Category Video Communications

Advice for Managing Your Remote Teaching Staff

As the school year draws to a close, AVI-SPL wants to help your teaching staff and administration stay connected and focused during this difficult time. Our Together We Are series about online learning from home offers helpful ideas and resources. Read all Together We Are posts.

By now, teachers across the country have been figuring out how to prepare and teach lessons, assign homework, grade it, and provide feedback — all while working from home. Add to this the effort it takes to understand the supporting collaboration technology, and it’s easy to imagine that nerves can quickly be rattled. In previous posts, we’ve tried to help by giving advice for online teaching from home and engaging with students.

Today, let’s look at ways principals can provide feedback, address performance issues, and resolve conflicts among their teachers and administrators. Here are a few tips for successfully managing and supporting your staff and ensuring that they are able to provide the high-quality learning experience that students deserve and their parents expect.

Be Transparent: By letting your teaching and administrative staff know what’s expected of them, you’ll be setting standards of performance. Those expectations can help ensure students are receiving the quality education they deserve, and they’ll form the basis for one-on-one evaluations and resolving areas of disagreement. For example, teachers and admins will want to know policies for taking attendance or how summer teaching may unfold for students that require additional help in order to advance to the next grade level. If they’re lacking in technology support, they will expect updates on when the situation will change. During your check-ins (which we cover below) and in emails, you can keep them apprised of the latest developments with status reports.

Check in daily:  Teachers across all levels of education are struggling with a situation that could be perceived as more stressful than managing students in the classroom. Classwork has become homework, and instead of being able to grade that homework by assigned due dates, teachers are facing the reality that the only due date that matters for students is the end of the school year.

In this remote situation, teachers and administrators may inadvertently deliver contradictory information to their students, which could upset the students and their parents, and cause rifts among your staff.

For these reasons, schedule daily video calls that recur at the same time each day and send meeting invites so that teachers and admins can save them to their calendars. During these team calls, you can deliver the transparency mentioned above by providing updates on policy changes. For their part, your staff can let you know what’s working, where they need help, and what questions they have. Microsoft Live Events is one option for delivering announcements to a large group while also being able to field individual questions. Upvotes on the questions will let you know which ones you should prioritize.

Have virtual office hours: Not every teacher is comfortable teaching virtual classes. Some may be unfamiliar with delivering what’s expected of them, or they may be unsure of the video conferencing and unified communications tools that the corporate world takes for granted. Send a meeting invite that lets your staff know that you will be available online throughout the day if they have questions, recommendations, or need to vent. Encourage teachers to reach out to you, and keep each appointment to a limited duration so that you can have face-to-face time over video with as many teachers as need to speak to you. Update your online status so they know if you are busy in a meeting or temporarily away from your desk.

Follow best practices for resolving conflict: In our post on resolving conflict during remote work, we include tips for planning and hosting video calls that address performance issues and conflicts that may arise among employees. That advice can also be applied to teachers, administrators, and other support staff. I recommend you read the post, but I can quickly summarize what you should do in your education setting: 

  • Gather facts about the conflict: Meet with each person involved in a dispute separately over video to get their side of the story. This may include parents and students who have a complaint or need to resolve an issue.
  • Set the ground rules for the meeting: At least a day before the meeting, send an email to the group and host one-on-ones with the involved parties where you explain how the conflict resolution meeting will run. You’ll also share your expectations of behavior and protocol. Explain that these rules are being administered in fairness to all involved.
  • Make sure all participants can see and hear each other: Seeing reactions and body language is important for you, and it’s important for those expressing themselves. Microsoft Teams will display up to four videos at one time. If you have more than four participants, you’ll see the video of the active speakers. In our post about online learning best practices for educators, you’ll find advice how to prepare yourself and your home office for a video experience.

Teaching can be a difficult, at times thankless profession. Having to perform its duties from home may add to the stress for some teachers, causing conflicts among them and perhaps a struggle to deliver the quality they are capable of in a live, in-person classroom. By following these tips, you can help mitigate issues and be proactive in addressing them.

5 Tips for Resolving Conflict During Remote Work

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 Are series on working from home offers helpful ideas and resources. Read all Together We Are posts.

As companies and their staff adjust to remote work, one of the areas they have to focus on is remote management of employees, a topic we’ve covered in previous posts. Today, let’s look at ways managers can address evaluations, performance issues, and conflict when their direct reports are working remotely.

Even when the threat of COVID-19 is past us, millions of employees will continue to work from home, at least part time. That means they have to be managed remotely, which can pose a challenge for managers and those they supervise. Workplace conflicts still happen, even when we aren’t sharing an office. Supervisors must still monitor performance and productivity. Under a remote-work scenario, addressing those issues can appear as significant, even frustrating challenges.

