Class in the middle of a snowstorm

February 15th, 2010 by under Uncategorized. No Comments.

What does a university do when record snowfalls hit the Washington DC area? They close, of course. In all, there were 5 class days cancelled last week at the College Park campus (more if you include weekends).

But, for one of my classes, we didn’t interrupt the learning because of weather. When I think of the word “professor”, it’s hard to get away from the visions of dusty jackets, old technology, and bookish ideas. This week, all of that was pretty much eliminated, at least in reference to my current professor for Data Mining for Business.


Prof. Shmueli, like many I’ve met at the Smith School, is very hip with modern technology. Instead of cancelling class last monday, we had class online. So, the idea of an online class is nothing new, but typically it’s limited to a little video screen and some slides. For this class, we used “Wimbio Classroom”, which is much more robust. There are functions for:
* raising your hand
* interactive chat
* whiteboard, where students/teacher can write or draw
* microphone button, where students can ask their question or answer a question via audio.
* allowing the teacher to share their desktop

Now, none of this software would be helpful if we didn’t have a dynamic professor. It also helped that she knows her lecture content extremely well, so she was able to constantly monitor student chat comments, hand raising, and other program features without delaying the action of the class.

This was the first time I’ve taken an online class that was as interactive as really being there. Although I truly enjoy sitting in a classroom to learn, this proved to me that the technology is good enough that we can now have “virtual” classrooms without sacrificing the quality of the instruction. The problem, for me, is how do we get as many professors like Prof. Shmueli, who love and know their subject and their students so deeply.

(You can read Galit Shmueli’s blog here)