Category Video Collaboration

Online Learning Best Practices for Students

AVI-SPL wants to help your teams stay connected and productive during this difficult time as most of us are working, teaching, and learning from home. Our Together We Can online learning series offers helpful ideas and resources. Below is this week’s edition. Read all Together We Can posts.

While teachers are scrambling to get remote classes up and running in the wake of coronavirus, your students are facing work-at-home challenges too. Once your staff is prepared to teach classes online, you can help your students be ready for online learning as well.

Pass on these best practices to teachers to share with their students. Use our social buttons at the end of the article to easily share these distance learning best practices for students via social or email.

Find a quiet place for online classes

Try to find a quiet space where you won’t be interrupted. Ensure you have good lighting and wear headphones to help you focus on the online session.

Share your virtual class schedule

Speaking of quiet areas, work out a schedule with your family or roommates for class time. Young children may be home from school, and many parents are working remotely from the house too. Limit distractions as much as possible by planning your class time with everyone at home.

You may be sharing internet bandwidth as well. Let your housemates know when you need to attend class online. Ask others to limit streaming apps and large downloads while you’re attending class. It’s a tough ask while we’re all working and studying from home — we know!

Test your system

When you’re invited to an online session, the email usually includes a link to test your computer, tablet, or phone to ensure the video conferencing solution will work. Don’t forget to check your device the day before class, so you’ll have time to address any technical issues. It’s helpful to ensure you can log on to sessions using a mobile data connection, in case your Internet service is slow or interrupted.

Also, most video conferencing systems have chat and Q&A options. Ask your class leader ahead of time which option to use to submit questions and comments. Look for more information from your school or watch instructional videos like this one from Zoom.

Also, if you use any online accessibility tools for visual or hearing impairments, test that those work with your online class platform too. Ask your teacher to set up a test session if needed.

Complete assignments and download materials before class

Get familiar with the material and complete any assigned reading so you can follow along during the lesson and ask questions. Let your teacher know if you had any issues accessing materials.

Mute your cell phone during class

Turn off your ringer and vibrate function to avoid the temptation to pick up your mobile phone. Remember to pause all text and app notifications to limit distractions. Better yet, turn your phone off unless you’re using it to attend class.

Mute the mic on your device

Mute your device microphone when not speaking during a video conferencing class. Muting the mic will limit the noise others will hear. Make sure you know how to mute your microphone before class begins.

Remember it’s a real class

Keep in mind this is a real class, and you will be graded. Pay attention to the lectures, and do your assignments. Finally, deadlines are still deadlines. Complete your work on time and respect your fellow students’ and educators’ time during online classes.

Check out these additional Top Tips For Student Success in Online Courses shared by Nova Southeastern University.

The AVI-SPL team is ready to help you

We hope your students put these online learning best practices to effective use. The AVI-SPL team is here to help if you need assistance setting up your distance learning technology. Contact us now or call your local AVI-SPL office.

Online Learning Best Practices for Educators

AVI-SPL wants to help your teams stay connected and productive during this difficult time as most of us are working, teaching, and learning from home. Our Together We Can online learning series offers helpful ideas and resources. Below is this week’s edition. Read all Together We Can posts.

At AVI-SPL, we understand that the coronavirus outbreak is stressing your online learning systems, administrators, educators, and students. The educational system changed in a heartbeat. We’re here to help you fulfill your goal of delivering quality education to all students in these uncertain times.

Some educators may teach occasional online classes, while others are completely unfamiliar with teaching remotely. You can help make the transition to full-time remote teaching and learning easier by sharing our online learning best practices with your teachers. You’ll find our social share buttons at the end of the article.

Get to know your distance learning tech

It’s helpful to do a trial session before you deliver a live online class. Your organization may use a Learning Management System (LMS) or video conferencing platform to provide virtual classes. To get to know your system, rehearse a short session and record it. That way, you’ll be familiar with the tools you’ll need to deliver your class.

Test how to switch from the camera to sharing tools like screen sharing and interactive whiteboards. Here are some resources to get started with common platforms:

Get comfortable teaching higher ed classes online

If you’re new to teaching online classes, take time to get comfortable in front of the camera. Rehearse a short session and record it. Watching the recording can help you gauge the best distance to stand from the camera. Aim to get a “medium close-up” shot that shows you from the waist up.

