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Now back from Kenya and attempting to catch up, likely in reverse chronological order and so making this blog somewhat non-linear. Might be a good thing!

The problems encountered organising and connecting to online chat bring up various questions:

  1. the chat applet, though I haven’t tested it, probably isn’t very accessible, nor intuitive, to a disabled user.
  2. the applet is also proprietary and as experienced personally, may not work under certain circumstances
  3. the WebCT applet isn’t as passive as might be desired; most instant messaging tools sit in the background, permanently logged on but doing nothing, until something happens. This can be done with WebCT but require multiple web browsers to be open and is a little cluttered. Notifications are also limited, meaning you can sit on the chatroom for hours of quiet, be doing something else, then suddenly miss an entire conversation, coming back to find everyone gone.
  4. regardless of the method used, finding common times that suit all people is nigh on impossible
  5. the concept of organised chat harks back to traditional tutorial structures and may be less suitable/less necessary with new elearning courses (it’s very necessary here as an experiment)

1 and 2 could perhaps be avoided by using a more common and widely recognisable chat system: IRC or MSN Messenger / Yahoo Messenger are mature and work better with the operating system, and hence with assistive technologies. IRC in particular allows for different clients to connect to the same server architecture/chatroom, meaning cross-platform problems (e.g. Mac) can be easily resolved.

4 is in part resolved by the production of a chat transcript, which is very helpful for those who simply couldn’t attend for whatever reason. This would also be aided by having several chat sessions staged at different parts throughout the course; this would lead into point 5, preventing the rigid traditional course structure from interfering too much with the experimental side of the syllabus.

Casual chatroom conversations may be few and far between because of the problems point 3, and defecting to a more common system of communication may be the resolution here.

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