During the 2011 spring semester, Dr. Sheila Cavanagh taught English 311 in Emory’s Center for Interactive Teaching (ECIT). Dr. Cavanagh’s course took her students through interpreting performances of select Shakespeare plays. Dr. Kevin Quarmby, visiting faculty at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in England, was a co-instructor in this course. Throughout the course, Dr. Quarmby was part of the class while in London, England by using Skype.
Skype is an internet video conferencing solution that provides real-time audio and video connectivity between those connected to a conference. As conferencing technologies become more readily available, they are increasingly being used in classrooms for guest lecturers. With the use of Skype in the classroom, Dr. Quarmby was able to bring his years of expertise in Shakespearean studies, acting at the Royal National and Old Vic Theatres in London, and extensive teaching experience into the classroom. Dr. Quarmby acted as a co-instructor and relied on the technology to help keep him a part of the class.
Successfully co-teaching from a distance not only requires a robust technology, like Skype, but it also requires a tremendous amount of collaboration between the instructors. Before each class meeting, Dr. Cavanagh and Dr. Quarmby went through each part of the syllabus noting every class involving Skype. For each of these classes, they solidified the learning objectives and reviewed the topics both would introduce to the discussion. Although co-teaching at any level requires coordination, the instructors being over 4000 miles apart had multiple conversations before each class (also via Skype) to build the foundation for a successful class.
Surveys from the students spoke to an increase in the engagement with the course content when Skype was used. According to Dr. Cavanagh “At some point, the idea of a Skype collaboration came up. I have not been an actor, and it’s useful to have a real actor involved in the process of understanding these plays.” The students were able to ask questions about the historic Globe Theatre and recreate scenes from some of Shakespeare’s plays in an ECIT classroom, while given direction from London.
The English 311 class was taught in ECIT Classroom 215. This classroom space was perfect for this course due to the flexibility of the classroom tables and chairs. For each class meeting, the seating arrangement was adjusted to accommodate the video conferencing technology.
Skype (http://www.skype.com) is an internet conferencing solution that incorporates video, audio and even document or desktop sharing into a single connection. With Skype, users can connect with each other or with several people from a desktop computer. To utilize Skype and the basic features are free. Premium features (e.g. multiple participants, desktop sharing) can be incorporated into the videoconference with a paid account.