Here are a few tips for successfully managing staff when you have to evaluate performance, address issues, and resolve conflicts among employees.

Communicate: Part of being a manager is letting your team members know what is expected of them. By being transparent, you’re establishing a foundation for required levels of behavior, cooperation, and performance among staff. Those expectations will be your reference points when it’s time to review employee performance, respond to feedback, or sort out conflicts among them.  We’ve said it before on this blog: You have to engage with your staff on a frequent, regular basis. Better to have too much communication than too little when you and others are working remotely. It’s easy to fall out of normal communication routines when you don’t see each other in meetings or common areas. By checking in every day or at least multiple times a week, managers let their staff know what is expected of them, where they’re doing well, and which areas need improvement.

On a related note: Being able to check in every day means you and your staff are available to each other. As we explained in this post for managing remote teams, require team members (including yourself) to keep their status icons updated so that others know when they are available to answer questions or have an on-demand chat.

Document the issues: When you communicate issues with an employee, let the call be a discussion where they understand the nature of your performance standard. Explain to them what the issues are, e.g. “You missed two meetings or a call with the customer.” Then you should set forth the improvements that you expect to see within a reasonable time frame. Be clear about your expectations and where they haven’t been met. Some positions will lend themselves to a clearly data-driven analysis: When supervising call center staff or service technicians, you likely have access to analytics for objective evaluation. Other positions are less visible in that aspect, but you’ll still need to reference defined standards.

Resolving conflicts among workers can be more challenging. If someone has a performance issue or a conflict with another employee, it’s ideal to handle those types of issues in person, where all parties are in the same room. However, that’s not always possible during remote work.  The following tips would apply during in-person gatherings and will help you be successful during video calls when dealing with sensitive personnel matters.

Set out ground rules in advance: Passions can run hot when it comes to workplace disagreements and conflicts. And it can be difficult to referee reactions and behavior over a video call. That’s why you need to establish some ground rules. This can be an email you send before the meeting or a quick one-on-one with each person involved in a dispute. Clarify the order in which the parties, including yourself, will speak and make their case.  Make clear that once someone has said explained their version of events, the other party or parties will be given the opportunity to deliver their side of the story.

Gather the facts first: Prior to having a group meeting about a workplace conflict, meet with each person over video and let them share their story in a private conversation. Then when you get to the joint discussion about it, you will have had time to investigate, get input from others, and understand what’s relevant to the discussion and what still needs to be determined.

See and hear everyone: Some social exchanges can get lost on a video call, and an in-person meeting may be preferable when it comes to resolving conflict. But even when these meetings are held over video, the visual cues are still there and the process is mostly the same as the in-person event. Even with those cues being visible, you want to verbalize more than you normally would so that attendees know they are being heard and understood.

One consistent piece of advice you may have heard when it comes to video conferencing: The video part matters less than the audio. Because without good audio, it doesn’t matter who or what you can see. However, because you want to see body language during an evaluation or conflict resolution so that you can anticipate someone’s need to talk — or you just want to see how they’re reacting — you need both aspects to be high quality.

To capture the in-person experience, take into consideration the number of people who are visible at the same time on a video conferencing system. Unified communications solutions like Microsoft Teams allow you to see and hear multiple people at once, so you’ll be nearly as comfortable and effective during those types of interactions as you would be in the same room. You’ll just need to limit your meeting to the number of people who can be seen at one time.

The challenges of remote work can be compounded when you have to deal with difficult and sometimes uncomfortable work-related situations. But these are the realities of the workplace, whether we’re sharing a physical office or connecting from our homes. I hope the tips above help you see that with a high-quality collaboration solution, and by following good practices, you can effectively deal with these challenges.

 

 

 

 

Time-Saving Tips for Online Teaching

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.

Almost overnight, our teachers and professors became the students, many learning how to teach, connect, and collaborate online while working from home for the first time. Instead of carefully orchestrated schedules, educators now have much more freedom at their disposal. And a lot less structure.

Of course, online learning has been around for a while, but never delivered at scale, to every learner, with so little lead time. Pivoting from the classroom to the home office can result in poor time management, procrastination, and the overwhelming feeling of needing to be available 24/7.

If you – or a teacher friend – are still struggling to adjust to remote teaching, you might benefit from some time management lessons of your own.

Below are some tips that can help make your new online school environment a little more productive.

Set your space up for success

If you don’t already have one, create a quiet place where you can work with no distractions. Just like you tell your students, the more focused you can be, the less time it will take to get your work done. Organize your home office like your work environment – familiarity breeds efficiency. And make sure you have all the tech you need to be an effective remote instructor.

