Is Face to Face Better than Virtual?

tweet re f2f rather than virtual

One of my highly valued colleagues, Sue Waters,  tweeted out the link to my blog post on Blended Technology Use for Great Learning. It was with interest that I read a response to her tweet by @strong99 who thought it would be better to have the author/illustrator teach face to face. Below is part of the conversation.


Technology has broken down the barriers of distance. This linkup was free, took very little effort to organise, gave us a top quality presenter from another country, highly engaged the students and taught them how to make simple, effective illustrations for their storytelling.

However, it gave food for thought as to whether  it is preferable to have someone come into the classroom if cost, effort, availability etc was not a problem. Here are some arguments for using  technology in preference:-

  • students engage with technology and not always with a person
  • if the presenter is physically there, time is limited and there may be little time for questions. Students have so many questions and many of there questions are really good and it is what they want to know within the topic. Having access to the Smartboard, allowed us to key in the questions in the chat. We added at least one auestion for each student, all of them different.  (Some are listed below). Only four students got to ask questions with the traditional methods of using the microphone and web camera. The questions from the chat were saved and viewable by all involved. These questions even if not answered by the presenter, give the teacher an avenue for further research, learning and mentoring with the class.
  • Using the smart board and polycom equipment meant that all students could see quite clearly the author at work illustrating and stroke by stroke how she created the drawings.
  • It is of high interest for students to be sharing their virtual classrooms with those from other schools whether they be in Australia or New Zealand or other countries. It brings a different perspective to the topics at hand and increases the thought processes beyond their own small own small class.

What do you think? If money, effort, cost, availability were of no consequence, and the presenter was highly engaging, would you choose face to face or virtual linkups? Why is one preferable over the other? How successful have your video linkups been? What makes them successful, what makes for unsuccessful connections?

7 responses to “Is Face to Face Better than Virtual?

  1. Pingback: Is Face to Face Better than Virtual? | Connect All Schools |

  2. As a learner, personally, I prefer the tech-mediated experience, with some 1:1 contact in person. As an educator (at HE level) I am aware there are some learners who are completely opposed to this position though!
    I ran a survey about 5 years ago which showed about 8% disliked any form of ‘e’learning, with similar numbers having a strong preference for it (again HE students, and only at my institution). So it seems a mix of delivery is probably the most inclusive approach.

    • Thanks Pat, for your comment. I wonder if you run the survey again now, whether you may get different responses and outcomes. Like you, the mix of delivery may provide the best outcomes.

  3. I wonder if we can really say whether one is definitively preferable to the other? In this class’ situation the opportunity afforded by technology clearly makes that preferable but given the choice of having a PE lesson with a local footie star in person or talking to him on a screen I’m pretty sure most of us would pick the former. Neither will ever win outright and that’s a good thing, I think. Leveraging technology to get the best opportunities and outcomes for our students will sometimes mean not using technology at all.

    • Thanks for your thought provoking comment. I like your statement – is one preferable to the other? Blending a face to face classroom with virtual connections when possible for enriched learning should be the goal.

  4. I think that technology and the interaction with technology shouldn’t be an argument to remove the “face”. If your guest speaker is in the classroom you can always put an extra smartboard, camera and screen setup next to him or her to show every stroke. That would make the two arguments one and three in the post a bit obsolete.

    A local speaker would show the job opportunities within the local area, your students could get the impression they need to be in Melbourne or even New Zealand whether it’s true or false for such job. And if you have a local speaker, small projects and even internships or visits would be possible too I think. I remember visiting a water treatmentplant in primary school after we had a guest speaker on the garbage disposal subject. Being there impressed us more then the video.

    I didn’t get a real clue in your activity how the interaction between the other classes was which were also participating in the session. It seemed only directed towards the speaker in your blog article. Did they actively interact with the other classroom or only with the speaker?

    I’m wondering too, what do we gain with the technological blending and what do lose because of it? Clearly we can get interaction with better skilled or better fitting persons and groups. But what do we lose? One-to-one interaction? Touch? Overview? Feeling?

    • Thank you for your comment and sharing your thoughts, ideas and concerns. For us, it is almost impossible for us to get a face to face speaker into our classrooms, as our school is located in a rural area where most of our students live on farms and 98% of students come on buses to school. Local speakers are non existent and any experts for our classroom (apart from the farming community) would or could travel three hours from Melbourne or 40 minutes from Warrnambool our nearest centre. This is quite expensive and our budgets are not strong. The other option is to put the students on a bus and take them to an activity, but that is costly, requires considerable effort, permission forms and a big chunk of the school day is taken up in travel. Our students are also rarely exposed to the Arts and cultural activities which our city counterparts take for granted. For us, technology has broken down all those barriers and means that we can get experts into our class virtually. This ability is provided the teacher or school has a network to tap into.
      The use of technology and backchannels or chat area has provided students with a place to add all the questions that they seem to have and this has certainly enriched learning and overcome confusion and to me that is one big plus for learning in a virtual situation.
      The interaction with the other classes in this instance was through the presenter only. But, I could see that the chat option in Bridgitt for the Smartboard could be used for interactivity in future. This is such pioneering territory and needs to be explored further.
      Face to face is still important and the preferable option and possibly the best option but the virtual linkups for us do provide rich learning. I do agree with you that the blending of technology into the classroom can be a real strength to learning. Your closing questions are certainly ‘food for thought”. Thanks for taking the time to enrich this topic and conversation.

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