Continuing with our guest blogger series, Digital Pedagog proudly welcomes Kristina McElroy, Learning Technologies Designer from Lesley University. Kris is a guru when it comes to educational technology, using her education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education in the Technology, Innovation and Education program to assist faculty with the integration of multimedia and communications tools into their on-ground and online teaching. Kris’s extensive background in visual design, photography, and video inspire confidence in even the most hesitant of faculty adopters.
What is web conferencing?
A web conference is a live online meeting. Each person sits at his or her own computer and interacts via a web application. Participants may communicate via audio, webcams, or text chat. Often there’s a whiteboard tool that allows the instructor to show PowerPoint-style slides and mark them up on the fly.
What would I use web conferencing for?
Web conferencing is your virtual classroom. Students, guest speakers and distant subject matter experts can all visit without ever needing to come to campus. Invite that colleague from California to speak to your New England students. Hold class on a snow day. Conduct office hours from home. Participate in training and professional development offerings without traveling.
Web conferencing can open up the world. It can allow students and faculty to expand their network of knowledgeable colleagues beyond their town. While doing so, students also build technical skills, learn new ways of interacting and potentially learn a little about the culture of those distant individuals they are conferencing with.
What’s the downside?
Bandwidth, bandwidth, bandwidth. All that audio, video and images can take a toll on someone’s internet connection. Participants on slower connections may find themselves feeling frustrated with choppy audio and missed content. Second, when scheduling a guest speaker keep time zones in mind. Your class may meet at 9am, but it’s only 6am on the west coast. Finally, less tech savvy users may find the learning curve for hosting a web conference overwhelming.
The good news is that all of these cons can be overcome with planning and practice. List your goals. Outline and storyboard your session. Then invite a friend to practice with you. Do a ‘dress rehearsal’ of your meeting. This will build your confidence and allow you to focus on your content rather than the tool.
What about video chat?
Video chat is very similar to web conferencing, but simpler. It will let you have an audio and video phone call with several people. Text chat is often included in case someone’s microphone isn’t working, but this feature can also be used to pose questions and comments without interrupting the current speaker. It’s a great tool for group discussions and may work well for a Q&A with a guest speaker, but it won’t give you the more traditional classroom tools such as whiteboards and PowerPoint presentations.
To see more of what is happening with technology at Lesley University, visit their eLearning & Instructional Support Page.
Interested in web conferencing? Contact your Instructional Designer at QUOnline to learn more about our webconferencing software, Adobe Connect!