"Basic research is like shooting an arrow into the air and, where it lands, painting a target." -- Homer Burton Adkins
I've done a little digging to see what educational researchers and writers have been finding about the use of Web conferencing for instruction. Here's a sampling:
Best Practices to Promote Learning Through Web Conferencing: Resources, Tools and Teaching Methods. Eastern Kentucky University educators Paula Jones, MaryAnn Kolloff, and Fred Kolloff summarize five best practices associated with best teaching practices using Web conferencing: (1) Prepare content beforehand; (2) Plan a practice session; (3) Have an assistant on hand; (4) Before the first meeting, plan for accessibility, record the session, prepare participants, have a plan for emergencies, take care of audio problems, greet participants; (5) During the session, interact with students, prepare for delayed reactions, plan for scheduled breaks, reduce visual clutter.
Georgetown University: Web Conferencing—A Critical Skill for the Connected World. Pablo Molina shares that Georgetown University undertook a campus-wide adoption of Web conferencing services "as part of its planning for the possible consequences of a swine flu epidemic." Although the flu didn't end up disrupting classes as expected, it gained some converts, and the author was among them. He describes how he used the technology to teach his classes and the successful results he observed, and concludes: "The pedagogical use of web conferencing technologies also targets the ability to make informative and convincing presentations online. For this to happen, web conferencing must be pervasively built into the curriculum. Presently, student web conferencing is only built into a few core courses (in addition to the capstone course required of students to complete their Master of Professional Studies in Technology Management degree). Beyond this program and this institution, there is great potential for extending this practice to other programs and to other educational institutions."
An Institutional Evaluation of Web-Conferencing and its Impact on Learning and Teaching Processes. Researchers at the University of Aveiro in Portugal evaluated the use of Web-conferencing for several courses. "The overwhelming majority of students and teachers agreed that Web-conferencing was able to improve access to learning and increase the level of interactivity experienced... Teachers found the workload associated with teaching using Web-conferencing was manageable, and nearly 80% of students indicated that they would be more likely to choose subjects that used Web conferencing."
Reflections in Cyberspace: Web-Conferencing for Language Teacher Education. New Zealand researchers report on an in-depth evaluation of an Applied Linguistics course which utilized Web-conferencing for instruction and delivery. They determined that "inclusion of students' voices enriched what could be learned."
Taking the Classical Large Audience University Lecture Online Using Tablet Computer and Webconferencing Facilities. At Technical University of Denmark, the author took lectures for "Introduction to Statistics for Engineering Students" (which average 250+ students) online using Web conferencing. "A quantitative and qualitative analysis of the course evaluations are given that documents that students reacted positive [sic] to the initative."
Web-Conferencing Based Education: An Empirical Comparison with Face-to-Face Education. University of Nebraska researchers concluded that, for interactive instructional strategy, "students in a Web-conferencing based learning environment experienced a higher level of classroom interactivity than those in a face-to-face classroom environment. Also, in the interactive instructional sessions, students in the Web-conferencing based learning environment experienced higher perceived learning and satisfaction than those in the face-to-face learning environment." They conclude that "educators need to focus on designing interactive education that can leverage the new technologies supported by Web-conferencing" and "maximize the use of video/audio/instant messaging and other visual tools" in their use of the technology.