[TOS] IRC for a class or not

Heidi Ellis heidi.ellis at wne.edu
Thu Jan 11 01:19:28 UTC 2018


Hi,

Susan has done a great job summarizing IRC pros and cons. I thought I'd share how I use it.

I have an IRC channel open continually for students and hold IRC office hours two hours per week. This allows me to hold office hours in the evening when more students are around. It also allows me to be more available to students while I'm not in my office.

I use one of a couple of in-class exercises to get students used to IRC. In one, I show my IRC channel on the projector and ask all students to log in. I will then ask students a question on IRC in which they are vested (what should the late policy be for the course) and require that all conversation be on IRC. I have also done this at the end of class and dismiss the class via IRC. Those students who aren't paying attention will sit there looking at you while the others get up and leave. Causes them to pay attention to IRC.

Another exercise I use is to have students pair up and find out five facts about the other person without talking. Pretty much any problem solving that doesn't require creating graphs or pictures is good fodder for an IRC activity. You can then repeat the exercise by combining pairs.

When I'm involved in an HFOSS course and am lucky enough to have class at the same time that the HFOSS community had their weekly meeting. I displayed the IRC channel on the projector while we participated in the meeting as well. This allowed us to ask questions of the community while we were in class.  At the beginning, I explained (verbally) what was happening on the IRC channel but after the first couple of meetings, we were silent. We didn't do this every class, but on an as-needed basis.

In either case, the activity forces them to get used to IRC. I have observed that a few students figure out that you're available on IRC and will ask more questions than I expect if they had to approach me in my office. They also ask more questions in the evenings. I have also observed that some of the quietest students in the class will be more "vocal" on IRC.

Just my 2 cents.
Heidi

On 01/09/2018 02:21 PM, Susan E. Sons wrote:

I use IRC regularly for teaching/mentoring sessions and it can work well
for many audiences.  I'm not a professor, but some of my mentees are in
that age cohort.

IRC Pros:

Extremely handicap accessible.  Smooth, predictable behavior with screen
readers for the blind, and a variety of client options for users with
visual or auditory impairments or other concerns.

Extremely accessible in the general sense: IRC is free to use, with low
bandwidth requirements, and there are clients available for free for
nearly every operating system on the planet.  The system requirements
are a fraction of those for browser-based chat services.

Logging provides built-in, searchable reference material.

No distracting animated gif inserts and the like as in browser-based
chat services.  IRC is strictly text based, and clients can even strip
obnoxious colors and blink tags from text (many do by default).

Once students adapt to IRC-based discussions, they tend to be more
attentive because it's easier to multitask or task switch without
missing important context, compared to e.g. Slack or an audio or video
stream.


IRC Cons:

One must install software to use IRC (there are web gateways, but they
are prone to abuse and have connectivity issues).

One must learn a few text commands to use IRC effectively.  It's not
that hard, but there are some younger non-technical folks who balk at
not being able to click everything.

IRC doesn't provide screen share or video capabilities, which can be
helpful for some types of teaching.  (I've used Crowdcast with great
success here.  It's proprietary, but very open from an interface
perspective and the support is great.)

My two cents. :)

Susan

On 01/09/2018 01:25 PM, Joanna Klukowska wrote:


I will be teaching an Open Source Software Development class this
spring. I usually use Piazza for class discussions and most
communications. But for an open source course, I feel like IRC might be
more appropriate. Except I am not sure how a bunch of college kids will
handle IRC.

Does anybody have any experience in using IRC for a course as a single
communication tool with students?

Any feedback would be very appreciated!

Best,
Joanna











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