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Weekly Tip: Video Conference Courses

A video conference (VC) course facilitates a live, visual and audio connection between two or more remote campuses allowing students from across the state to access courses not available on their home campuses. VC courses remove physical location barriers, allow for access to expertise and educational collaboration, and open the door to diverse learning perspectives.

Facilitating a VC course and connecting with distance students can present some challenges. In recognition of this, AOI has a few tips to help create engaging courses and positive student experiences across locations.

Student Engagement

Student engagement and interaction are critical parts of learning. Below are some suggestions to accomplish both in a VC environment.

  • Provide digital copies of all course materials (e.g. handouts, in-class readings, etc.) through the course LMS in advance of the class meeting.
  • Create small groups that include students from each site. Students can collaborate and interact, regardless of location, by using tools like:
    • Blackboard Collaborate Ultra
    • Skype
    • Google Hangouts
    • Google Docs
  • Allow all learners to have an equal amount of time to respond to questions by using quick response tools like Google Forms, Kahoot!, and Poll Everywhere.
  • Incorporate collaborative tools, like Perusall, to allow students to interact with and comment on the same in-class reading.
  • Annotate over PowerPoint to help draw students’ attention to important content. Use the annotation feature in PowerPoint to create simple annotations that will engage students in person and at a distance.
  • Create a back-channel for students to submit questions using tools like Padlet or the Q & A feature in Google Slides. Questions can be addressed during or after class.

Take advantage of supplementary tools such as Blackboard to…keep [students engaged] between class periods. I find the lines between teaching modalities are blurring rapidly these days.

—Mark Beattie, WSU—Everett

For specific activities and strategies visit the LI Student Engagement Strategies page.

Video Conference Best Practices

Implementing just a few best practices for video conferencing can help you create an engaging and positive student experience. The following best practices were contributed by Dr. Tom Tripp, Co-Chair of the Academic Video Conferencing Task Force.  The tips and strategies are based on data collected by the taskforce from VC instructors and student evaluations. 

Before the Start of the Semester:

  • Get to know your classroom.
    • Attend a VC training.
    • Know how your podium works, including video conferencing and A/V equipment. 
    • Get a feel for the classroom setup and technology; this is the best time to test out the available camera angles and to practice staying in frame. 

There’s no substitute for preparation.

—Mark Beattie, WSU—Everett

When Classes Begin:

  • Build rapport with your remote students by getting to know their names and voices, and be sure to call on them regularly.
  • If possible, travel to the other sites within the first 2 weeks of the semester.
    • This allows you to meet your distance students in person and experience what they see during your class.

[Visiting a site] allows me to engage in a more human capacity…The more human connection that you are able to make with your students is really going to set the tone for the rest of the class and beyond.

—Mark Beattie, WSU—Everett

  • When asking questions, consider the audio delay that remote students experience and allow extra time for students to respond.
    • Implement a hand-raising policy at the in-person site, and have remote students speak when they have questions. This prevents local students from dominating the conversation due to the audio delay that remote students experience.
    • If the remote site is muted, allow time for students to unmute.
  • Ensure all content is visible to all learners.
    • Provide access to presentation/slides prior to class. Ensure this material does not contain spoiler information or answers to discussion questions which will decrease learning effectiveness. Providing slides allows students to prepare and think about the topics that will be covered in class ahead of time.
  • Use annotation technology, like iPads or an annotation monitor, instead of whiteboards. Doing so will allow students at a distance to see your writing, as classroom cameras do not pick up writing on whiteboards well.
  • It is difficult for distance students to see physical pointing or laser pointers. Instead, call attention to important materials/content by using verbal cues, annotation technology, or provide access to content prior to or during class.
  • Be aware of the camera angles and stay in frame. This allows for a close-up camera angle, rather than one that is zoomed out, providing a more personal connection for remote students.
  • Mimic the in-person experience by looking into the camera when speaking to remote students. Doing so allows for a feeling of connection and personability.
    • This is much easier when the camera is placed on top of the monitor instead of off to the side. (If the camera is off to the side, be sure to look into the camera, not at the monitor screen.)

This series of videos and teaching tips is presented by Academic Outreach and Innovation (AOI). We invite you to join the conversation. Share your tips and ask questions through this blog. If you would like these posts to be sent directly to your email each week, subscribe to the listserv by emailing aoi.li@wsu.edu.

For more information or to schedule time with an instructional designer or emerging technologist, contact aoi.li@wsu.edu or request training on demand. You can also visit the Spark Faculty Innovation Studio in room 102 any time from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Thursday, during the academic year.