Video Conferencing

What are Video Conferencing Classrooms?

We seek to ensure a rich video conference experience through the use of specialized classroom equipment and technology. We also work to provide appropriate design and layout of the physical space.

There are several classroom options across UMaine’s campuses that can be used for collaboration. These include seminar classrooms, mid/large classrooms, and large lecture halls/auditoriums. VC technology can accommodate all of these classrooms, but it is ideally suited for a seminar-size room. View the list of UMS VC-equipped classrooms on all campuses. In seminar-style VC classrooms, faculty and students are lit, microphoned, and on-camera at all times during the session. One or multiple cameras provide a panoramic, full-room view of all, or nearly all students so that instructors and students can see and be seen by the paired classroom. No one needs to manage cameras (to pan and zoom in on a speaker) or manage microphones.

Benefits of Teaching with Video Conferencing

If you have decided to use video conferencing as a collaboration tool for your course, consider using paired local environments to emphasize course topics in a geographically dispersed context.

From environmental science, to art history, to physics, students benefit from paired classrooms when they:

  • Gather primary source data from their local setting.
  • Analyze the differences or similarities in data.
  • Assess and discuss the quality of data and its availability in different locations and local cultures.
  • Learn to collaborate with faculty and peers in remote locations.
  • Participate in both “local-live” field trips and “remote-virtual” field trips.
  • Learn to effectively present findings and conclusions with collaborative technologies.

Faculty can also expose students to “local” faculty, farmers, writers, scientists, artists, etc., who “visit” and interact with their paired remote classes.

Strategies to enhance the VC Classroom experience

While similar to seminars and other active-learning or student-centered teaching strategies, VC classes should also focus on distinct teaching requirements and bridge the social barriers of students in separate rooms.

  • Embrace and include elements of the different locations in the curriculum.
  • Give assignments, promote discussion, etc. about the locations included in the course. For instance, and depending on the topic of the course, instructors could have students discuss architecture, behaviors, values, accents, historical issues, settlement and migration patterns, approaches to health issues, and the like at each location. Students could work together in groups across the locations to explore similarities and differences.
  • Encourage students to compare local customs and data and find commonalities and differences between paired locations.

Factors to consider when choosing VC:

  • This option provides the most stable video and audio experience.
  • When best practices are followed, students at each site feel fully included in the class.
  • Need room-based VC systems at each location and to coordinate with each site for scheduling.
  • UMaine staff will be able to provide support and address quality issues, should they arise.
  • This is the least flexible option.

Best Practices for Teaching with Video Conferencing

Work to bridge the social barriers of students sitting as groups in separate rooms by:

  • Learning all students’ names in each location (consider having students put up name cards for the first few classes).
  • Calling on students from both locations.
  • Asking the remote location as well as your classroom if anyone has questions (e.g. “Does anyone in Machias/Portland have a question?”).
  • Asking students in one location to comment on opinions, answers, etc. offered by students in the other.
  • Setting up cross-site project groups early in the semester.
  • Never have side conversations with people in your room while students or faculty in the remote location are talking.
  • Recognize that you and your students are more or less on camera in a TV studio. Some participants may initially feel awkward and/or uncomfortable.  Keep in mind the basics of voice-activated microphones – it’s easier to engage in a dialog when one person is speaking at a time vs. interruptions.
  • Establish and communicate ground rules and guidelines for videoconferencing etiquette.
  • Make certain that materials which you plan to distribute in your physical classroom are also available online and accessible by the students in the remote locations.
  • Be cognizant of less overt forms of communication that could be lost in videoconferencing classrooms, such as body language suggesting confusion or discomfort.
  • Conducting a Video Conference Class – Best Practices & Tips for Instructor