Using video conferencing in the classroom as a teaching tool is something relatively new to a lot of educators. A lot of people think video conferencing is very expensive or too difficult to work, that they don’t even consider it. The truth is its neither of these things. Video conferencing can be very affordable( read free) and to set it up is not very difficult at all. In fact, chances are if you are an institution of higher learning that offers email to your students, then you may already have it.
Before we talk about using Google Hangouts for video conferencing, or Microsoft Lync we need to think about how video conferencing to the classroom can be useful. These can be very effective learning apps, but they do have a bit of a learning curve.
- It allows for a greater level of engagement from the students. This can come from them just becoming more interested in technology, but also allows them to see further than their little piece of the world and realize there is more out there. By creating partnerships with educators in other parts of the world, you can increase the awareness of students and give them insight into other cultures.
- Bring in subject matter experts – You can easily allow your students to receive lessons from subject matter experts on various topics and increase the quality of education you are offering. Many scientists, public speakers, and other professionals love the chance to provide insight into young minds and having a video conferencing system will allow you to connect with anyone throughout the internet.
- Field Trips- It can be tough to obtain permission for field trips for your classrooms. They cost money; then you have to worry about liability and protection of the students, not to mention lunches, safety plans, whatever. A robust video conferencing system may allow you to take a virtual field trip to a museum in Europe. You just need someone to hold a camera and maintain an internet connection.
The opportunities are endless as to how you can use video conferencing in the classroom. If you are using Google classroom, then you can even enable the video inside your classes. All it takes is a little imagination.
Video Conferencing in the Classroom Platforms
So let us assume you now are starting to see the possibilities of adding video conferencing to your curriculum, but how to pay for it.
Office 365 – The A2 plan of Office offers Lync. This will allow you to host rooms where students can join in and share screens with your students. You can give presentations in the form of video, powerpoint as well as sharing screens. This can allow you to provide instruction around the world with just an internet connection. You will need to provide a phone conference bridge( which you can get for free on the web), but otherwise, this capability is already built into Office 365, your administrator just needs to set it up. Did I mention this is free for schools?
[Edit]There has been a lot of change in both Office 365 and Google since this article was published. There is a way heating up with Office 365 versus Google Apps, and the prize is the Education Market.[/Edit]
Google Apps for Education – Google also offers a free suite for Educational institutions, You can access video conferencing functionality, by using one of Google’s Plus platform products. Hangouts. So what is a hangout, you may ask? In all essences it’s just a virtual rooms where you can share video, presentations, etc.. The standard hangout room can only host ten individuals, but you can request larger rooms from Google if you have a Google Apps for Education prescience. This suite also includes Google Classroom which can be very useful for educators.
Utilizing either or both of these options can provide you with video conferencing in the classroom capabilities that will allow you to provide a more robust and useful education and enable you to reach your students through video. If you couple video conferencing with your social media plan, then you have an excellent way to engage your students on a whole new level