One of the highlights of a 5 week online course I just finished co-teaching with my friend and mentor, Beth Reed, was the video conference we had during weeks two and four. The ease of communication and the ability to connect was wonderful. We also recorded it for participants that were unable to attend. The feedback we received was awesome. We didn’t have a script, we just answered questions, shared experiences and discussed issues. It was completely organic and worked so well I had to announce that the hour was up. Feedback from those who viewed the recording were equally enthusiastic, so I can comfortably suggest you try it with your online courses. I would recommend that you do a quick poll of the class for dates and times for your meeting. We had people who wanted to attend but couldn’t because of other commitments or as in one case, the person was residing in Romania.
The software we used, ZOOM, is one the University of New Hampshire purchased (professional version) for all employees. The dashboard is wonderful and easy to use as it the program itself. It allows you to share your desktop/programs, see multiple people at a time via video and easily switch back and forth between who has control. Recording is at the touch of a button and you don’t have to search for the recording after the fact. The recording is saved as an MP4 along with a file that is audio only and a text document of any chat discussion. The video records with the display settings of the person recording, regardless of how others choose to view the session.
I took the video after we finished and brought it into Windows Movie Maker for a quick edit. I have several options, but find it the easiest to use when I am doing something quick and easy. I added a title slide and removed any extraneous video. I published the file and then downloaded it to our YouTube site. I didn’t want it to be on our lists, but did not want to password protect it, so I chose the unlisted option. It won’t appear in any list, but if someone has the URL, they can go to it as needed.
I chose to embed it within the class for easy access. I should also mention that UNH uses Canvas as their Learning Management System (LMS), which supports Zoom and makes creating a video conference very easy, which was another plus.
In the past, I’ve used many different video conferencing software options, including Skype, Big Blue Button, GoToMeeting and Webex, some by choice, some not. I don’t think I have found any as easy to use and/or as reliable as ZOOM, but was curious what the expert’s thoughts would be. I found a list that compares what they consider the best of 2017. Before you look at the list, here’s some important options to look for:
- Recording – ease of recording, file type, location and size
- Share screen – is it easy to switch screens among the participants?
- Multiple speakers – no lag time when voices overlap. Of course, that partly depends on the attendees bandwidth, etc. so you may not be able to create a seamless recording, but the better the recording, the better the experience and the more likely they are to come back.
- Breakout sessions – are you able to move multiple attendees to breakout rooms and easily bring them back?
- Whiteboard – does the software have a white board where you can collaborate easily on an idea?
- Editing – are participants allowed to edit a document you are sharing?
- Polls – adding a poll in the middle of a webinar is a great way to get attention and share/learn important information
- Registering for a class – it is important that the webinar is easy to access, particularly for those who are a bit techno-phobic. Nothing will make someone leave a webinar like multiple downloads, questions, inability to get sound to cooperate, etc. I know, it happened to me today and I’m hardly a neophyte.
- Equipment check – should be easy for the same reasons stated above.
- Help/Support – is there 24 hour support and multiple ways to access (phone, web chat, etc.)? You don’t want to be troubleshooting issues while trying to run a webinar and many of us cannot get an additional person to share the duties.
- Capacity – how many are able to attend a video conference at the same time? How does the group appear? If the number is high, does it change the quality of the recording?
- Price – this is something we all deal with, so it does have a place in the decision making unfortunately.
Now that you have a list of questions, check out the list of Top Web Conferencing Software Products and see what matches your needs. Many have free versions or a 30 day trial. I highly recommend trying the software before purchasing, unless you are lucky enough to have a job where great software is given to you like I am. Until next week….