The ever-present temptations of Facebook, Twitter, eMail, instant messaging, text messages, and online shopping are no match for face-to-face-to-face-to-face interaction.
The cure for the perpetual web-based distractions of class time in the online classroom might be webcams that put every face of every student on screen for everyone to see. Accountability might be the key to holding students’ attention.
Officials from the University of North Carolina’s online MBA program, known as MBA@UNC, said an online learning platform designed and operated by a Maryland-based company called 2tor has created a web-based classroom more engaged than any they have seen.
In 2tor’s online classroom, streaming video brings students—usually in small class sections—to each other in boxes posted across the computer screen. The instructor also appears in a box, speaking to each student face to face.
“Around here, we like to call it Hollywood Squares,” said Doug Shackelford, associate dean of UNC’s business school, referring to the old TV show featuring celebrities lined up in a cross section of windows. “The way we’re doing things, it’s much more intense than what happens in the traditional classroom. There’s no back row. Everyone sits in the front row.”