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Part I: Understanding the basics (and more) of video conferencing as a teaching and learning tool by George Lorenzo While all of education has obviously become much more deeply immersed in a variety of online learning modalities, from fully online to hybrid to hiflex, etc., adding a video conferencing element to actively engage and motivate students has been growing at a fast clip. As everyone grapples with using the most reliable and effective video conferencing hardware and software available, along with recognizing pedagogical and course instructional design best practices, we asked John Ittelson, Professor Emeritus of Information Technology and Communication Design, to provide an overview of what’s absolutely necessary to video conference with students in an effective way? From silent to talkies “This is like when the actresses and actors who were in silent movies had to adjust to talking movies,” Ittelson says. “Some weren't able to make the transition because their voices were not appropriate, or they just couldn't do it. We're in a very similar situation here in which there's been a technological change that has done a Black Swan intervention, in a sense, to how faculty are going to engage with their students. As professors, we have to adjust.” Know the basics To effectively adapt to this transition, it’s vitally important to at least understand the basics of effective video conferencing in an online education environment – something that online instructors may neglect to do as they jump into a Zoom interaction thinking everything looks fine on their end when maybe it’s not the same on the other end – the student’s screen. One of the most common and obvious problems encountered in a video conference is that instructors cannot clearly see their students, and vice versa. It’s important, for instance, to think about lighting when teaching from your home-based setup? “What looked good on Wednesday might not look so good on Friday because the lighting in your room may have changed, casting different and distracting shadows,” Ittelson says. He adds that you may also think you're sounding great because you are hearing people back, “but you don't see how you look and hear how you sound unless you go into a conference, record it, and play it back.” Looking in the mirror prior to going to class To help with anticipating the possibility of a less-than-perfect video conference Ittelson suggests that you first open up a meeting prior to class starting, record a minute of your presentation, hang up and then review the recording. “It’s a little bit like walking in front of the mirror before you leave the house in the morning,” he says. “You're checking the mirror in your office to make sure there's nothing stuck in your teeth before you go in front of your class. You have to do that with your video conferencing gear, and most people don't do that. They just think, well, it worked yesterday and suddenly you are live and a student says she can't hear you. Or you've got your lighting changed and you didn't think about it.” At the very least “The minimum level is making sure you have good audio, good video, and a space that is conducive to providing the best class,” Ittelson says. “So, can you reach your notes? Can you see your notes? Can you see and hear your students on the screen? That's the minimum. And that's something you have to do internally.” The next level Ittelson adds that at the next level of instruction beyond the basics, certain unwritten rules come into play related to many of the subtle things that happen in classrooms and communications that instructors are accustomed to in an in-person environment. “So, you have to establish those norms for your online class, and there are things you can do for establishing those norms and behaviors that improve the communications,” he says. Create an icebreaker During the first sessions of an online course, for instance, Itteslon suggests that instructors first do some sound and video checks to ensure that everyone is on an equal footing for clearly seeing and hearing each other. Additionally, create an icebreaker assignment. He suggests using a PowerPoint template with three slides for students to fill out, one with their name, another with a brief bio or simply something that they are passionate about, and a third with a response to what objectives they want out of the class. “They have to create it and send it back. You can then create a website that features everyone’s presentation, and they could click through that website throughout the semester.” Think proactively and learn how to use many of the top features “The professor sets the tone of a class,” he continues. “So, a faculty member needs to proactively think about what kind of classroom climate that they want to establish in their online meetings.” And that comes with learning how to utilize many of the less-obvious features and functions of a video conferencing system. Many faculty, who are not so-called “techies,” approach this level of learning with simple questions such as how to unmute the microphone or the video. But beyond that, somebody has to show them how to utilize more substantial features. In Zoom, for example, instructors might want to master how to use thumbs up/thumbs down reactions for a quick poll, or how to share screens effectively, and/or how to efficiently utilize break-out rooms, and much more. A recent Zoom blog post outlines some of the top factors for securing a virtual course and how to enhance students’ learning.
© Copyright 2020/Lorenzo Associates, Inc.
