Skype In An Expert

Instead of just talking about scholars and their work, OWU students are talking to them directly with Skype.

Ohio Wesleyan professors in a variety of disciplines are using the free video-calling service to bring scholars, performers and other guests into the classroom to illuminate class discussions. This allows students to learn about the subjects they’re studying and other parts of working in that field.

History professor Ellen Arnold, for example, had students talk with a guest from Dominican University whose work they had read. They were “excited” about the opportunity to talk with him about both his scholarship and his public outreach work, she said.

“It was a productive and easy way to have someone else’s ideas and views enter the classroom,” she said.

Skype has also proven useful for dance professor Rashana Smith. She called choreographer Paige Phillips to talk with students about some of her work that was unlike much dance they had seen.

After talking with Phillips, the students better understood her work, Smith said. That first-hand knowledge made it easier for them to write about something that was new to them and broadened their views of dance.

Skype has helped students outside the classroom, too. It allowed New York-based choreographer Erik Abbott-Main, who directed a piece for this year’s Orchesis dance concert, to interact with students before and after his weeklong campus visit.

“The students not only had the opportunity to work with a New York choreographer, but they also enjoyed continuing the process with him all the way up to the concert,” Smith said. “Two-and-a-half months of exposure with someone working successfully in the field is better than just one week.”

Faculty considering using Skype in the classroom might want to test the program at different times of the day to avoid scheduling a call when the network is congested, Smith said. But overall, the program is easy to use.