You’ll also be able to tell if you have adequate lighting. You may need to move around the room, close shades, or bring an extra lamp into the space. Avoid standing in front of windows with bright light behind you, or you’ll show up in silhouette. If you’re at home, be mindful of what’s showing in the video behind you. Move any personal items such as family photos that you prefer not to share.

Consider that the camera represents your remote students. Make occasional eye contact with your students by looking at the camera while you’re speaking.

Keep remote college students engaged with video

Keep remote students engaged by breaking up distance learning sessions by sharing video. If your organization does not have enough video to use, check into free resources.  In response to coronavirus, TEDEd has launched TEDx@home, a daily newsletter that offers lessons for all ages, including university-level lessons with video. TedEd also provides online videos grouped into themes, like this video package on visualizing data.

Don’t forget YouTube can be a video resource too. A few channels with educational content to check out include National Geographic and NASA.

Ensure online lessons are accessible

Students with impaired vision or hearing may have tools that make working online easier for them. You can also help by designing online class materials that are accessible to everyone.

  • Verify that attendees can hear the sound in any videos that you play online. If closed captions are available, turn them on.
  • If you’re using PowerPoint slides, use the accessibility checker under the Review menu on the ribbon.
  • Provide handouts in formats that are compatible with screen readers. Microsoft Word files with text should not be a problem. Machines can read PDFs if they are created with accessibility in mind. Adobe offers a tool to create PDFs and verify accessibility.

Connect with students before, during, and after class

To help your students stay connected and prepared for class, send out session topics the week prior. Include information on how to log on to class sessions. Ensure students know where and how to get class materials like downloads and videos. Provide passwords to access materials if needed.

For live classes, remind students how to submit questions during the conference.  Take time to answer your students to help keep them engaged with your online class. During the class, have an assistant or student volunteer keep an eye on chat and Q&A windows if possible. That way, you can focus on delivering the lecture without missing any questions.

After class, follow up with an email asking for feedback on the session. Ask if everyone was able to connect to the video conference and follow along. Since students can’t see you in person, hold virtual office hours too. Try a tool like Calendly to allow students to make their own appointments during available time slots.

We hope your teachers find these distance learning best practices useful in delivering quality online education. Also, if you need to build or upgrade your online learning technology, your organization may qualify to shop for solutions using our national procurement contacts. Watch the video for more info.

AVI-SPL is here to help

If you have questions, we’re here to help. For assistance with upgrading up your distance learning technology, contact us now or call your local AVI-SPL office.

Microsoft Teams and Surface Hub 2S: Collaboration Tools for Today and Tomorrow

Today, nearly five million people in the U.S. are working remotely. Well before the coronavirus disrupted work as we know it, we were being told that remote work was an essential part of doing our jobs and that remote workers would dominate the workforce. The proliferation of remote work articles popping up in the wake of COVID-19 have made this an even more salient feature of our work lives. Millions of people around the world have had to adjust to a new way of working — a way that requires them to be at home but perform as if they were in the office. 

One of the tools getting high-profile coverage is Microsoft Teams. Whether I’m in the office or working from home, I use Teams many times a day. It’s how colleagues chat me up with ideas and suggestions. It’s how I share editable documents that a specific work group can view and edit. It’s where I can scroll through a conversation to refresh my memory about where we left off a certain project or deliverable. And it’s where I attend video meetings with colleagues to brainstorm, share ideas, and get work done in real time. Let’s look in greater detail at how Microsoft Teams helps me — and can help you — work from home and anywhere else.

How to Work Remotely With Microsoft Teams

For the past couple of weeks, Microsoft Teams has taken on more prominence and importance as my colleagues and I work outside the office. Working remotely doesn’t have much meaning or benefit unless we’re being productive. And Microsoft Teams is supporting that productivity. Since so much of the work we produce is the result of collaboration, it’s easy to see why Microsoft calls Teams its “hub for teamwork.” You could click a link and see the kind of features and capabilities it offers. But for me — I hope for you as well — the best way to share what Microsoft Teams can do is to speak from experience.