Do less

You’ll get a lot of cheers from your students for this one. Our world is changing, and our expectations need to change too. Off campus, your students may not have all the technology they need to engage in online learning. They may be responsible for taking care of siblings while their parents work. And they’re most likely dealing with feelings of shock, fear, and disappointment and cannot concentrate – or don’t care. So give everyone a break, including yourself, and lighten the load.

A little structure helps

Students still need a reliable weekly schedule as much as you do, just with lower expectations and fewer time commitments. They were used to regular class times, and you all will be more successful if you stick with a consistent flow and rhythm for the week. If you leave the schedule up to them, you probably won’t see positive results.

In uncertain times, predictability and structure help us all maintain some semblance of normalcy. With regular assignments, they’ll know when tasks are due and can plan their week accordingly. Of course, we’re also dealing with the emotional shock of a global pandemic, so empathy and flexibility are just as important as deadlines.

Manage your inbox

If you received a lot of emails before, your inbox is probably overflowing now. While email is a great way to stay connected with your students, it can quickly take over your waking hours. Establish email boundaries and communicate the specific times you’ll be checking and responding to emails each day.

Students also tend to email the same questions over and over. Instead of answering each email individually, send out group emails, or post Q&As to your online class discussion and chat boards. If it’s a complex question, answer it in your next video lesson.

Use the tools

Fortunately, we have technology and platform choices designed for this moment, making it easier for you to deliver quality online learning experiences while effectively managing your time. Learn and use the tools at your disposal. Get creative. In addition to live sessions, pre-record video lessons, share high-quality blogs, articles, and videos, or narrate your presentations and post those in advance. Our Online Learning Best Practices for Educators and Keeping Students Engaged in Online Learning blogs share tips and advice that can help make your online learning courses more successful.

Be a good host

Hosting regular and consistent virtual office hours adds more structure to your day and can lessen the number of emails you receive. You can also use this scheduled time to respond to emails and grade assignments or discussions if you have time before or after meeting with students.

Just say no

Don’t assign too much busywork. Your students don’t want to do it, and you don’t want to grade it.

Need more ideas?

We’re all struggling with this adjustment and the challenges, feelings, and limitations that come with it. Our Time Management Tips for Remote Workers blog has other ideas to help bring a little more balance to your day.

And finally…

Consider this a first draft

COVID-19 instantly created a paradigm shift for many industries, and it certainly illustrates the need for our education system to build new infrastructures and systems that can withstand the ebbs and flows of our changing world. As schools and universities adapt and develop their own digital competencies for the short-term response to the current crisis, we’re most likely witnessing an enduring digital transformation. So jump in head first, and while you are practicing the art of teaching, go easy on yourself and remember you are still learning, too.

We’d love to hear how you’re dealing with the transition, what tech tools are working best for you, and your thoughts about the fall semester, so share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.

Time Management Tips For Remote Workers

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 series offers helpful ideas and resources. Below is this week’s edition. Read all Together We Can posts.

Remember the good old days when working from home meant quiet, solitude, no interruptions, and serious focus time? When we could plow through what seemed like a week’s worth of work in a day? And get the house vacuumed, dinner made, and take a walk before the kids got home from school? Bliss.

It’s crazy that it was only a month ago. Now, working from home has taken on an entirely new dynamic. Lack of focus, plenty of distractions, the Groundhog Day effect, and general worry and anxiety. Many of us also now have little colleagues at home. Bored, antsy colleagues who need our attention and invade our workspace. All of a sudden, we’ve added in chef, teacher, art director, therapist, and negotiator to our regular jobs.

There are plenty of tips about good planning, structure, creativity, and flexibility that help us better manage our time and create environments that improve productivity and maintain family harmony. We share some helpful ideas below, and they all work well. Under normal circumstances.

But in our current new norm, following any one of these tips consistently is a challenge. Managing time is difficult right now because time itself is different right now. It’s like we’re slogging our way through quicksand, each day the same as yesterday. And sharing space with other family members is frustrating, perhaps even chaotic, when we’re mostly stuck in the house.

So, the best advice? Don’t aim for perfection. Or normalcy. It may not feel like it when you look at your Instagram feed, but we’re all struggling. We’re going to have good days, and we’re going to have not so good days. Every situation is unique, so pick one or two time management tips that will fit your current lifestyle. Take advantage of those moments of high productivity and when you just can’t focus, walk away. Like literally take a walk. Clean something. Play a game with your kids. Do push-ups. Just breathe and clear your head. It’s okay, we’ll get through this together.

Below are some ideas that may help you better manage your time and share your space while working from home.

