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Videoconferencing & Desktop Collaboration Tools: Information for trainers

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Information for trainers

Of all the technologies available to assist in distance education, videoconferencing is the most similar to ordinary classroom instruction. However there are a few key differences in the teaching and learning process that require attention from trainers and learners to use videoconference successfully.

This page contains a list of questions that have been asked by trainers along with suggestions and examples provided by experienced videoconference instructors. These suggestions were supported based on research in the field of distance education.

 

What should I do before my session?

How do students get access to materials such as handouts and powerpoint slides?

What is the best way to arrange the room?

How can remote learners be encouraged to ask questions and participate in discussion?

How do I manage teams in a class with remote students?

What do I do when there is only one learner joining in from a remote location?

What do I do when remote participants need to present to the rest of the class?

What do I do if I notice an 'us versus them' attitude forming among students at different locations?

How do I deal with remote learners who say that they feel isolated from the rest of the class?

VC for teaching - Image

 

What should i do before my first session?

WHAT SHOULD I DO BEFORE MY SESSION?

  • Become familiar with the equipment and learn to operate it without assistance.
  • Do a test run with the location or locations that will be connecting to your session so you are sure that all of the remote sites have the right setup.
  • Compile the contact information for technical people at the remote location, just in case something goes wrong.
  • Prepare a videoconferencing etiquette summary for your students so they know not to tap their pens on the table, shuffle papers, place materials on top of the microphone, as well as when they should mute their microphones and how you would like them to interact with the rest of the class.
  • Have a backup plan in case the technology fails e.g. teleconference / speakerphone.
  • Until you become comfortable using the videoconferencing equipment, always give yourself extra time before your session to get setup.

How do students get access to handouts

HOW DO STUDENTS GET ACCESS TO MATERIALS SUCH AS HANDOUTS AND POWERPOINT SLIDES?

  • Make your materials available ahead of time by emailing them or posting them to your course on MyLearning (Moodle). Remote students should be told to check that space before coming to class and bring a copy of the materials with them, either on a laptop computer or by printing a paper copy.

What is the best way to arrange the room?

WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO ARRANGE THE ROOM?

  • If you are mainly presenting information, then position the videoconferencing unit in a location where the camera can get the best picture of you. Be sure to consider glare when positioning the videoconferencing unit.
  • If you are planning any kind of class discussion and the seating is mobile, you may want to arrange the student seating, videoconferencing unit, and your position in a triangular formation so each party can see the other without much difficulty.

How can remote students be encouraged to ask questions

HOW CAN REMOTE LEARNERS BE ENCOURAGED TO ASK QUESTIONS AND PARTICIPATE IN DISCUSSION?

  • Let the learners know the protocol for asking questions. Do you want them to interrupt you as you’re speaking (with a question or a raised hand) or will you allow certain times for questions?
  • Learn the names of your remote participants and ask them discussion questions directly.
  • Give the remote participants seed questions to ask in class to kick off a discussion or to periodically lead the class in the discussion of a particular reading or case study.
  • Let remote participants mute their microphones and have their own course-related discussion. Some instructors dislike this practice, but it can help the remote student group form a support community.
  • Remote participants may have trouble jumping into a heated classroom discussion since body language that indicates that they want to speak is less noticeable. The audio and video signal may also be delayed by a second or two, which makes students feel out of synch with the main presentation. Go out of your way to give them the opportunity to present their views.
  • Small group discussion activities with a report-out time encourage students at all locations to discuss a topic and express their thoughts. They also give students a break from passively watching a presentation.

How do I manage teams in a class with remote students?

HOW DO I MANAGE TEAMS IN A CLASS WITH REMOTE STUDENTS?

  • If you have enough students at each location, then form teams based on location. This enables all teams to meet with each other in person.
  • If you have several teams with people who are all in one location and one or two teams who mix local and remote students or different remote locations, then you may have to give the mixed team an extra week to complete their assignment (depending on its complexity) to account for the additional complications of coordinating group activities at a distance. Make sure this is understood up front and ask for volunteers to participate on the mixed team(s).

What to do when there is only one student

WHAT DO I DO WHEN THERE IS ONLY ONE LEARNER JOINING IN FROM A REMOTE LOCATION?

  • In this case, the learner often feels like an intruder and can fall into a passive observation role. Instead, treat them like a special guest. Greet him or her at the beginning of every session, stay in contact through e-mail, and arrange special times when he or she can call you.
  • You may also want to assign a local student as a study partner to help keep the remote student engaged and connected to the rest of the class.

What do I do when remote students need to present to the rest of the class?

WHAT DO I DO WHEN REMOTE PARTICIPANTS NEED TO PRESENT TO THE REST OF THE CLASS?

  • Make sure students understand how to use the equipment at their location.
  • Students should do the same kind of materials preparation that you have done, such as sending handouts and presentations to all locations ahead of time. Sending them the link to this help guide so that they can familiarise themselves with the technology and the points on this page may be helpful.

What do I do if I notice an us versus them attitude forming

WHAT DO I DO IF I NOTICE AN 'US VERSUS THEM' ATTITUDE FORMING AMONG STUDENTS AT DIFFERENT LOCATIONS?

  • This can happen when a group of remote students forms a cohesive unit. They may have their own discussions and come to a consensus that is different from other groups of students (Wainfan & Davis, 2004). This is where small group discussions can play a part to build consensus between all locations if that’s what you want.
  • Try using the discussion tools in MyLearning (Moodle) to have each location or student team post summaries of their discussions. This gives students open-ended time to continue the discussion and provide supporting evidence.
  • The “us versus them” attitude can be used constructively as the basis for healthy competition. Have each location focus on a particular aspect of a controversial topic and then hold an inter-location debate.

How do I deal with remote students who say that they feel isolated

HOW DO I DEAL WITH REMOTE LEARNERS WHO SAY THAT THEY FEEL ISOLATED FROM THE REST OF THE CLASS?

  • First and foremost, make sure you can see the videoconferencing display. Perform visual checks to make sure that the remote students are present and paying attention.
  • Use e-mail or phone calls to communicate with your remote students so they have an opportunity to access you outside of class.
  • If you want to encourage student-student collaboration, create a contact list for each location so students learn the names of everyone regardless of their location.
  • If possible, travel to the remote locations two or more times during the course and teach from that location. The first time should be close to the beginning of the course and give students a chance to meet with you in person and discuss any concerns they have. The other visits should be centered on critical points in the course, such as exam preparation or project reviews.
  • See if your remote students can come to your main location two or more times during the course. The first time should be close to the beginning of the courses. Subsequent visits can be for exams or student project presentations. If students make the trip, give them time before or after class to meet with you and socialise with the other students.

WITH THANKS

The content on this page has been adapted from the 'Faculty guide to teaching through videoconferencing' and used with the kind permission of the author, Allan Gyorke, University of Miami.