Like you, I work on a lot of projects that involve collaboration with a wide range of colleagues. Within Microsoft Teams, I can create (or be added to) a group that is named for a particular project. For example, we formed one project to gather content for our forthcoming podcast. Within these dedicated virtual spaces, we can add files that anyone can edit and download. We also added a section for conversation topics. To those topics we can attach our names and notes so that we know who has responsibility for recruiting guests and scheduling their appearances. It’s a great way for me to remind myself what I’ve done, still have to do, and my deadline. 

Another great reminder is the Posts tab, which includes the typed chats we’ve had about a topic. I frequently reference these conversations if I need to refresh my memory about what was discussed so that I know to work on a task or follow up with someone about theirs. This persistent chat is visual proof of our brainstorming, questions we’ve asked and answered, and announcements we’ve made to each other.

And speaking of visuals: It’s easy to jump into a video call with anyone in my contact list, which includes everyone in the company and anyone that I add. Once in a call, I’m two clicks away from recording the session, an essential tool when I’m interviewing a partner for one of AVI-SPL’s white papers. For most of these meetings, at least one attendee needs to share their content in the Teams window for all to see and understand. Another great feature: how easy it is schedule a Teams meeting from Outlook. I can schedule meetings from within the Microsoft Teams window, but I’m a creature of habit and I’m used to using the Outlook calendar. Whichever way you prefer, know that Teams accommodates your work style.

It’s worth noting that I’ve used only a fraction of Microsoft Teams’ capabilities. There’s plenty of apps that you may find helpful to support your work style or needs, including Stream, Wiki, OneNote, and a host of other built-in Office 365 applications.

I know I’ve given only a taste of what Microsoft Teams can do. Talk to one of AVI-SPL’s experts and you can ask about a host of other features like third-party solutions, the ability to integrate workflows, and the Teams developer platform that works with your business apps. If you choose, we can also take a deep dive with you into important benefits like security, manageability, and compliance, along with the room devices from our manufacturer partners that bring Microsoft Teams into the meeting space. With all I’ve shared, I’d be remiss to not include this overview of its key features:

  • Works across desktop, mobile, browser and a wide range of devices
  • A digital whiteboard (which I’ve never used til I started writing this post. It was a breeze to start.)
  • AI capabilities
  • Interoperability with other video systems
  • The features that ensure a quality audio and video experience
  • Actionable IT analytics

There’s much more to cover, but here’s the takeaway that I hope resonates with you: whatever industry you’re in, Microsoft Teams can improve your operations and processes when it comes to work and collaboration.

How to Be Productive in the Office With Surface Hub 2S

As we get back into the flow of on-site meetings and collaboration sessions, we’ll want to be in the same conference rooms and huddle spaces to connect with people who are in those areas or working from other locations. I don’t have the personal experience with Surface Hub 2S that I have with Microsoft Teams, but I’ve seen the demos — enough to know that it’s the kind of tool that you want in your office when it’s time for groups in and out of the workplace to get together on a shared, high-resolution canvas. And it’s not just any digital canvas, but one that has all the power of the Windows 10 operating system and has the great Microsoft Teams software built in. Going back to what I said earlier about the value of familiarity and comfort in the way we work: This is another way that Microsoft is delivering that kind of experience.

Surface Hub 2S is an interactive device that acts as a meeting platform, digital whiteboard, and so much more. Bring it into a conference room, huddle room or open area and you’ve created a space for teamwork. That includes the ability to use Microsoft Teams to collaborate with remote workers, replicating the great experience you’re used to from your PC. It also includes video conferencing so you can see your teammates while working on shared content in real time. Here are just a handful of the features that make the Surface Hub 2S so valuable:Surface Hub 2S image

  • 4K camera and 4K screen
  • Wireless content sharing
  • Microsoft Whiteboard
  • Window 10 OS
  • 50-inch display size
  • Cart or wall-mount installation

The Surface Hub 2S is the tool you’ll want to have to bring your remote teams together, work from anywhere in the office, and have an easy, fluid collaboration experience among the talent that drives your company’s success.

