Friday, October 11, 2013

Ten Ways Web Conferencing Works in Education

I came across Beth Gallob's slideshow (below) earlier this week and was inspired to elaborate on it with our experiences at CCC Confer. We are always discovering new ways to use this great tool by watching and hearing from our users - instructors, administrators, trainers, even students. These ten suggestions are the "easy finds" in the great barrel of options Web conferencing provides. Share your own!

Top 10 Ways to Use Blackboard Collaborate from Beth Gallob

  1.  Live Instruction. In the CCCs, we call this "Teach and Confer" and literally hundreds of instructors use this tool every week to deliver live online instruction to students throughout the state (and, sometimes, the world). Classes are scheduled and links posted either within the college's Learning Course Management System or on the Confer Web site (see the schedule I captured from today's (October 11 list). As with Beth's case study example, we've had several instructors and researchers report on the effectiveness of this synchronous online instruction in reducing attrition, improving student success, and providing an effective means for students who might not otherwise be able to complete their educational goals to attend college and get their degrees. See, for example, Research on Online Spanish Classes, Case Study of Online vs. On-Campus, Grades and Attendance at Online Lectures, and Almost 95 Percent Retention.
2. Meetings. With 112 colleges spread across the state of California, the California Community Colleges is a large geographical system that requires thousands of meetings every week to coordinate activities, check on progress, communicate goals, convene groups and subgroups, and simply operate as a system.Travel costs for these thousands of meetings would be prohibitive, to say nothing of the expenses incurred for meeting space, food and beverage, A/V materials and other incidentals. I've added another screen shot of some of today's (10/11) meetings, which are not atypical: a group of math instructors, IT meetings, librarian meetings, counselor training, various committees, a work group on data governance, online educators from a single college, department meetings, several task forces, student organizations, and many more. There's no question that millions of dollars every year are saved in the CCCs because these and hundreds of other groups elect to meet online instead of traveling to campus, other campuses, or to hotels or office buildings to accomplish the same goals: collaborate and get work done.
3. Recorded Content. Students who miss class or who need to review lectures or class sessions have it easy in our system if instructors record their sessions with CCC Confer. Archived sessions are converted to MP4 format and posted to the system's YouTube channel and to 3C Media Solutions, where they can be viewed, added to playlists, embedded into syllabi or lesson plans, and even downloaded. Where captioning has been requested, captions are included and can be viewed from any device. To see how recorded lectures can be used to help students and instructors, see Using Confer to Extend Face-to-Face Classes, Archives for Students Who Miss Class, Face-to-Face Students Love Archives, Confer for Lecture Capture and Video Lectures, Archives Serve Diverse Learning Styles, or Using an Archive to Extend Class Time.
4. Online Conference. Not everyone can attend every conference for a variety of reasons. Budgets are short. Other duties conflict with the time and date of the conference. Space is restricted or there may be other physical limitations. With Confer, it's easy to capture, preserve, and distribute conference presentations to both participants and to non-participants who are nonetheless interested in the subject matter. Perhaps our best known conference of the year is the Online Teaching Conference, which captures roughly a third of its presentations this way and makes them available in real time to online attendees and as recorded videos for everyone else. We've done this for several other system-wide conferences with great success, and many organizations within the system have been able to offer online conferences using similar methods.
5. Mobile Web Conferencing. Now that Blackboard Collaborate has apps for both iOS and Android devices, attendance and participation in online classes and meetings has been extended to the mobile users in our system, making it even easier to connect while on the go.
6. Virtual Office Hours. Instructors need to meet with students, and these meetings often need to occur outside of class sessions as student are engaged in their studies, assignments, or research and need guidance or feedback.Some campuses and institutions require that these office hours be held in offices that
are physically located on campus, but those policies are changing as the realization grows that travel to campus is difficult and unnecessary, and that the virtual office is often better-equipped than the average faculty member's office (to say nothing of the office-sharing or office-less adjunct faculty member). The screen at left shows my capture of today's Office Hours schedule. As I looked these up, I was surprised to see so many on a Friday, but many also on Saturday and Sunday this weekend. This points out another great advantage to virtual office hours: since they don't occur on a campus, no other staff (custodians, campus security, etc.) are required to work so that the instructor can meet with his or her students. This makes it a more flexible and affordable service for the institution.
7. Student / Parent Orientation. As online education gains in popularity, the requirement that students enrolling in an institution physically attend an orientation session is becoming increasingly unpopular and suspect. Providing an online orientation for online students makes sense, as does the popular practice in our colleges to use Confer to orient students to online classes, the virtual classroom, the library resources available online, the availability of online tutors and other support services, and to their fellow classmates. So many students become acquainted with their college experience by meeting online via Confer, and it's also true that some of them graduate and attend commencement ceremonies online via Confer!
8. Remote Guest (Speaker / Virtual Field Trip). This is another natural implementation, and we've seen it used in very creative ways. One music instructor attended an opera and allowed her class to virtually attend from her computer, including an after-performance interview with the performers. Another instructor taught her northern California Spanish classes from Costa Rica, where she introduced locals and gave virtual tours from overseas. We've seen instructors from different institutions take turns guest lecturing in each others' classes, and conduct inter-institutional debates and presentations by students separated by physical miles but connected virtually by the Confer classroom.
9. Professional Development. The CCCs have practiced online professional development for years, and it is built into our infrastructure. Nearly every organization that serves the system uses Confer to
train employees and colleagues, and the fact that training sessions are recorded allows for new employees or transfers to catch up with their colleagues quickly by viewing the sessions online. A glance at today's and future Webinars shows the diversity of this popular service: a presentation on revitalizing education, training on online research methods, a session related to legislated adult education planning requirements, training on applications to four-year institutions, an orientation to the California College Guidance Initiative, Open Educational Resource training, a library training related to integrated library systems, a Webinar on how to flip the classroom, training on Board policy for course pre-requisites, software training for specific educational applications, and sexual harassment training. The money, time, and resources saved by having these trainings online instead of at physical locations is immeasruable.
10. Virtual Help Desk. By providing an easy way to connect with experts or support people online, colleges can better support students, especially (but not necessarily exclusively) online students. Counselors, librarians, and tutors have been especially attracted to this use of CCC Confer. For a sample playlist of testimonials from some of these professionals, follow this link.

Thanks to Beth for creating the list and to the many thousands of Confer users who've shown us how to use this tool to support education. Please feel free to share your own ways to make Web conferencing work.


  1. now a day web conference is very important in our virtual life . At future it will be a part of our life . Student will not go to school they will learn their class from home boss will meet with employe through web conference . So we shall need it hardly in future . Thanks to share this post .
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    Technology plays a crucial role in the transformation of society. Communities are integrating these tools of technologies for their own development processes. Education sector being one of the cornerstones of society’s development needs to use these tools to enhance the experience of Teaching / Learning.


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