Easy to integrate video conferencing can provide a vital missing element for online learning.
You're never too old to learn, but with modern communications you're never too far either. Universities see great value in offering distance learning, providing as much of the full classroom experience as possible to students who may be located halfway around the world.
All that and more is possible today, thanks to advanced communication technology. Web conferencing, video, cloud, and other technologies are keeping us increasingly connected. But implementing these technologies isn't always easy or the most natural for teachers. The key to ensuring that both students and teachers get everything they need out of a distance learning program is removing the initial barriers that may discourage use.
Schools aim for their distance learning programs to duplicate as closely as possible the full classroom experience – enabling students at home to feel as much a part of the class as possible as they would in the classroom. For that, they need a video conferencing solution.
For a full classroom experience, you can try to incorporate some video conferencing. Just like in the traditional classroom, with video, distance learning students and teachers can collaborate together and with each other or with the teacher, on a one to one or small group basis. When they pose questions to the class, the teacher can call on students who want to present answers. Video can provde a mechanism that lets students discuss issues with teachers and their peers, allowing for classroom debate and discussion – one of the most important aspects of the in-class experience. The only real way to effect these interactions is through video conferencing.
Many distance students enroll in those programs in order to learn on their own schedules – and video conferencing helps them as well. While they could probably learn the material, take tests, do assignments etc. using their class's distance learning interface, their experience will be greatly enhanced if they have access to the video recordings of live classroom interaction, as they will be able to follow the flow of discussion, gain insights from their fellow students, and more. A video conferencing solution will enable teachers to record and store their video sessions.
Of course, you need a management and classroom administration component to run a distance learning program – and for that, schools will employ a Learning Management System (LMS). That side of the equation supplies the nuts and bolts of the classroom experience – enabling students to do assignments, take tests, schedule the viewing of archived videos of classes so they can catch up on discussions, etc.
Thus, for a rich, full classroom experience, schools need:
- A mechanism through which students and teachers can confer with and among each other, discussing and debating issues, asking questions, etc.
- A way for subgroups in a classroom to collaborate on a project, and to present their activities to the rest of the class.
- A mechanism to enable teachers to take attendance, schedule tests and assignments, etc.
- A system for live broadcast and interaction with students, as well as a way to record sessions and store them for easy student retrieval.
Each of these are provided by either LMS or video conferencing. Now comes the challenge: For a distance learning program to provide the real “look and feel” of an on-site classroom, the capabilities of both need to be integrated. Some of the better-known LMS include Blackboard Learn, Canvas, Moodle, Sakai, and D2L, while the major web conferencing platforms include Webex, Zoom, and BlueJeans. Both are essential to the distance-learning classroom experience – but integrating isn't necessarily easy.
Teachers are busy teaching, and they don't have the time – and in many cases, the technical skills – to do that integration themselves. Doing that manually is labor-intensive, requiring copying and pasting of links into messages and working with the backend of conferencing platforms.
To empower teachers to deal with the technical side of integrating web conferencing and LMS, teachers and schools need a smart integration system that will do the heavy lifting for them – a system that allows them to set up and invite students to join their live online classroom experience with just a couple of clicks, instead of the alternative labor-intensive, manual integration that is usually required.
While learning management systems can be comprehensive and allow for the possibility of good integration between tools, not all have the feature-filled and seamless integration tools needed to properly teaching live online via web conferencing, or for recording sessions for later retrieval.
Fortunately there are third-party solutions that will provide that integration. Once all that is in place, teachers are ready to build the classroom experience as needed, using the LMS for administration and management of the class, materials, tests, and more, while the integrated conferencing component is there for live teaching and recorded sessions.
The combination of the LMS and web conferencing platform gives teachers everything they need to conduct a successful distance learning program. The integration for web conferencing is located within in the LMS, which is technology both teachers and students are already used to. It's an easy, elegant solution that will let teachers work with an interface they are familiar with, while providing the tools they need to deliver the best distance learning experience they can.