This term, I am teaching a class called "Digital Rhetoric." Most of the students in the class are technical communication majors, with a few business and international affairs folks mixed in. In the class, I try to mix theory (authorship, intellectual property, textuality) and practice (tools for online communication and persuasion, workplace applications, and so on).
As a part of that practical part, I have been inviting guest speakers who have tried to explained how the notion of "digital rhetoric" might apply to their academic field or profession. We have had three speakers so far. We will have 2-3 more during the rest of the semester, probably all face to face. We have heard from a rhetorician, a cultural anthropologist, and a trainer of technical communicators who is based in Germany. It is this latest event that I'd like to focus on here.
Because our guest speaker lives and works in Germany, we had to do a live video link-up. First of all, I want to talk about the tools I decided to use. My school supports Elluminate, but our speaker does not have access to it. So, that was out. He is an avid Skype user, and so am I, so we decided to give Skype a try. It worked beautifully, and it was all free. Stick it to the vendors of commercial live conferencing software! The classroom when we held the event is equipped with a computer and a projector, and it was on that projector that we saw the speaker who had a web cam connected to his PC. On our end, I brought my MacBookPro, with the bilt in isight camera, through which he was able to see us in the room. So, if there is anything out there interestted in setting up something similar, let me know and I will walk you through the set up process.
Now, to the substance of the event itself. It was a success and both the students and the speaker enjoyed it. I did a littled survey after the event asking students to rate the experience. About one half of the class filled out the survey, wishing, in the future, for the microphone to be closer to them and for more time to prepare questions for the speaker. I will be sure to do that next time.