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Teaching with web conferencing

I have taught BEPV workshops and the BEPV train-the-trainer course with web conferencing programs, such as UMConnect and Breeze. Here are a few quick thoughts about teaching this way:

*With 50-200 participants in the train-the-trainer course, it is not feasible to allow two-way audio. We have employed one-way audio (participants hear my voice), and have participants type their questions and comments into the comment box on the screen. It can be hard for me to keep up my end of the presentation while also tracking the comments, so I usually dedicate a few spots in the presentation as question periods, and I read and respond to the questions then.

*I appreciate having the assistance of a second presenter who can siphon off participants' technical questions (problems with audio, problems with downloading documents, etc.). He/she will answer those questions and send the content-related questions to me within the presenter chat, which only the presenters can see. That way, I can ignore the ongoing technical "chatter" in the general chat, and focus on the content-related questions passed on to me in the presenter chat.

*The BEPV workshops include a lot of small group work, which is hard to accomplish in an online training. I will encourage groups of people from the same Extension Service and the same program area to "attend" the training together--even viewing the presentation together in a conference room. That way, they can discuss the material among themselves during the Q&A periods. Also, I try to spread the training over two or more days and give participants an "assignment" to work on between sessions. Teams who attend the training together can do their small group work during that time.

*We record the presentations (audio, slideshow, and chat) and post them on a permanent web page for participants to access after the training. People completing the train-the-trainer course can then consult the recording, if they wish, when they prepare to teach their own BEPV workshops.

* I post the documents participants will need on the UMConnect web page, and we open the page ahead of the meeting time so the documents can be downloaded.

*I do not yet have a web camera in my office, so I haven't yet taught with a live shot of myself on the UMConnect page. I wonder how important it is to participants to see me as I talk. What do you think?

*I wish UMConnect had a mechanism for participants to download pictures of themselves to the meeting space. I can see the names of participants, and I can ask them to list their affiliations, but it would be nice to put faces with names. It's fun to run into people at conferences or meetings who have taken one of my trainings, but it would be nice to be able to recognize them by sight!

Have you ever taken a training with UMConnect? Have you taken one that I have taught? What works well? What should I do differently?

Comments

The new version of Adobe Connect (aka UMConnect) has features that make small group work MUCH easier to manage. I can't find the video demo on breakout rooms that I watched a few weeks ago, but it looks excellent. Some of the new features are described here.

About teaching with live video, I usually don't. It can clog up bandwidth and adds little (IMO) to the content. But, two exceptions: If you had a webcam you could very easily put a still image of yourself up (by simply pausing the camera), which is nice. Also when we go into Q&A mode we change the layout to just video, going both ways. During these "high-touch" interactive periods, I think the video adds something.

Besides, webcams are only $20 or so and very easy to use. I'd get one.

When we've taught using UMConnect / Adobe Connect, we've done audio through a parallel (non-VOIP) conference call. I find that skipping / hitching video is tolerable, but skipping audio totally kills a presentation.
-eli

Great post! I loved reading your ideas/experience. I am interested to see the new UMConnect that Eli describes. I hope it doesn't take too long for the U to upgrade!
For presenter video, I have found that opening a new share pod and putting apicture of the presenter in there and laying it over the video pod is just as good as a still from a video. Thanks for doing Week 10!

Eli, the breakout rooms option looks like it has great potential. I really like the idea of assigning people, who may be scattered across the country, into virtual breakout rooms. I would, however, have to significantly increase the training time to include "live" small group work.

I forgot to mention it, but I also have always used non-VOIP audio to avoid skipped and dropped audio.

Amy, moderators have done the still picture trick for me--it has the advantage of reminding the audience who they are listening to, while not forcing them to watch me search through my notes or sip my Diet Coke.

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