In previous articles, we mentioned that there are two main ways to communicate in an e-learning course: synchronously and asynchronously. While some may prefer asynchronous methods, like email, forum posts or essays, this type of communication cannot be used by itself. You need to provide the user with options, so the best solution is to add synchronous methods as well: take the live chat or the conference for example. You know by now that feedback is one of the most important elements of e-learning and it functions around the following principle: the quicker, the better. Live chats are the fastest way to provide feedback to trainees, as you can offer instant replies to any query. Let's say a student is writing their assignment essay and encounters an issue that blocks him. He sees you online and asks directly, instead of waiting for you to reply their email, which might take another day or so. You solve the problem quickly and respond to any other issues, after which the student gets back to work.
Another use of live chat in e-learning is for group sessions. It is not very easy to schedule these meetings at a time that suits everyone, as some students may be from a different time zone or might be working shifts. However, these are extremely useful to discuss group projects or to explain certain tasks. This is the medium where students won't be afraid or ashamed to ask as many questions as they need to understand everything properly. The same cannot be said about email, for example: once they got two or more replies, the students will probably avoid asking supplementary questions.
With Moodle, you can enable guests to participate in a chat activity, you can use audio chat with third party modules or restrict access to certain users. You should know that emoticons are displayed as graphics, internet addresses are automatically turned into links and you can insert images, sounds or different colored and sized text using HTML. You can also "emote", meaning that if you start a line with /me or : then the emotion will be displayed (e.g. if your name is Mike, /me is sad or :is sad will read as Mike is sad). There is also an option to "beep" someone - or everyone - to get their attention: a sound will be sent to them.
Each chat room will have a name, designating its purpose (e.g. student lounge for a chat room designed for students to socialize). The chat will also have a description, as brief or detailed as the trainer wants. This should offer precise information regarding the subject and purpose of the chat. Transcripts of the chat sessions are automatically created, but the teacher can decide for how long they're saved and who can view them.
Another option that Moodle offers is contact a librarian. This allows the students to instantly contact a librarian via instant messaging, directly from the Moodle page. They also have the option to send an email or make an appointment, if a librarian is not available to chat. To add this option to a Moodle course, you need to select Ask a Librarian from the Blocks menu.
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