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On the outside Teaching in: Using Internet Video-Conferencing to Instruct an Introductory Sociology Course from a Remote Location


Teaching Sociology Volume 36, Number 4, ISSN 0092-055X


This study uses a quasi-experiment to evaluate the effectiveness of Internet videoconferencing technology. The instructor used a laptop, webcam, high-speed DSL connection, and Polycom[TM] Viewstation to teach a course unit of introductory sociology from a remote location to an experimental group of students in a large multimedia classroom. The same instructor taught a control group of introductory sociology students without videoconferencing. The groups were compared using exam scores, attendance, classroom observations, and student evaluations. The use of Internet videoconferencing did not affect exam scores or attendance. However, it substantially lowered student evaluation scores. In comparison to classroom-based instruction and due to problems with and limitations of the technology, students experienced greater difficulty communicating with the instructor, felt more separated, and were less engaged in the course. Therefore, they perceived the instructor's teaching to be less effective, and evaluations reflected lower scores, thereby "punishing" the instructor. Symbolic interactionism is used to interpret the results. This research is compared and contrasted with a previous study conducted by one of the authors (Koeber 2005), also published in Teaching Sociology, which yielded opposite results. In Koeber's study the instructor was rewarded with favorable student evaluations for the use of new technology that enhanced engagement. We conclude that when instructors choose whether or not to use Internet videoconferencing, they must weigh the potential benefits associated with bridging distance gaps versus potential costs associated with reduction in quantity and quality of symbolic interaction that may cause students to disengage. (Contains 6 tables.)


Koeber, C. & Wright, D.W. (2008). On the outside Teaching in: Using Internet Video-Conferencing to Instruct an Introductory Sociology Course from a Remote Location. Teaching Sociology, 36(4), 331-343. Retrieved January 19, 2020 from .

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