EDUCATIONALPathways
Part I: Understanding the basics (and more) of video conferencing as a teaching and learning tool by George Lorenzo While all of education has obviously become much more deeply immersed in a variety of online learning modalities, from fully online to hybrid to hiflex, etc., adding a video conferencing element to actively engage and motivate students has been growing at a fast clip. As everyone grapples with using the most reliable and effective video conferencing hardware and software available, along with recognizing pedagogical and course instructional design best practices, we asked John Ittelson, Professor Emeritus of Information Technology and Communication Design, to provide an overview of what’s absolutely necessary to video conference with students in an effective way? From silent to talkies “This is like when the actresses and actors who were in silent movies had to adjust to talking movies,” Ittelson says. “Some weren't able to make the transition because their voices were not appropriate, or they just couldn't do it. We're in a very similar situation here in which there's been a technological change that has done a Black Swan intervention, in a sense, to how faculty are going to engage with their students. As professors, we have to adjust.” Know the basics To effectively adapt to this transition, it’s vitally important to at least understand the basics of effective video conferencing in an online education environment – something that online instructors may neglect to do as they jump into a Zoom interaction thinking everything looks fine on their end when maybe it’s not the same on the other end – the student’s screen. One of the most common and obvious problems encountered in a video conference is that instructors cannot clearly see their students, and vice versa. It’s important, for instance, to think about lighting when teaching from your home- based setup? “What looked good on Wednesday might not look so good on Friday because the lighting in your room may have changed, casting different and distracting shadows,” Ittelson says. He adds that you may also think you're sounding great because you are hearing people back, “but you don't see how you look and hear how you sound unless you go into a conference, record it, and play it back.” Looking in the mirror prior to going to class To help with anticipating the possibility of a less- than-perfect video conference Ittelson suggests that you first open up a meeting prior to class starting, record a minute of your presentation, hang up and then review the recording. “It’s a little bit like walking in front of the mirror before you leave the house in the morning,” he says. “You're checking the mirror in your office to make sure there's nothing stuck in your teeth before you go in front of your class. You have to do that with your video conferencing gear, and most people don't do that. They just think, well, it worked yesterday and suddenly you are live and a student says she can't hear you. Or you've got your lighting changed and you didn't think about it.” At the very least “The minimum level is making sure you have good audio, good video, and a space that is conducive to providing the best class,” Ittelson says. “So, can you reach your notes? Can you see your notes? Can you see and hear your students on the screen? That's the minimum. And that's something you have to do internally.” The next level Ittelson adds that at the next level of instruction beyond the basics, certain unwritten rules come into play related to many of the subtle things that happen in classrooms and communications that instructors are accustomed to in an in-person environment. “So, you have to establish those norms for your online class, and there are things you can do for establishing those norms and behaviors that improve the communications,” he says. Create an icebreaker During the first sessions of an online course, for instance, Itteslon suggests that instructors first do some sound and video checks to ensure that everyone is on an equal footing for clearly seeing and hearing each other. Additionally, create an icebreaker assignment. He suggests using a PowerPoint template with three slides for students to fill out, one with their name, another with a brief bio or simply something that they are passionate about, and a third with a response to what objectives they want out of the class. “They have to create it and send it back. You can then create a website that features everyone’s presentation, and they could click through that website throughout the semester.” Think proactively and learn how to use many of the top features “The professor sets the tone of a class,” he continues. “So, a faculty member needs to proactively think about what kind of classroom climate that they want to establish in their online meetings.” And that comes with learning how to utilize many of the less-obvious features and functions of a video conferencing system. Many faculty, who are not so-called “techies,” approach this level of learning with simple questions such as how to unmute the microphone or the video. But beyond that, somebody has to show them how to utilize more substantial features. In Zoom, for example, instructors might want to master how to use thumbs up/thumbs down reactions for a quick poll, or how to share screens effectively, and/or how to efficiently utilize break- out rooms, and much more. A recent Zoom blog post outlines some of the top factors for securing a virtual course and how to enhance students’ learning.