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Part III. 19 Rules of the Road for Effective, Live Video

Conferencing

I believe we can draw a logical conclusion that one of the best things about live video is that it makes everyone feel more like they are part of something. It brings a human element to an online teaching and learning environment that would not exist otherwise. In general, there are all kinds of learners with all kinds of preferences, so you will never please every student. Nonetheless, in my research on video conferencing in higher education, I have not seen any evidence of students not enjoying a well-thought-out, trouble- free, live video conference. If an instructor puts in the required time to learn about this technology and formulate good pedagogy and sound strategies, the use of multi-point video conferencing in online education can absolutely prove to be a truly engaging and enjoyable experience. Sure, in-person teaching and learning can easily be identified as the preferred method for sharing information and interacting with each other, but the next- best, most-effective modality for achieving the same results is video conferencing. Irrespective of when, why and how you decide to use video, there are definitely some rules of the road that you should consider. One very important thing I learned about being on a webcam, for example, occurred to me when I reviewed a recording of a video conference I recently attended. I never realized that I made such obvious facial expressions that exposed my feelings. My frowns, my rolling of the eyes, my expressions of confusion and discontent were quite obvious. While this would be a good thing for the teacher to see as a means to identify whether or not her students are “getting it,” I don’t think it would be ideal for an instructor to have such obvious facial expressions. So, examine how you look on a webcam in a meeting with someone prior to holding your video conference just to see how you look, and then make the necessary adjustments for when the real event takes place. Here are 18 additional rules of the road, many of which are common sense but worth repeating: 1. Don’t get too close to the camera. I have been in video conferences where some faces were so close-up that they made me feel uncomfortable to look at them. 2. After you have made exactly sure how you are going to include a video conference in your course from an instructional design perspective, do a test run with some volunteers or the actual students, record it, and then review very closely to see how everything came together and whether or not you will need to make some adjustments. 3. Make sure everyone knows how to mute and un-mute their microphones. 4. All those in attendance should really have high-speed broadband connections whenever possible. Wi-fi is usually okay, but it is preferable to have your computer be connected directly by an Ethernet cable to a high-speed wired network. 5. Wearing a headset with a microphone is best for audio quality. Sometimes the sound coming from a computer’s speakers, for instance, will cause an echo effect that is very annoying. 6. Prepare a simple sheet of instructions to send to your students related to where to click to join a conference, what they may have to download to their computers, how to make sure that their webcam and microphone settings are right, and basically what to expect during a video conference and how they can use whatever tools you may be planning to utilize, such as polling, testing, when and how to talk, when and how to text chat, and how to view your presentation materials. 7. Have a back-up plan for those who may experience a poor stream or packet loss. Make sure they have an option to move to audio only over a typical telephone conferencing bridge, for instance. Also, try to have someone on board that they can call on the phone for technical support. 8. Look professional. Don’t come to class wearing a tee- shirt or a wrinkled blouse. Solid, dark colors typically show best on camera as opposed to white, stripes or plaids. No shiny jewelry either. 9. Have an icebreaker activity for the first time you host a video conference, such as having each student say their name and something about their background and why they are enrolled in the course. Ask them to keep it short and to the point. This is also an excellent way for you to see each student’s ability to fully comply with instructions and use this technology. 10. Get to know each student by first name and be ready to call on them and/or engage in a personal one-to-one over video. This is a great way to make your students feel welcome and respected, just like in a traditional classroom setting. 11. Make certain that your video interactions are structured and moderate them accordingly. Have specific questions for students to respond to, for instance, and make sure they are prepared in advance to respond in order to avoid the possibility of embarrassing someone. 12. Have a good set of etiquette rules in place, especially with regard to keeping everyone on task and on topic in a professional fashion with no opportunities for anyone to use foul language or be overly critical. Keep it all positive and engaging with exercises that reinforce community and respect for each other. 13. Make sure you are in a quiet space where there is no background noise. The same holds true for the students in attendance. 14. Try not to talk over or interrupt anyone who is speaking. 15. Don’t move around too much. Keep your hand movements to a minimum. 16. If you are in a room with students in attendance on video, you might want to arrange the seating in a triangle formation. 17. Another important thing to take under consideration in a room is to make sure that windows have blinds to minimize lighting problems. 18. Test out camera angles prior to holding a room-based conference. Also make sure there are enough microphones, usually at least one for two people.
© Copyright 2020/Lorenzo Associates, Inc.
EDUCATIONALPathways

