With Web conferencing, homebound students are keeping up

In Baltimore, the classroom is going online but stays real-time as teachers and students use Web conferencing technology to keep learning on track.

Somewhere between video-conferencing and online schooling lies an emerging technology that is helping house-bound students interact with teachers, reports the Baltimore Sun.

Web conferencing is allowing teachers to give students who cannot leave their homes an educational experience similar to what they might have in a classroom. Web-conferencing uses computer networks in real-time so that teacher and student can work together on a virtual blackboard.

Baltimore County's Home and Hospital Center in Bare Hills has eight full-time teachers who interact with students using web conferencing to teach classes such as history, algebra and physics.

The students who enrolled in the center either have a medical condition, or were expelled or administratively transferred from their home schools.

"This is not distance learning," said teacher JoAnna Allen, referring to online courses in which teachers leave work for students to pick up. "We're in real-time online with them."

Allen added that it wasn't an impediment that the students and teachers are not face to face. "With Web conferencing, we're working with their minds," she said.

Although the technology has met with a fair amount of success, it does have some drawbacks. It can become difficult to address the needs of individual students who fall behind due to illness or family emergencies.

"Our student population is always changing, which makes this very challenging," said teacher Linda Novak.

Student Josh Williams, a ninth-grader at Western School of Technology, said that when he began taking courses at the center in late November, he was ahead of the geometry class that Allen teaches, but he has benefited from reviewing some of the principles.

Biology teacher Lawrence Austen said he has seen once-struggling students excel with the aid of Web-conferencing. "They tell me they're understanding the work better than ever before," he said.

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