Video Conferencing makes a world of difference in distance learning. In the past, distance learning was often phone-only, or one-way presentation online. But with advances in the past two years, interactive video conferencing where everyone can see everyone else, and presentations can be shared live, as well as voice interaction allows the next best thing to being there.
The past six weeks we have used video conferencing for teaching two seminary classes. In one case, with seven participants, we have four time zones covered. The challenge is no longer technology, but determining the meeting time!
This approach works best in a seminar format, in which it is assumed that all material has been read, so the online time is not spent rehashing what is in the books. For instance, one class, Prolegomena (Introduction to Thinking Theologically), is built for this kind of study and interaction. It allows each participant to wrestle with the issues that arise out of their Scripture study, their assigned readings and their individual experiences.
Overall, we are very pleased with this approach. Can some things be better? Absolutely! And we are coming to investigate what will enhance our learning environment even more.