Talk to AVI-SPL’s Advocates About Microsoft Teams and Surface Hub 2S

If you’re new to Microsoft Teams or Surface Hub 2S, or you’re new to remote collaboration, there are experts at AVI-SPL who are ready to answer your questions and give you guidance. Whatever questions you have, ask them, as our representatives can discuss:

  • Product demos
  • How to migrate from Skype for Business to Microsoft Teams
  • Planning and designing an enterprise-wide Teams launch (including network assessment, device strategy and migration planning)
  • Microsoft Teams meeting-room configuration with certified devices (Crestron, Poly, Yealink, Logitech, and others)
  • Training and adoption services
  • Room system and device management
  • How Microsoft Teams can help your specific industry
  • Integrating the Surface Hub 2S into areas across your enterprise

It can seem like a lot to take in, but keep in mind that all of these features and benefits are meant to serve your clear goals: better team collaboration and a better way of organizing you and your teams’ work. I would venture that a lot of us are looking forward to the day we can get back into the office and have that in-person experience. But for those of us who are set up to collaborate from home, we know how easy it is to be just as productive and contribute just as much from wherever we choose to set up our personal devices. Our current circumstances will pass; what will remain is the freedom, flexibility, and support that tools like Microsoft Teams and Surface Hub 2S bring to our work lives.

Suddenly Remote Due to Coronavirus: 6 Ways to Help Staff and Students Adjust

AVI-SPL wants to help your teams stay connected and productive during this difficult time as most of us are working, collaborating, and leading from home. Our Together We Can series offers helpful ideas and resources. Below is this week’s edition. Read all Together We Can posts.

The rush to control the spread of the novel coronavirus, known as COVID-19, is on. Canceled events and self-quarantines are the norm. Companies and schools are acting too by sending workers and students home to meet remotely. It’s likely organizations like yours already utilize video meetings. However, if most of your teams and students are suddenly remote every day due to coronavirus, virtual meetings are playing their largest role ever in achieving your business goals.

Keep in mind some team members and students will be new to working or studying from home. Before you send your teams, students, and teachers into the virtual meeting world, and help fight the spread of COVID-19, follow these steps to help people stay engaged and productive during video meetings.

6 ways to help staff and students adjust to working remotely

1. Grant access

Make sure employees and students have remote access to all networks, software, and files they need to do their work or teach and attend classes. Since you’ll have a spike in video conferencing usage, contact your IT department to review your meeting software licenses and available bandwidth. You don’t want to send everyone home, then realize 1,000 people must share 200 software licenses.

Global companies should encourage staff to utilize cloud video connections vs. dial-in options to limit international calling charges. Even toll-free lines can have hidden call charges. It’s helpful to offer backup call-in options in case of slow home internet connections or local outages too. However, encourage staff to call in only when online connections are not available to control phone charges. Another tip is to encourage remote participants to turn off their camera feed to save bandwidth while benefiting from the online audio conferencing service. 

2. Offer online training

It’s likely your staff is already meeting online. If virtual meetings are not the norm, though, users may not be aware of all collaboration software features. Offer live and recorded video training to ensure everyone knows how to utilize the tools available to them. Show users how to schedule and start video meetings, record sessions, share files, chat, make online calls, and start impromptu meetings.

3. Have extra tech support available

Since tech support calls may increase with more people suddenly working online, get your tech support team involved early. Have your IT team review common tech challenges, so they are ready to help video conferencing attendees connect quickly. Consider creating a dedicated support team to help run your newly-minted virtual offices and classrooms.

Don’t forget to send tech support contact information to your virtual team members, so they know who to call for help. Also, since support staff will likely work remotely too, make sure they can still access employee laptops via remote control when needed.

4. Provide quality headsets for video meetings

It’s essential for meeting participants to see and hear everyone in the video conference and be seen and heard. Most laptops include cameras suitable for video calls. For audio, external devices often improve the remote meeting experience. Provide quality headsets with microphones to ensure all attendees can collaborate and share ideas during meetings.

Note that your staff and students may have to contend with noise and distractions. Children and pets may be at home, and traffic noise can seep through windows. Consider noise-canceling headphones to help tune out background noises and ensure everyone stays focused on the meeting.

