Simple Tips for Improving your Videoconference Experience

May 3, 2006 by

I did a couple of video conferences today with my two Social Studies section. They were both from the same provider, and since it was my first experience doing a video conference I thought I’d take notes. I decided that a purely tongue-in-cheek experience might not be terribly useful, while a strict guideline would be too much, so here are just 4 simple ideas that I jotted down to improve our experience for next time.

1. Have a seating arrangement and/or chart made up ahead of time – Although it wasn’t terribly difficult to arrange, my students were a bit upset they couldn’t sit next to their friends, but instead had to sit according to height. Explaining that it would be easier to see shorter individuals in front, they relented somewhat. The presenter needed to make names and create a seating chart so she could easily call upon my students during the conference without having to relay through me. It took a bit of time, but having the names already to give her would have helped save us some time we could have spent leaning instead of clerical work.

2. Prepare your students to use their “teacher voices” – While the microphone we were using was quite powerful and able to pick up a decent amount of noise, many of my students were repeatedly asked to speak up or give their response a second time for being too quiet. Of course, multiple or personal microphones would help, but not always available.

3. Turn on the picture-in-picture view so your class knows exactly what they look like on the other side of the videophone – Sure, my students instantly started “aping it up” for the camera once they could see their miniature selves in the bottom right hand corner of the screen, but it helped many of them realize that they actually COULD be seen by the party on the other end of the conference. Many of my students were still stupefied when the presenter called on them when their hands were up and there was an artifact or other object on the screen other than the presenter’s talking head. However, it cut down on obnoxious behavior dramatically as they had a chance to get the waving and dancing out of their system before we began the conference.

4. Preparation, preparation, preparation – About halfway through our morning video conference the screen became “frozen” on an earlier image from the presenter and refused to budge. While we could still converse with our presenter, we could no longer see her, the artwork she wanted to show us, or the media-collage that she had prepared for us. Fortunately, our preparation for the conference included writing down some focused questions for the presenter (in this case, questions about some African cultures we were studying). While our techie from the ISD fixed the problem we were able to fill the time by asking the presenter questions and had a great time learning while “off the beaten path.”

Those are just a few tips that I gleaned from our two video conference sessions today, but I know the next time I plan one there will surely be other road bumps to overcome.

Want more VC tips? Check out my post – More Simple Tips for Improving your Video Conference Experience

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