Teaching, Learning & Technology
Sharing best practices from faculty around the world who are using technology to transform teaching and learning.

Making Live (Synchronous) Distance Learning Come Alive - Georgia Tech and DyKnow

Tweet this!

Ask anyone who has attended an online webinar presentation, a live "broadcast lecture", or viewed a lecture that has been video podcast, and chances are they were multitasking - big time. Let's face it: Without actually engaging the audience, a lecture is highly ineffective - and if it's an online, non-interactive lecture, it's like watching a television show - minus the entertainment value of advertising.

Thankfully, innovation in instruction and technology is changing the equation, as is the case at Georgia Tech Savannah...

With support from an HP Technology for Teaching grant in 2006, and a follow-on HP Leadership Grant in 2008, Elliot Moore and Monson Hayes, co-PI's and faculty in engineering, used HP tablet pcs and DyKnow software to make their synchronous, distributed learning courses come alive.

From their project website:

Currently, Georgia Tech Savannah (GTS) provides engineering education to students located across 4 different universities.  One of the primary initiatives at GTS is to develop a blueprint for building a campus that utilizes computer-based technology to enhance the effectiveness of education in synchronous distributed learning (DL) environments.  In this scenario, the professor and students engage in a live classroom session via videoconferencing equipment that allows the students and professors to be at different geographical locations.  This type of DL environment typically suffers from several challenges that create significant barriers in effective student learning and teacher instruction including:

  • 1. Poor transmission of live lecture content

  • 2. Limitations on basic classroom interaction among the instructor and students

  • 3. Challenges in class administration of basic assessment activities (e.g., in class examples, exams, etc.)

These problems have contributed to a poor opinion overall of DL courses by students and instructors.  The results of this project have shown the following measured improvements in student attitudes and opinions regarding the learning environments created in the DL courses for this project as opposed to traditional DL courses:

  • 1. Students felt the presentation of the lecture content was more clear and easy to follow than in traditional DL courses

  • 2. Students preferred the use of the Tablet PC for taking and receiving notes

  • 3. Students felt more involved in class discussions and learning activities

  • 4. Students felt the in-class interaction through the Tablet PC helped them learn the material better and pay more attention in class


The comments from the students support these findings:

"I liked that the professor could ask questions and have us submit answers. It caused me to pay more attention than I normally would. I think I also grasped the concepts better by actually doing them during class." (Spring 2007 Student)

"The Dyknow interface allows students to actually LISTEN to what the instructor is saying without scrambling madly to write stuff down and missing important point in the process. I would highly recommend it!" (Spring 2007 Student)

"LOBBY TO MAKE OTHER CLASSES USE TABLET PCs!! It worked very well. Not only was having all the notes readily available great, but working problems in class with you giving feedback and showing popular incorrect answers was nice too. I'm actually getting a tablet pc for Christmas because of this class, no joke." (Fall 2007 student)


Keep up the great work, Georgia Tech Savannah!



This experience at Georgia Tech is only one of many. Richard Anderson, creator of Classroom Presenter software, has created a similar synchronous distance learning interaction in his computer science course (see my previous blog posting, "Enhancing "Live" Distance Learning with Classroom Presenter").

Also, check out the Virginia Tech video posted on the DyKnow site "...I can take an auditorium, a theater, and turn it into an active learning place..." (Tom Walker, Associate Professor of Engineering).

Jim Vanides, B.S.M.E, M.Ed.
Worldwide Education Programs
HP Global Social Investment

Twitter @jgvanides

For information about the HP Global Social Investments, visit www.hp.com/hpinfo/grants



Katherine | ‎06-28-2011 06:45 PM


I am Kathy, a doctoral student for Walden University.  Looking for interesting blog sites.  I am going to begin teaching my first online program and am a bit nervous about getting it up and going.  Suggestions?

| ‎07-06-2011 05:19 AM



Congratulations on teaching your first online course! I teach for Montana State University in my "spare" time - an online conceptual physics class on the "science of sound" for elementary teachers (www.scienceteachers.org). Great fun!


As a starting point, I *highly* recommend that you check out the webinars offered by the Sloan Consortium for faculty who teach online. See http://sloanconsortium.org/webinar_listing for details. The Sloan Consortium is a network of higher education institutions and faculty who aim to enhance their online programs. 


Best of luck to you!


- Jim Vanides


IPS | ‎10-11-2013 12:56 PM

Distance learning is the world most popular and flexible study pattern. With the multiple qualities distance education provides a best way of education to the working professionals,busy guys and all kind of students that can get a best career with these education systems.

So distance learning is a best hope of guys......

Showing results for 
Search instead for 
Do you mean 
About the Author
Jim Vanides is responsible for the vision, strategy, design, and implementation of education technology innovation initiatives. His focus is...

Follow Us
The opinions expressed above are the personal opinions of the authors, not of HP. By using this site, you accept the Terms of Use and Rules of Participation.