Wednesday 25 April 2018

Using web conferencing for presentations

 … and how to avoid students saying 'Less Skype lectures please!'

Often, LSTM staff and visiting lectures are many thousands of miles away. Hence we sometimes use web conferencing to bring those presenters on site - into our teaching rooms.  However, sometimes the most excellent presenter and content will be undermined by poor internet connectivity – resulting in one of our student reps saying: “Less Skype lectures please!”

I found this phrase troubling – I was concerned that an excellent opportunity to hear from those at the top of their field, to pass their knowledge and experience on to our students, was being lost. Unpacking a little, I discovered the issue was poor internet connections being used to web conference a lecture - hence the student comment.

So, I came up with some advice for staff using conferencing technology themselves or using it to bring others into their lectures. A prerequisite is that staff realise that web conferencing systems will struggle over poor internet connections - relevant to LSTM as many of the geographic areas we work in have poor connectivity.  Once understood:

  1. For content - ask the presenter to forward (well in advance) learning materials so that the students can do much of the ‘learning’ before the session - perhaps a reading list, annotated notes, or a video of the presenter delivering the ‘content’;
  2. Ask the students to prepare two or three questions each, and have these emailed to the presenter so that they can address those questions - though avoid a didactic experience by the back door!?
  3. During the webinar (Skype or whatever), encourage interaction - use the tools - generate a dialogue - use the prepared questions as a starting point.
  4. Prioritise voice over video - still images may be fine, but video might be too challenging;

Plan B

So, what if the web conference software fails? Try some alternatives such as:

… though perhaps you should test one of these before you need to use it!

The current Zoom and terms allow free 1-2-1 use - suitable for the above scenario.

And if it really falls apart I’d advise using a discussion board to explore the questions - the board will wait until the network catches up.

Plan A - LSTM’s virtual classroom:

A better alternative to Skype etc might be our dedicated virtual classroom - YouSeeU - but that’s a whole other post. In the meantime, here’s a video that’ll show what YouSeeU looks like:

Whatever option you use, or if you want to discuss the alternatives, would be pleased to help - so email, call x3747, or just pop in!

Kindest regards to all,

Picture credits: ulrichw on and @D2L.