Last week, our class met online and utilized Blackboard's chat/discussion tool to converse. Having previously used chat tools, I was very comfortable using this technology. The pace is fast and many simultaneous conversations take place. The ability to track numerous conversations is essential to avoid missing something shared. Due to the fact that individuals are speaking (typing) at the same time, typical conversational etiquette doesn't seem to exist and participants must rely on emoticons to express intent. I enjoy the fast pace and appreciate the fact that entire conversations can be saved to a local file for later review.
In my current position, this technology is used to speak with other staff about specific issues or to ask questions that can be quickly answered. It has replaced email and the telephone for those quick questions and conversations that often take place. It is not used for longer, more in-depth conversation.
This week, the class met online using Adobe Connect. Students used web cameras and microphones to communicate. Video conferencing provides more of a face-to-face conversation experience than chat. It is easier to understand intent and meaning when facial expression can be seen and tone of voice can be heard. As compared to chat, the pace of the discussion was slower as individuals waited their turn to speak. While I enjoy chat, I found video conferencing to be a much better option for deep discussion as I tended to process more fully what was being said.
In my current position, this technology is used to conduct meetings and training sessions between individuals and groups at remote locations. It has even been used to bring keynote speakers to the University. Typically, the screen sharing (including PowerPoint) feature is used for visual and a speaker telephone is used for voice. This combination avoids the latency issues that were experienced during class, possibly due to varying Internet connection speeds.
The chat and video conferencing tools are both effective means of communication and learning when used in the appropriate setting.