for face-to-face sessions. I should try to devote one of these to Wimba.Richard Orem, Department of Literacy Education

I used Wimba Classroom in my summer section of Educational Statistics to provide an alternative lecture format for students who were unable to attend a face-to-face session, and also to facilitate archiving of the lectures. Wimba worked very nicely for these purposes. Although I didn't use it as a replacement for regular lectures, students who used Wimba to access the lecture remarked positively on their experience. Wimba was quite easy to learn, both for myself and my students.Thomas Smith, Department of Educational Technology, Research & Assessment

The overall experience is definitely positive in terms of productivity, flexibility, and overall feedback from students. The majority of the students showed great interest, using the words "fun" and "cool" to describe Wimba Classroom.

I am planning a partnership between my students here and students in China--Wimba classroom may become a meeting place where they can converse synchronously. I can also invite speakers an ocean away to our Wimba Classroom. Students can also meet me at Wimba practicing Chinese langauge skills during winter and summer break. The possibilities are many!

I will like to explore more advanced features of Wimba classroom; it is integral to my teaching. I recommend it with high enthusiasm!!Lan Hui Ryder, Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures

Wimba Classroom has become an invaluable tool for my online courses. It greatly facilitates collaborative endeavors, whether that be for faculty/student presentations, virtual office hours, or providing a venue for group activities to take place. A remarkable feature is the ability to record/archive each Wimba session, so that one can review what took place immediately following a session or many months later. With limited training, my students have been able to successfully navigate the Wimba interface. I can't imagine being without this versatile tool for online instruction. - Daniel Cabrera, Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center, College of Health and Human Sciences

Why Wimba?


  • Casting the vision
  • Prioritization of resources
  • Collecting feedback regarding use
  • Assessing student impact

Lessons Learned

  • Allow time for approval process
  • Provide demonstrations for administration, IT staff, faculty
  • Share ideas with faculty as to how to implement synchronous communication (e.g. online office hours, instructional presentations, guest speakers, demonstrations, etc.)
  • Model best practices

Wimba Classroom Resources Compiled by NIU

More Info