Part III. 19 Rules of the Road for Effective, Live

Video Conferencing

I believe we can draw a logical conclusion that one of the best things about live video is that it makes everyone feel more like they are part of something. It brings a human element to an online teaching and learning environment that would not exist otherwise. In general, there are all kinds of learners with all kinds of preferences, so you will never please every student. Nonetheless, in my research on video conferencing in higher education, I have not seen any evidence of students not enjoying a well- thought-out, trouble- free, live video conference. If an instructor puts in the required time to learn about this technology and formulate good pedagogy and sound strategies, the use of multi- point video conferencing in online education can absolutely prove to be a truly engaging and enjoyable experience. Sure, in-person teaching and learning can easily be identified as the preferred method for sharing information and interacting with each other, but the next-best, most-effective modality for achieving the same results is video conferencing. Irrespective of when, why and how you decide to use video, there are definitely some rules of the road that you should consider. One very important thing I learned about being on a webcam, for example, occurred to me when I reviewed a recording of a video conference I recently attended. I never realized that I made such obvious facial expressions that exposed my feelings. My frowns, my rolling of the eyes, my expressions of confusion and discontent were quite obvious. While this would be a good thing for the teacher to see as a means to identify whether or not her students are “getting it,” I don’t think it would be ideal for an instructor to have such obvious facial expressions. So, examine how you look on a webcam in a meeting with someone prior to holding your video conference just to see how you look, and then make the necessary adjustments for when the real event takes place. Here are 18 additional rules of the road, many of which are common sense but worth repeating: 1. Don’t get too close to the camera. I have been in video conferences where some faces were so close-up that they made me feel uncomfortable to look at them. 2. After you have made exactly sure how you are going to include a video conference in your course from an instructional design perspective, do a test run with some volunteers or the actual students, record it, and then review very closely to see how everything came together and whether or not you will need to make some adjustments. 3. Make sure everyone knows how to mute and un-mute their microphones. 4. All those in attendance should really have high-speed broadband connections whenever possible. Wi-fi is usually okay, but it is preferable to have your computer be connected directly by an Ethernet cable to a high-speed wired network. 5. Wearing a headset with a microphone is best for audio quality. Sometimes the sound coming from a computer’s speakers, for instance, will cause an echo effect that is very annoying. 6. Prepare a simple sheet of instructions to send to your students related to where to click to join a conference, what they may have to download to their computers, how to make sure that their webcam and microphone settings are right, and basically what to expect during a video conference and how they can use whatever tools you may be planning to utilize, such as polling, testing, when and how to talk, when and how to text chat, and how to view your presentation materials. 7. Have a back-up plan for those who may experience a poor stream or packet loss. Make sure they have an option to move to audio only over a typical telephone conferencing bridge, for instance. Also, try to have someone on board that they can call on the phone for technical support. 8. Look professional. Don’t come to class wearing a tee-shirt or a wrinkled blouse. Solid, dark colors typically show best on camera as opposed to white, stripes or plaids. No shiny jewelry either. 9. Have an icebreaker activity for the first time you host a video conference, such as having each student say their name and something about their background and why they are enrolled in the course. Ask them to keep it short and to the point. This is also an excellent way for you to see each student’s ability to fully comply with instructions and use this technology. 10. Get to know each student by first name and be ready to call on them and/or engage in a personal one-to-one over video. This is a great way to make your students feel welcome and respected, just like in a traditional classroom setting. 11. Make certain that your video interactions are structured and moderate them accordingly. Have specific questions for students to respond to, for instance, and make sure they are prepared in advance to respond in order to avoid the possibility of embarrassing someone. 12. Have a good set of etiquette rules in place, especially with regard to keeping everyone on task and on topic in a professional fashion with no opportunities for anyone to use foul language or be overly critical. Keep it all positive and engaging with exercises that reinforce community and respect for each other. 13. Make sure you are in a quiet space where there is no background noise. The same holds true for the students in attendance. 14. Try not to talk over or interrupt anyone who is speaking. 15. Don’t move around too much. Keep your hand movements to a minimum. 16. If you are in a room with students in attendance on video, you might want to arrange the seating in a triangle formation. 17. Another important thing to take under consideration in a room is to make sure that windows have blinds to minimize lighting problems. 18. Test out camera angles prior to holding a room-based conference. Also make sure there are enough microphones, usually at least one for two people.