Technology Connects Xavier Graduate Students and Instructor Across the Miles

Maybe Only Area Graduate Level Course Taught Via Video Conferencing | April 7, 2005

Roger Effron begins his class like any other instructor. He takes attendance. But his students aren’t seated in front of him like in a traditional classroom. Effron’s graduate students are 50 miles away from the Xavier University campus.

Effron teaches a course titled Political Structures/Public Relations, a graduate level course for students seeking a master’s degree in education. His students are in a classroom at Wilmington High School in Wilmington, OH. He is in a classroom in the basement of Alter Hall on the University campus. They see each other through a video conferencing hookup every Monday night. This may be the only graduate level course taught this way in the Tri-state area.

“You have to work harder to teach this way,” says Effron. "It’s a challenge to keep the students engaged and to see if they understand what you’re teaching.”

To keep the 32 students attention, Effron regularly calls on them from the seating chart in front of him. He also uses a lot of humor to keep the class energized. For example, one student raises pigs so during one class a picture of a pig suddenly popped up on the screen.

“I’ve studied David Letterman, especially his dialogue with Paul Schaeffer, his mannerisms and how he works the camera,” says Effron. He also has a sidekick of sorts. ‘Jennifer’ is Effron’s student assistant. And while he refers to her quite a lot, and the class can hear her at times, they never see her.

“Roger has to make it very interactive or you would just sit there,” says Jodi Nichols, one of Effron’s Wilmington students who is getting her master’s degree in education administration and supervision. She also notes that the technology also allows the class to do other things like analyze websites or documents.

“Through the use of technology Xavier has been able to extend courses taught by some of our best faculty to students who otherwise might not have benefited from a master’s degree,” says John Cooper, director of graduate services. “Longtime Xavier faculty like Roger have embraced the television medium in such a way as to fully engage students as if he were face to face with them in a traditional classroom setting.”

Effron did meet the class in person at the beginning of the semester. He and Jennifer will meet with them again at the end of the session.

“Teaching this way could be a step into the future,” Effron says.

Technology also helps Effron’s students study. Not only does Effron keep in constant touch with his students via email sending them articles, assignments, etc., Xavier’s library databases, electronic journals and books, tutorials and Internet guides are all available by remote access.

“With the addition of the Xavier portal, My XU and 24/7 on-line chat with a librarian, students enrolled in the distance education programs have the same library resources as the students on campus,” says Betty Porter, assistant director for education services.

For more information please contact Debora Del Valle, 513-745-3925.