If you never taught an ITV (Instructional Television) class, imagine teaching a face to face class, long distance, teaching from one location, to students who are in the same room as you and to students who are in an ITV classroom at another location. Barring any technical hiccups, it actually goes pretty well and has its advantages such as; students are able to take classes without having to commute long distances, the classroom media control uses high quality audio and video make adding to presentations much easier, and classes can be easily recorded, archived and accessed online later for students to review or for students who missed the class. But it also has it challenges, even for the experienced instructor teaching in the ITV format.
Yet, here are some common challenges I found using this classroom approach:
1. Students at the remote sites may feel disconnected form the instructor and the students at the host classroom.
2. It becomes much harder for students to remain focused when watching a class over a TV monitor.
3. It difficult for instructors and students to see the faces of other students and become more aware of the non-verbal expressions at other sites.
4. Technical difficulties at one site usually leaves the other site somewhat “stranded” until the problem is solved.
5. Instructors can’t circulate around the class and intermingle in class discussions (movement is extremely limited due to camera location in class).
6. Usually the larger screens are located in the front of the classroom and the smaller screens are in the back of the classroom. This usually poises a problem for the instructor since it becomes more difficult to see the students in the distant classroom depending on the depth of the classroom and the eyesight of the instructor.
Since I have taught classes in the ITV format and I found some things helpful in preparing my approach to this format.
It is very important to spend time at the start of any ITV class to teach students how to participate in the class in hopes of creating a consensus in how the class operates. For example, having students identify themselves if contributing to a discussion or just asking a question.
While most ITV classes run well technically, there are on occasions problems throughout the year, stuff does happen, so always have a backup plan. If there is a technical glitch, students should know how long to wait in the classroom and any information pertinent to that days lecture should be available for students on the Blackboard class site. All assignments would be submitted in the site as well.
Don’t forget to switch presentation modes during class. Changing up the students’ field of vision helps them stay focused. For example, if your using a PowerPoint presentation, you may become some disembodied voice if you don’t switch back to the instructor mode occasionally, to reassure your students your there in real time and not just a recorded lecturer, a voice without a face. I usually try to cut back to my face every three to five slides and ask questions for feedback before continuing back to the PowerPoint presentation.
And if possible, switch campuses when teaching from different locations. I teach an ITV class which meets twice a week, so on Monday I teach in my host campus and my Wednesday class I teach my ITV class on my sister campus. Students seem to really appreciate meeting you face to face and making the effort in alternating classrooms.
All of the above suggestions I found extremely important in my approach to ITV teaching, but depending on individualistic styles, approaches will vary. Challenges in the ITV classroom not only are faced by the instructor, but with the students as well, but keeping a honest discussion with your students regarding their needs as well as their frustrations in this format can be most useful in developing an effective ITV classroom experience.