The discussion of the video conferencing has been an ongoing conversation. Even though the technology is improving for videoconferencing, it is still relatively uncommon in online courses. Previously, cost and Internet speed were barriers. However, costs have come down drastically and internet speed and reliability issues have been addressed. More and more, learning management systems (LMS) have integrated video conferencing into their systems. There are several free software programs such as Skype™, Facetime™, Big Blue Button™, and Google™ hangouts for videoconferencing, whose features and reliability have improved over the years.
Benefits of Video Conferencing
According to an AT&T-sponsored website, “There are many reasons for using video conferencing with the most basic being: participants simply cannot travel to the ‘remote site.’ Video conferencing allows users to meet even if they are on the other side of the ocean, or to visit places that normally are not open to the public.” The following reasons were provided, which readers will note are also reasons to offer online courses:
- Students can take classes not offered at their school or teaching site
- Schools can offer classes outside of normal hours
- Schools can offer classes to students who can’t take traditional classes
- Schools can “team up” with businesses to offer employee training or certification
- Team-teaching with remote instructors
- Meetings between students and tutors for “enrichment, remediation, or a helpful bit of personal attention”
- Virtual library tours
Video Conferencing Software and Barriers
Skype, Google Hangout, Big Blue Button, and Facetime are examples of free video conferencing software. Skype is a video conferencing software that facilitates “calling, seeing, messaging, and sharing with others – wherever they are.” Google Hangout is “video chat for free with up to nine friends at the same time.” Facetime is a feature of Apple devices that works over cellular data or Wifi, although, it is only available on iOS devices. BigBlueButton is another video conferencing software. It is an open source which allows for customization. There is other software available, but it is our opinion that these are the top four.
Cameras are pretty common on new computers, tablets, and smartphones. However, bandwidth and cost is still the limiting factor for video conferencing. In addition, the number of people that can video chat simultaneously is also a barrier. In order to video conference with multiple people it typically requires a fee. People are less likely to pay for this service when they can conference at no additional charge.
Ten Ways to Use Video Conferencing in Online Courses
Video conferencing is a great method for integrating face-to-face interaction in online courses. Even though people interact through text on social media, there still seems to be a desire for human interaction. Below are ten ways to use video conferencing in online courses.
- Course overview/introduction
- Weekly discussion of topics covered
- Mentoring session
- Lecture capture
- Sharing of expert topics
- Guest lectures/webinars/subject-matter experts
- Project collaboration
- Traditional ILT/lectures
- Instructional recordings
- Office hours