5. Share Video Conferencing Best Practices

Share video meeting best practices with inexperienced users. It won’t hurt to give veteran remote workers a refresher too.  Top ideas to share include:

  • Choose a dedicated, quiet well-lit area with as little noise and distractions as possible
    • Avoid sitting in front of a window with bright light behind you
  • Dress like you would on a typical workday
  • Join the call a few minutes early and greet your coworkers, say goodbye when leaving the meeting too
  • Mute your microphone when you’re not speaking during meetings to limit noise
  • Turn your camera on for face-to-face communication
  • Check your surroundings that the camera will display
    • Clear the breakfast dishes from the table and remove anything hanging on chairs, etc., move any personal photos or other items you don’t want to be seen during the meeting
  • Share any documents you’re discussing via screen sharing
  • Stay focused and avoid multi-tasking during the meeting
  • Record the session and share the recording with meeting attendees
  • Make sure family and friends know you’re “at work” to prevent interruptions
  • Manage unexpected distractions as quickly as possible

6. Check in regularly

Encourage supervisors and teachers to ramp up online communications and feedback via chat and one-on-one video meetings. They should check in often to see how teachers, staff, and students are doing in the virtual world.

Reactions to work from home schedules can vary. Some people may love to skip the commute; others may feel lonely compared to coming into the office every day. Regular communication can help remote workers, and students feel connected to the rest of the group.

In addition to addressing current health concerns, work from home options provide flexibility, and can reduce stress. You may find the students and staff are more efficient and engaged while working away from the office. When your organization returns to normal working conditions once the spread of COVID-19 is under control, track your virtual meeting results. If you see happier employees and students, along with increased productivity, consider offering permanent options to work and study remotely a few days a week.

Get expert video conferencing help

Our teams at AVI-SPL are here to help. While the coronavirus outbreak has created a sudden exponential reliance on video meetings, helping teams connect online through video conferencing has been our core mission for years. If you need assistance launching or upgrading your digital workplace collaboration tools, contact us now or find your local AVI-SPL office.

How to Promote Video Collaboration in Your Workplace

As we use video conferencing systems more often in the workplace, we are working together to address challenges and complete projects. The use of video conferencing in companies of all types and sizes reflects a need to improve employee engagement and productivity.

To promote video collaboration in your organization, deploy user-friendly video conferencing systems in your meeting rooms. That’s one of the major takeaways from a recent paper by Wainhouse Research, “Profiting From a Business Video Culture.” The study notes that end users consider video conferencing in a dedicated room essential to the workplace video experience.

This also holds true for those of you working in mid-market companies, where PC-based collaboration is the most common use of video conferencing. Forty percent of mid-market employees use video conferencing at their desktops on a daily basis. Think that would make room systems unnecessary or unwanted? Think again.

According to Wainhouse, the frequency of use leads to a better impression of video conferencing, with most respondents saying they would participate in it more often if it were available in dedicated rooms. 

Some major takeaways from the Wainhouse report:

  • Among those who attend video calls at least once a week, they prefer dedicated room conferencing over PC-based video calls.
  • The availability of room-based systems makes end users more likely to take part in video conferencing in other venues (huddle rooms, desktop, mobile).
  • Companies of most sizes overwhelmingly prefer video meetings in conference rooms

Room-based video conferencing systems mitigate the background noise and interruptions you have to deal with when taking calls you take at your desk. Other benefits include:

  • Trimming travel costs
  • Enhancing teamwork with internal and external stakeholders (colleagues, clients, customers, partners)
  • Attracting the talent that expects a collaborative culture 

If your company is like others, with a high percentage of PC-based video, you already have a solid foundation on which to build and extend these benefits across your organization. As you do your research and talk with potential service providers, you’ll want to make sure they can provide the same quality of meeting-room video collaboration you’d expect is afforded to the largest companies. That includes a consistent, positive user experience that promotes adoption. The services supporting that quality and your users must be global or nationwide in reach while also addressing the challenges of individual offices and ensuring that all locations are receiving consistent service. 

Read the Wainhouse Research paper as you consider an expansion of video conferencing that would improve productivity, employee engagement, and talent retention at your company. 

Download “Profiting From a Business Video Culture” >