This is a guest post by H. Kyle Anderson, CPA, CMA, CGMA. He is an E-Learning Strategist and Lecturer in the School of Accountancy at Clemson University. Kyle works with Blackboard’s Premier partner Wiley as a Faculty Reviewer.
I started using remote access and screen sharing software in my CPA practice in the early 1990’s. We’ve come a long way since then. I now offer my students virtual office hours, consult with faculty and professionals throughout the United States and Canada, and provide Continuing Professional Education through video conferencing and screen sharing.
No matter what system you use, there are several tips and techniques you can follow to make sure you host a successful video conferencing class for your students.
Tips and reminders for hosting a video conference
- Practice: Get two computers and practice setting up and using the program. It takes about 10 to 20 minutes to download any appropriate software and drivers to make sure the programs work, and then around 1 to 2 hours of trying out the features to make sure you’re prepared.
- Web browsers: The reality is that browsers have problems sometimes so I make sure that I have my virtual office open in two different browsers for most meetings. I log into the meeting on both systems and if there are problems, I just switch to the other program. This also gives you the benefit of seeing your meeting on another monitor in the other browser. The other computer will allow you to see what everyone is seeing so you can fix any problems.
- Compatibility: Make sure that your program can run on PC’s, Mac’s, iPhones, Droids, and tablets. My students help me test compatibility of different devices, and they will post about issues in the class Q&A discussion board before the session takes place.
- Phone vs computer: I prefer to use computer-based sound and microphones, but that can be troublesome based on bandwidth for you and your attendees. I use my phone for occasional attendees and the computer for those that I conference with on a regular basis. For example, Wiley Publishing provides a toll-free number that attendees can use to call and participate in our conferences. Blackboard Collaborate has a built-in telephony feature so participants can choose to use phone or VOIP.
- Use the mute mic & sound features: Many times there are problems if everyone has an open mic and sound, so make sure that you have them mute themselves. It is very easy to unmute or use the chat room features for discussion.
- Chat rooms for questions & discussions: Chat room features allow your students to ask you questions as well as discuss questions with other attendees during the conference. This reduces issues with sound and minimizes disruptions, and it is very easy to switch to voice.
- Prepare and reduce screen flipping: Make sure that you have opened the programs and materials you want to use before you start the conference. There is nothing more distracting than waiting for someone to find that document or website, and worse, not being able to find it. When you flip screens between programs, documents, or sites, pause to make sure the attendees can see the documents. There is often a time delay and I have been guilty of going too fast!
- Screen capture important websites: If you will be using live websites in your presentation, screen capture the important information and have it ready just in case their website goes down. I learned this the hard way in my Continuing Education Courses for Certified Public Accountants when I started the conference and my primary website for the next hour of my presentation went down after about 10 minutes into the presentation.
- Backup plan: I always get nervous when I have a video conference with more than 1 to 3 attendees so I have a backup computer setup and running to switch to if my main computer fails. I have been in many conferences where this was not done and the meeting failed. I actually have three computers running for these types of meetings. I remember the day I was getting ready for a Wiley Publishing video conference with around 45 attendees. I setup and checked everything the day before, and the next day when I was finalizing the start of the conference, two of my three computers completely died. The webinar was a success with my backup computer and my other two computers required reformatting before the next conference.
Creative uses for screen sharing and collaboration tools in the classroom
I work with both my face-to-face (F2F) and online students from home via my virtual office hours. Here are some creative ways to try using virtual collaboration tools:
Group work assistance using Blackboard group tools & discussion forums
Clemson has an Honors Section in every course and I typically require them to create a paper and presentation with in-depth coverage of a course topic of their choosing. I can easily work with everyone in the group via the virtual office and they can do the same with each group member via Blackboard Group tools. I have every group upload their papers and presentations into Blackboard’s Discussion Board so everyone in the class gets the benefits of the students’ research.
Often my students need assistance in completing assignments in my accounting and managerial courses. Once in the virtual office, I share my screen and open the student’s homework in WileyPLUS Gradebook. There, I can easily work with the student and help them complete the assignment.
This is a must have tool for virtual office and video conferencing. I use an IPEVO Presenter and can share anything using the camera. I typically use this to review an online test with a student where they turned in their supporting work on paper. This is much faster and easier than scanning the document or taking a picture and uploading to the computer.
In-class student sharing
I run a flipped classroom so we spend the majority of our time in class working in groups on discussions, cases, and exercises. I provide Excel templates for students to work on these problems so when a question arises, it is great to put the student’s Excel file on the screen so we can work together as a class.
If a student is out of town or missing class due to business, it’s no problem. Students in my MBA classes often have to miss a class because of their jobs. Since the class is typically in the evening, we open up the virtual office and the student logs into our class. They have a member of their group enter the room as well, so the student not only gets to attend class, they can participate in their group during class and ask questions for the group or for the class.
Video conferencing and screen sharing is an amazing tool that is overlooked by too many faculty. When I started video conferencing with my students using Skype in 2005, it opened up a world outside of texting, e-mails, and limited face-to-face office hours. Today’s professionals are turning to this technology for certification renewal, training employees, completing projects, and working with clients. It is time that as academics we step up our game so our students are not only familiar with these tools but are ready to use them in the workplace.
About the author:
Kyle Anderson, CPA, CMA, CGMA: Kyle earned his Online Teaching Certificate from OLC (Online Learning Consortium) in 2015 and works with Clemson University’s Online Program as an Advisory Board member, committee member for Online Test Security research, and participated in the development of their Online Teacher Certification and Online Course Certification programs. As a Wiley faculty reviewer, Kyle is currently working on the upcoming 3rd edition of Managerial Accounting by Davis & Davis as well as training programs for faculty using WileyPLUS and Blackboard Learn. He has also served as an Instructional Designer for course design and delivery and presented at Wiley’s Lunch & Learns for integrating WileyPLUS with Best Teaching Practices.
About WileyPLUS and Blackboard Learn:
WileyPLUS is an online teaching and learning platform that engages student with course content through adaptive practice, tutorials, videos, automated homework, quizzes and more. WileyPLUS integrates with Blackboard Learn, providing a seamless user experience with single sign-on, gradebook synchronization and deep content linking. Learn more about WileyPLUS and the Blackboard Learn integration today.