Chat rooms and their use in everyday life are becoming increasingly common, and the technology may be a useful tool to link students with experts of a given subject material and each other. In our shared course Plant Nutrition and Nutrient Management, we experimented with using a chat room to link students with experts in the field of plant nutrition. Our main goal was to enhance the learning experience of the students by providing them with access to national and international plant nutrition researchers. Web CT was used to create and conduct the chat rooms and a chat etiquette evolved to prevent crosstalk and control the flow of the discussions. Positive outcomes of the chat room use included exposure of students to the technology and beneficial interaction between students and experts. Negative aspects of chat room use included the time involved to coordinate the overall effort and train experts to use the technology; the slow pace of some chats; effective grading; and the superficial coverage of some topics. We are developing modifications for future sessions to allow subjects to be explored in more depth and to improve networking between students and experts.
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