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Tips for classroom video conferences

December 13, 2012

Skype call on Peace One DayMost teachers understand that they can use Skype and other web conferencing tools in a classroom. If you’re not sure exactly what you might do, see the list we posted last year, Ten ways to use Skype in a course, for general ideas and resources.

After you have lined up a guest, there are lots of things you can do to maximize the experience in the classroom. This article offers basic tips to help avoid common mistakes.

First, learn the basics of what the technology can do. Try it out with a friend in another town or across the hall. Even if you aren’t the one operating the computer during the videoconference, you should have a sense of how it works

Decide what to share

The technology will provide a number of options. Keep it simple the first time and add features as you gain comfort with the tools.

  • Audio – perhaps that’s all you need
  • Visual – you can do more than show a talking head
    • Slides – PowerPoint or other. The guest may want to send these to you ahead of time.
    • Computer screen – desktop web content, applications, etc.
    • Whiteboard – for annotating screens or drawing charts
  • Text chat – a back channel for comments and questions
  • Polling – for voting on solutions or taking the group’s temperature on a hot topic

Plan ahead

  • Test your connection with the guest, considering both the technology and your two locations.
    • Video should be bright and sharp. You may discover that better lighting is needed.
    • Audio should be loud and clear, not distorted. To improve sound, use a handheld microphone.
  • Prepare your guest, regarding what you’s like to accomplish, the types of questions that might be asked, etc.
  • Prepare your students; provide background on the guest and have them consider what they’d like to learn.
  • Decide on a protocol for asking questions. Your software may provide tools for this.

During the visit

  • Monitor what the guest sees, ensuring that they can see your students.
  • Minimize background noise – avoid side conversations, shuffling paper, air conditioning, tapping on a table …
  • Mute your classroom audio while the speaker is talking.
  • Use the entire screen – maximize the size of the video, images and text.
  • Have students identify themselves when asking a question.

If you’re using Skype, their support pages have lots of useful information, including the video below.


Photo provided by Skype

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