I began using Skype as a way of instantly communicating with the student and helping them with their immediate lab issues. Skype is a web-based communication tool. Its video and audio component is wonderful tool and it makes the student feel as if you are in a laboratory right next to them. I can actually hold up test tubes, culture plates or microscope components and walk the student right through the process even though they are on the other side of the world. I first became aware of the potential for Skype in my online courses while watching an instructor in Guatemala teaching Spanish to my eight year old daughter. The real-time “face-to-face” contact provides a wonderful opportunity to help students who need just a little extra help. I frequently use it to help the students set up their microscope in microbiology, in which a drop of oil is added between the 40X high dry objective and the 100X oil immersion objective. It is a bit tricky, but the student can see instantly how to do it.
Skype is free and can be set up easily in 5 minutes. It is an incredible educational tool, and I wish I had begun using years ago. For a small cost, video conferencing can be added to a Skype account. My future plans include using Skype to bring in guest speakers, speaking to students live from their laboratories. I hope to add a virtual live hospital laboratory field trip experience for next semester, allowing microbiology students to watch a live culture work up. The possibilities are endless.
I also have encouraged students to use virtual lab partners. I require each student to purchase a LabPaq and use a completely difference set of experimental data but they can “hold hands” and help each other through the process. Many of them use Skype to help each other.
You can set up Skype instantly by going to their website. Most computers sold today have the webcam and microphone built right in, and you can be ready to go in just a few minutes. Skype and LabPaq, “perfect together!” Try it and you will love it!
This article has been translated to Serbo-Croatian language by Jovana Milutinovich here >>