Videoconferencing Teaching Techniques
1) Be prepared
Teaching over videoconferencing can be intimidating at first so it is important to become familiar with the equipment you are using, know how to switch video sources, and understand how to use presets. Be sure to send handouts in advance to the participants at the far end.
2) Be aware of the camera
In order for the far end to see you, you must stand in front of the camera. If you pace as you speak, make sure you do not wander off screen. If using PowerPoint, once you have completed the presentation, turn it off so that your entire audience remains engaged.
3) Be aware of the microphone
Different rooms at various locations have different microphones. If you answer a question that is never heard by the far end it will be difficult for them to be engaged. Do not shuffle or ruffle papers next to the microphone as the audio is amplified on the far end.
4) Use the document camera
You may prefer to write notes on a white board in the front of the room; however, it may be very difficult for students on the far end to see. Instead, use a document camera with a nice sized marker (no pens or pencils). If the students in the local room can’t see the document camera image, the students on the far end won’t be able to see the image either. Remember aspect ratio differences! A document camera will show a standard TV aspect ratio of 3×4. A piece of paper is 8.5×11.
5) Be careful when showing video clips from YouTube and DVDs
Videos with a lot of motion (this includes any movie using panning, not just action movies), will have reduced quality over videoconferencing. View the video prior to using the videoconferencing equipment to see if it is acceptable. For longer videos, send a copy to the far end beforehand so that it can be played locally.
6) Engage the students at the far end
Videoconferencing is a two-way medium. Calling students by name makes them feel involved. If the far end is not engaged, try directing specific questions to them. For example, “Does anyone at the Prince William campus have a question?”
Make yourself available offline. For example, share your e-mail address. Some students feel intimidated being on video, this gives them an opportunity to ask questions. Additionally, a desktop videoconferencing solution can be provided to you and the far end students so that you may provide videoconferencing office hours.
7) Set the standard
Videoconferencing etiquette is not that different from customary etiquette; however, not many students have participated in a videoconferenced class. Sometimes students forget they can be seen and heard by not only the professor on the far end but also by other students. If students are noisy on the far end, ask them to be quiet. If a door is open to a hallway, close it or ask that it be closed. Cell phones should be turned off or set to silent, just like a traditional class.
If you are in a multi-point call, request that students introduce themselves by stating their name and their location before speaking. For example “Hello, this is John from the Arlington campus. Can you please explain that formula again?”
8) Be mindful of font size
Use a larger font for your in-room and far end students. While many of our rooms project large images, the far end students may be viewing the videoconference and its content through a much smaller screen. A font of 18 point or above is recommended, but always ask students at the start of your session if they can see the content you are sharing.
9) Be aware of the effect of turning down the lights
Do not turn the lights down too much. Front screen projectors operate best when the lights are turned down; however, cameras operate best with the most amount of light.
10) Switch it up
If you are teaching a class between two or more Mason campuses using videoconferencing, try rotating the location in which you are present. Your students will appreciate the opportunity to meet you face-to-face and discuss questions or concerns in person.