One of the most challenging tasks of the online teacher is annual end of class party. Over the years I’ve experimented with a number of party models and formats. Last night’s party was our most successful to date. Thus, the posting below documents a brief history of online parties and concludes with a description of MDE663’s gala.

First, let me state that asynchronous parties do not work! There is something about ‘being there in the moment’ that an asynchronous greeting delivered by postal, email or discuss thread just doesn’t satisfy. We’ve celebrated in Moos and Muds but again soundless fireworks explosions, in text characters leave a bit too much to the imagination. Of course many a social time has been spent on telephone and in chats- as proven by the number of chat room junkies and so the chat room is a possibility. But the need to learn foreign abbreviated languages, secret codes, and have reasonable typing speed – in addition to lack of audio seem to constrain this medium (IMHO).

So, let me explain how we celebrated the end of class and the festive Christmas Season in MDE663 – a Masters of Distance Education degree course at Athabasca University.

The medium used was an audiographic webconferencing system ( The fourteen participants were spread across Canada and one student was from Barbados and other from the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Of course time zones are always a problem in global synchronous activities, but fortunately a rousing party prospect was enough to rouse the UAE student –even at 4:00 in the morning. The rest of us donned our party atire, filled our not virtual glasses and logged in for our usual Tuesday night class – between 5:00 and 9:00 PM at our local times.

I had set the scene by requesting that everyone bring a Holiday gift (that is a politically correct Christmas present) to share with the class. The gift could be in any medium supported by Elluminate (web tour, graphics, Powerpoint, audio or video file) Since we had been studying podcasts, patterns, copyright and next generation LMS systems, I had high expectations (and was not disappointed) in the quality nor variety of the gifts.

I had intended to do give a live guitar and vocal presentation of a Solstice Song I had written many years ago, but because I now know how to do low cost Pod casts, I did a trial run on It was VERY grim (no bass) and somehow the jaunty (and I though original tune) seemed a little (make that a lot) like the theme song from Gilligan’s Island. Undaunted, I did a google search for Solstice cards and found a very nice card with appropriate Celtic music in the background. To the card, I added a verse and the chorus from my Solstice Song – And I hope I can further use of it by sending it you! Check it out at with my Best Wishes!

Then we each took a turn at offering our present to the class. There was a musical recording of a Christmas Carol complete with a life howling dog accompaniment. A wonderful Powerpoint of how Christmas is celebrated in the Bahamas. A gift of a referral to a couple of very useful freeware utilities, a Flip Book of a video clip on paper. Of course we visited Santa, saw a few funny Jpegs and shared best wishes all around.

All and all a great party, and best (worst) of all, it is all recorded for posterity as an Elluminate file. I’d share the URL, but then would you really want your staff Christmas Party shared over the Net???

Solstice and Season’s best to All!

Terry Anderson