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Video Conferencing in the Classroom

A young student raised her hand in a virtual classroom using video conferencing tools.In recent years, educators have added video conferencing to their teaching toolbox. It's a powerful tool that increases student engagement and maintains lines of communication with both students and parents. While certainly not perfect, video conferencing platforms continue to improve, giving teachers more options to deliver online classroom content.

For example, teachers use video conferencing in the classroom to lecture an entire class even when everyone is in different locations, sharing documents while they do it. They can record lectures that students watch at their convenience. Teachers can also foster student collaboration on projects and keep the entire class connected.

The only thing preventing teachers from taking advantage of video conferencing tools is learning the technology and best practices. Using advanced tech tools for online teaching is the focus of a professional development course called Technology Tools for Teaching Online from Fresno Pacific University.

The Benefits of Using Video Conferencing in the Classroom

Video conferencing became a top tool for teaching online during the pandemic that started in 2020. Done correctly, it provides a wealth of benefits.

Staying connected. In some cases, video conferencing is the only way to keep in touch with busy parents. It also allows teachers to set up routine conference calls with both students and parents, so the lines of communication stay open.

Encourage collaboration. One of the lessons learned from using video conferencing in the workplace is bringing people together worldwide to collaborate on specific projects. The same holds true with students, who can work together on projects from wherever they live.

Host virtual field trips. Sometimes referred to as online field trips or digital field trips, these events allow students to see places they otherwise might never see. While some tours involve pre-recorded material, the best virtual tours involve live interaction via video conference.

Share resources. Video conferencing allows sharing information between teachers and students and between students working together on projects.

Increase engagement. Considering all the things an educator can do with video conferencing, it represents a useful and smart way for teachers to increase student engagement.

Popular Video Conferencing Tools

While many have called for education-specific video conferencing tools, these options are either the same platforms used by businesses or educational versions of them. They have emerged as the most popular choices for video conferencing in the classroom.

Zoom: Zoom became synonymous with video conferencing in 2020. An estimated one million people use Zoom every day. The platform allows for real-time video chats, screen-sharing during a call, a whiteboard feature for brainstorming and the ability to record video conferences.

Skype: Skype allows instant messaging, video chats and even local, domestic and international calls. You can also share screens and documents.

Google Classroom: Google Classroom is free, easy to use and compatible with every device. Hangouts on Air allow you to record videos for class, while Google Meet allows teachers to deliver live lectures.

BlueJeans: This service is offered through Verizon. BlueJeans offers many extra features, such as a notes system that allows students to tag class highlights, use class recordings and crowdsource notes.

Each has its advantages and special features, so it’s up to teachers to find the one that works best in their situation. While they differ slightly in the features they offer, the challenges with each are the same. Most complaints revolve around learning how to use the interface properly. Video and audio quality can dip without warning, depending on the connection. And not all features work at the same time.

The biggest issue, however, lies outside the control of teachers or the schools. To get the maximum use from a video conferencing platform, students need high-speed internet connections at home. Not every student has that yet.

The FPU Technology Tools for Teaching Online Course

The FPU Technology Tools for Teaching Online course emphasizes the use of video conferencing. Teachers can take the course online, earn professional development credit and expand their classroom skills from the convenience of their homes and offices.

Educators taking the class learn the different uses of video conferencing in the classroom. They also go over the most popular platforms and the different features of each. Teachers also leave the course armed with practical knowledge on how to upload video conferencing sessions, make tutorials, edit recording meetings and create a website that keeps families informed and connected with what is happening in the classroom.

Giving teachers the confidence to put their knowledge about video conferencing to use in their own classroom is the main goal of the class. Eventually, things will return to normal at schools, but video conferencing can still play a role in how teachers engage students.