The social work department is trying their hand at virtual face-to-face discussions this semester.

The CORE 106 Culture and Community class taught online by Carol Jarvis, associate professor of social work, is using Google Hangout, a video chat feature from Google +. Every Thursday at 6 p.m. the Culture and Community class meets via Hangout to imitate a traditional classroom setting.

“I use [Hangout] for small group discussions to mirror a face-to-face setting,” said Jarvis.

Google Hangout allows for ten people to interact over video chat. Jarvis can show her students how to upload assignments to Moodle, where they can view YouTube video projects together. It all happens instantaneously while everyone is in various locations.

Jarvis went to a conference in the fall for social work educators, which focused on their use of technology and teaching through online courses. She decided she preferred synchronous, or real time, instead of asynchronous, or solely online, teaching.

“For me, having always taught face-to-face, this helps me feel available to my students,” Jarvis said.

Erin Milanese, sciences librarian, suggested using Google Hangout in conjunction with Moodle, enabling the online class to video chat while also using all of the capabilities of Moodle.

Kelly Anne Acker, a first-year social work major, began her time at Goshen College as part of the first batch of adult students in the seven-week adult program. Much like Jarvis, Acker is also new to Hangout and synchronous learning online.

“Hangout adds sharing, conversation and richness to material that would otherwise be done on an individual basis,” said Acker.

The technology does have some downfalls. “You really have to be aware of connectivity,” Acker said, who has been late to class and flustered numerous times because of inability to access wireless connection.

Jarvis echoed this concern and said, “We experienced some hiccups at the beginning, but each week it gets better.”

After some initial issues, discussions have run more smoothly, questions are being answered and fewer problems have arisen with poor internet connection.

Jarvis hopes that eventually more can be done through Hangout. She aspires to have guest speakers, record small group discussions and have meetings through Hangout, like she would with office hours.

“We are starting these new programs, trying to be mindful of creating an environment of hospitality to these new students, and that’s where Hangout comes in,” said Jarvis. “It creates a welcoming environment for students trying to find their space here and I want to help with that.”