Elluminate to provide interactive classroom to CSUN students, teachers

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A new Internet program aimed to provide teachers and students with online class session time and virtual tools are used by many professors at CSUN.

“Elluminate still provides the real-time experience that a normal class would have,” said Randal Cummings, director of online instruction in Undergraduate Studies at CSUN. “There’s interaction between myself and students when I schedule and hold these live class discussions over the net.”

Elluminate is an interactive classroom or meeting environment, he said. There is a wide range of tools available, such as application sharing, whiteboard, and dynamic video for students during live sessions.

In the live sessions, students can engage in chat sessions by speaking on a microphone and would receive sound through their computer speakers. These live sessions, however, take place only at certain times that the professor schedules, Cummings said.

“The strongest factor of Elluminate would be the voice chat,” Cummings said. “The voices come out really clear, yet the bandwidth that’s being used is low. And one of the best parts is that Elluminate is compatible on almost any platform. That’s one of the most important factors, since people with Mac’s can use it as well.”

One of the improvements that will be in the next version of Elluminate will be to increase the program’s compliancy, so that students with disabilities will have an easier time navigating the system and using Elluminate to its full potential. Videos presented by professors already have closed captioning, he said.

Most of Cummings’ experience with students he teaches through online courses proved to give a higher and better grade performance as opposed to regular courses, he said.

“I find that students do better in online courses. They’re better self-starters, and actually take initiative in doing their work,” he said. “They’re more motivated in getting the required material. And since everything’s up online, a lot of the material for the course is available on demand. Students have access to it 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

In addition to lecture material and homework information being online, students do not have to worry about keeping a separate record of the grades they have received on quizzes and assignments that they submitted. Instead, a grade-book feature is provided for students to look at and view their progress throughout the semester. Each assignment is listed with the grade that was received, Cummings said. Students may also retrieve any assignment that the professor has graded.

“I’d like to take an online course, but none of the classes that are required in my major have ever offered them,” said Ayan Debnath, biotechnology major. “The less time I have to spend at school, the better. I got better things to do with my time, so online courses would be cool to have.”

Some professors, however, do not prefer the environment of cyberspace.

David Parker, history professor, prefers to see his students and work with them in person, using the teaching skills he has gained over his years in the classroom.

“I’d rather not give up all contact with my students completely,” he said. “Sure I’d use some tools online, like a blackboard discussion forum but I’d really like to see my students.”

Mark Solleza can be reached at city@csun.edu.