Saturday, May 30, 2009

Synchronous e-learning

By Dr Karl Golnik

There are two broad categories of e-learning; synchronous and asynchronous.

Asynchronous e-learning has advantages of anyplace, anytime, on-demand education. Podcasts, online courses and discussion boards are good examples. However, the instant interaction and feedback that helps the participant stay focused and interested are missing in these formats.

Synchronous e-learning has the advantage of real-time interaction but the disadvantage that participants must be available at a given time. Webinars and online lectures are examples of synchronous e-learning.

For the past year, I have been traveling to a residency program 100 miles away once per month to lecture and teach in the clinic. I supplement this with a monthly one hour, synchronous online lecture.

Various software exists to facilitate this and is available at,,, or to name a few. I have not tried all of these but I have been using GoToMeeting with some success (I have no financial interest in GoToMeeting). This software requires registration and there is a 30 day free trial. After that, the charge is 49 US Dollars per month which allows one to host unlimited online conferences with as many as 15 different participant computers. Participants may use their computer microphones or phone to communicate.

Once registered, the host simply clicks on a small GoToMeeting icon and types in their email address and password.

The software then launches a meeting and a tool bar appears on the right side of your computer (Figure).

Towards the bottom of the bar a code appears and you email or call the participants to give them the code. They go to type in the code and they can view your laptop and talk back and forth amongst each other. The list of participants appears in the box toward the top of the toolbar. A “chat box” is located in the lower third of the toolbar. This allows questions or comments to be typed if the participant does not wish to interrupt the speaker.Once everyone is online you simply give your talk as you would a normal conference. The obvious advantage to this method is that I can host a conference with anyone anywhere in the world from my house or even when I am traveling. In fact, I recently forgot about a conference, was about to step into the shower and got a reminder call. I rushed down to my computer, set up the meeting, and started the conference in about 2 minutes! The feedback from participants has been very good and they greatly appreciate the opportunity for an extra neuro-ophthalmology conference per month. They even gave me the compliment (I think!) that the online meeting was just as good as my being there.

I envision the possibility of providing this type of synchronous neuro-ophthalmology e-learning to programs anywhere in the world where neuro-ophthalmology specialists may not be present.

1 comment: