Distance, Blended, F2F: Classroom 2.0

Now that the face-to-face classroom is no longer the de facto setting for learning, what are the best practices for blending embodiment and virtuality?

I work in and study virtual classroom software in the context of my classes at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School of Communication.  Living in Portland, OR but working in Los Angeles, I convene class virtually & synchronously 3 weeks each month; I commute to L.A. one week monthly, run class face-to-face, and meet with each of my students individually.

We study interfaces in addition our course content, social media.  I have also taught a Networked Culture seminar at Washington State Vancouver’s Creative Media and Digital Culture program, where students met virtually three times over the course of the semester.

My students use authoring software to make artifacts for our real-world social media campaigns and study relevant contexts such as fair use, transmedia storytelling, “playbor” (digital labor + play), mobility + ubiquitous computing, and hybrid collaboration.

Teaching seminars virtually has caused me to notice how much I blend my senses in the face-to-face classroom.  I rely on  hearing and proprioception much more than I would have guessed.  Both of those modes are significantly limited in virtual classroom software.

After our first day in the virtual classroom, one of my students said, “[virtual classroom software] is so easy.  I’m more accustomed to looking at a screen than a professor.  It scares me that this is what the classroom is going to become.”

Why do you think she said that?

Proposed subjects — please add yours:

  • synchronicity & the seminar
  • attention & distraction in embodied settings, virtual settings
  • the fetish of the digital trace
  • multi-sensory & intersensorial cognitive processing
  • interface v. course content: can they really be separated?
  • institutional support for, or fear of, experimentation

About the author


I've taught in an English dept., a Writing Program, and now a Communication school: a trifecta. I am a scholar in two fields: virtual classroom software and electronic literature. I work with IBM at the Annenberg Innovation Lab at USC. I'm co-curating two upcoming shows of electronic literature: Avenues of Access" at MLA13 and "Electronic Literature Showcase" at the Library of Congress. I love to teach and am fascinated by the promise of the simultaneously virtual and embodied classroom.

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