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The Teaching Space Podcast

The podcast is on pause for a year (as of August 2021) as I am tackling the final year of my masters in education (which I am doing alongside my full-time job). In the meantime, please revisit the considerable back catalogue of episodes. Also, give me a follow on Twitter, where I am still very active and sign up for my personal newsletter here. You can visit The Teaching Space website here: theteachingspace.com.

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May 23, 2020

Episode 93 of The Teaching Space Podcast looks at what makes a successful video conference call.

Introduction

This episode has been inspired by the recent increase in video calls I've experienced as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. While I certainly don't profess to be an expert video call host or participant, I realised early on that I'd had a bit more experience than some in this area. I thought it would be useful to compile and share some top tips for a successful call.

I'll start with general tips then focus on a few student-specific issues. Please remember, I teach adults, but I will touch briefly on general child protection issues

Tools

This is not an episode about tools but it would be remiss not to mention The Big Three I’ve used lately, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams and Zoom. Because my experience is mostly with Google, I’m not going to do a comparison as it would be biased. I just have a few things to mention though:

Google recently increased access to their premium Meet options allowing users to record and have more control over aspects of the call. This upgrade has been a game-changer for me - utterly essential - if they decide to downgrade, it might prevent me using the tool for educational purposes in the future. Recording calls and having a record of the chat is essential to me. Fingers crossed they keep the feature as part of the free G Suite for Education package as I do not see my organisation paying for it.

It looks like Microsoft has done something similar with Teams although I am less familiar with what the upgrade entails.

This article explains more.

Zoom is something I have used more in a business capacity. It's an excellent tool with similar features to the other two, however, it has been subject to negative press recently over security concerns. Google 'Zoom-bombing' and decide for yourself.

General Video Call Tips and Etiquette

  1. Set expectations at the start if you are hosting, for example, participants on mute but can ‘raise their hand to speak’ in the chat, questions in chat etc.
  2. Be prepared - especially if you are hosting. Usual meeting rules apply e.g. agenda, minutes, give notice etc.
  3. Where possible, have someone hosting the meeting/session and someone monitoring the chat and communicating with the host.
  4. If you want to record the call, ask permission of all participants (ask them to consent or decline in chat).
  5. Wear headphones to avoid feedback issues.
  6. Arrive early to check your headphones, mic and other technology are working (applies to host and attendees).
  7. Mute your mic on arrival.
  8. Dress appropriately (audience and context matter here).
  9. Try to look into the camera.
  10. Give some thought to light and framing.
  11. Make full use of the chat function.
  12. Consider your background (especially when working from home). Teams has a blur background function.
  13. Make best efforts to get to know the platform before your first call (YouTube/Google it).
  14. Don’t multi-task.
  15. Please don’t eat!

Calls with Students

There is some extra consideration needed when undertaking calls with students, especially children and vulnerable adults. Follow your organisation's recommendations as they will be working to comply with the relevant child protection policy and legislation. Generally, recommendations are likely to fall into these areas:

  1. Consideration to the location of each individual on the call and possible recommendations for cameras being turned off.
  2. Restrictions around recording and sharing recorded calls.
  3. Access to technology.
  4. Supervision on calls.
  5. Use of School/College email address for communication.
  6. Staff/student number ratio.

There will also be behaviour management considerations, for example, understanding who has control over muting and leaving/joining the call. There is lots of platform-specific guidance on this available online. Also, the level of interaction on the call will relate directly to the size of the group. For larger groups, consider a flipped approach as explained in the previous episode and smaller tutorial groups if possible.

Wrap Up

And that's it. If you have any questions about this episode or comments you'd like to share, please join The Teaching Space Community: community.theteachingspace.com. I'd love to know about your experience of video calls in an education setting.

The show notes for this episode include any links I’ve mentioned; you can find them at theteachingspace.com.

If you have enjoyed this episode, please consider supporting the show by making a small donation towards the running costs on my Ko-fi page which you can find at ko-fi.com/theteachingspace. Alternatively, please consider leaving a review on Apple Podcasts or whether you listen to the show. Thank you.

Thanks for listening and I hope you'll join me for the next episode.