Since I wasn't able to make our class' first online chat due to my lack of power, this was my first experience. Overall I have to say that it was a success and recommendable.
The directions to install the Blackboard IM were extremely easy to follow and a quick process, so no complaints in that department. It is also nice to know that it works with all of the classes that the student is enrolled in so we can recommend it to other professors.
The fish bowl technique was good. It gave everyone an opportunity to talk and time in between to collect their thoughts and get their information ready to discuss. I also know that personally, in class, I tend to get a little shy and hold back on my opinion. With the online chat, I was able to throw out all my opinions without worrying whether or not it was good enough or if I would even get a chance to talk or that all eyes were on me. It ensures that everyone gets a chance to speak without the added pressure that everyone is watching and judging your answer. I also liked that the chat made time fly like no other. Sometimes the class can lag and with the chat, it went by remarkably fast.
The only complaint I had was that it was a bit hard to keep up with everyone. Since it is a group chat, IMs were flying in at lightspeed, and my eyes were having trouble keeping up and reading everything.
The class chat is perfect for an online class, a blended class or even a class that meets in person. I know that it is unrealistic to expect everyone to be on time and in class each day so this is a quick and easy alternative to the regular in class discussion/lecture. Not to mention that I'm sure most of my classmates would be thrilled to wake up to an email addressing a class meet up for an online one! These chats are also helpful for group project meetings and discussions and especially literature circles. With lit circles, this would be beneficial because at the click of a button discussions can be expanded through links, definitions and even videos pertaining to that specific novel.
As I said above, overall, the online class was a wonderful experience. I feel that it helped students come out of their shells, keep the flow of the discussion and time going well and it is beneficial to numerous projects and class types. We should have more in the future! :)