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Videoconferencing Basics: Teaching Tips and Strategies for SUNY Plattsburgh Faculty

Basic strategies for...

Planning and structuring classes - Get organized early with a full syllabus, learn the technology, supplement class time with online documents, send all course materials to the remote site early (at least a week in advance)

Establishing a set of expectations for coursework and class behavior - This approach will go a long way. In general, interactive video classes should have no more about half the class time be lecture by the instructor. You may use guest lecturers or student presentations to provide other faces. Use class activities to reinforce content Have a solid backup plan that may include online notes or assignments in case classes are cancelled due to weather or technology problems

Developing class activities - Use in-class writing/reflection activities and have samples faxed to you for discussions Small groups can work on solving problems (social, scientific, or mathematical), selecting main points of readings, identifying areas of confusion from lectures, and then have each group select a speaker to report back to the entire class

Adapt any successful traditional class activity by allowing slightly more time and more tightly focusing student discussion. Managing class interactions across two course sites. One way to have higher quality lecture experience is to have students hold questions, by writing down the questions as they think of them, and then having a question and answer time.

If possible, occasionally teach from the remote site. In our case, the distance between the two campuses is great but it still may be worth traveling to the other site once every two or three weeks. Integrate course rosters from both sites and call on students by name in alphabetical order. Set up groups from both sites if using group work, use email and Moodle to facilitate group work outside of class

Effective Videoconferencing Tips

  • Remind students that audio delays of a second or two are common and that the way to minimize the choppiness that comes from this is to minimize the interruption - holding questions, using visual cues (like nodding) rather than aural cues (like "yeah").
  • If course materials are sent by email, make sure they get there before class starts.
  • Consider providing a strong print component to supplement non-print materials. A good chance to use pdf's for the syllabus and other classroom guides that are available on a supporting course management system (Moodle).
  • Maintain focus on "all students" and not just the home site - think of the camera as another student and look directly at it some of the time. Focus on the students and not the technology and your course will be more human.
  • Use colors in the middle of the color spectrum as too great a contrast does not look good on the screen. For instance try using pastel font colors instead of black and white.
  • Reduce distractions. Variety is engaging so have visuals worked in as what students are looking at for at least part of the time.
  • Don't be afraid to use silence!
  • Get written authorization before repeatedly using copyright materials (many uses fall under "fair use" requirements).
  • Use video carefully, use small segments whenever possible to reduce fuzzy and jerky effects.
  • Use large and bold fonts so users don't have to squint.
  • Indicate objectives at the beginning of class and provide a summary at the end of class.
  • Have a backup plan if the technology fails.
  • Keep the structure simple.
  • Never read material out loud.
  • Maintain a moderate speaking pace but vary the tone and pitch for emphasis and variety.
  • Don't wear white, black, light pastels, busy or shiny patterns. Solid colors work best.

Note: Thanks to Mike Bozonie for organizing some of this material in an online web tips course in 2007.

References: Judith V. Boettcher, Designing for Learning and University of Idaho Engineering Outreach.

Contact Information

For more information about Library and Information Technology Services, please contact:

Holly Heller-Ross, Dean
Library and Information Technology Services
SUNY Plattsburgh
2 Draper Avenue, Plattsburgh, NY 12901
Phone: (518) 564-5180
Fax: (518) 564-5100
Email: hellerhb@plattsburgh.edu