Have a Conversation

If you haven’t already had a candid conversation with your manager, have one. Talk about your personal challenges and current work expectations, and then discuss creative and realistic solutions that will allow you to remain productive. This may mean some compromise on both your parts, including working non-traditional evening and weekend hours so you can spend time with your children during the day.

Be an early bird

Avoid the urge to sleep in. Set the alarm an hour or two earlier and get a jump on the day while the house is still quiet and before ‘school hours’ begin. If possible, let your kids sleep later than normal. Getting your most pressing projects completed in the early hours will make it easier for you to take a mid-morning break to help with schoolwork.

Commute to work

Start your day by walking around the block. It forces you out the front door, signaling to your brain that you are heading off to work. At the end of your workday, walk around the block again, but in the opposite direction. When you re-enter your home, you’ll feel like it’s the end of the day and time to ease into your normal evening routine. The fresh air and exercise is a bonus.

Create a schedule and a routine

Seems obvious, right? But setting and sticking to a schedule while working from home full time might be harder than you expected. Keep at it.  Just like your “commute,” a routine creates a start and stop time for your day, allows for breaks, and helps you reduce distractions and stress. It also helps with balancing work time and school time, as you may need to set aside complete blocks of time throughout the day to help with school work. And although they’ll deny it, your kids need routine too.

Make a list

Fight the urge to multi-task, which actually decreases productivity. Instead, at the end of each day, write down your five most important tasks for the next day and prioritize them. Then, when you start work in the morning, focus on the first task, and start crossing off your items. Try to stick to this and move any unfinished items to your next day’s list. This practice helps you to stop thinking about them, which will help you relax at the end of the day.

Set a timer

It’s easy to jump from task to task or stare mindlessly at the screen without accomplishing anything. It’s just as easy to walk away from your desk and get caught up in a personal project. Set a timer for 45 minutes for heads-down work and then reward yourself with a 15-minute break (or whatever schedule works best for you). Your focus will increase, you’ll feel less overwhelmed, and you’ll get a chance to rejuvenate. Our blog on Apps for Remote Work Productivity has some great suggestions for tools that will help you stay organized and on-task.

Turn off Wi-Fi. Hide your phone.

Seriously. It’s too easy to get distracted by emails, tweets, Facebook, and Instagram Posts, the latest COVID article, or your friend’s text messages. Obviously, you’ll need to get back online periodically to check in and connect, but if you manage your online time, your productivity will go through the roof.

Socialize

When you’re at the office, chatting with people happens naturally. When you’re working remotely, interactions with colleagues may be all work. Downtime is important, and social bonds improve productivity and well-being. So, it’s important to find the time – even if you have to schedule it – to keep personal relationships alive. Go for a walk and call a work friend, schedule a virtual lunch while your kids meet up over Minecraft. The quality and quantity of your work will improve if you make time to stay connected and have a little fun in the day.

Divide and conquer

If there are two adults in your home, divide the day into blocks so that each person has time to concentrate on work and time to help with schoolwork or play with the kids. If it’s just you at home and you need to oversee your children throughout the day, conquer your most critical projects when there is quiet time. Save tasks like answering emails for times when your children are playing or you’re watching TV and distractions are okay.

Define your workspace

Set up a dedicated workspace in your home to reduce distractions and maintain a work-life balance. Try to make this space off-limits to your kids unless there is an emergency or it’s a scheduled break time. Likewise, set up dedicated ‘school’ spaces and play spaces for your children. If they have a space of their own, they may be less likely to come into yours.

If you have to share a space, keep your area tidy and organized to maximize your effectiveness. Plan ahead and find ways to keep kids happily occupied when you are virtual meetings, allowing you to maintain a professional appearance – and your sanity.

Get with your manager asap if you still need tech to improve your remote work experience. Noise-canceling headphones are a great option to help you zone in, stay focused, and tune out playtime. Read our Ideas to Stay Positive and Productive blog for more inspiration on how to create an effective workspace.

And finally…

Resist the urge

Just because your computer is in the next room doesn’t mean you have to be on it. It’s 8:00 pm. Relax. Watch TV. Hang out with your family. Take a moment to celebrate your accomplishments for the day.

 

Something to Celebrate! Virtual Commencement and Remote Job Search Tips

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.

During these uncertain times, it’s heartwarming to lift our spirits with something to celebrate. While college seniors canceled internships and parties, and face a challenging job search, they don’t have to miss out on graduation. You can help them celebrate one of life’s most memorable milestones by hosting a virtual commencement.

See details below on how to host this remote event, along with tips to help seniors start a virtual job search after graduation.

Host a class of 2020 virtual commencement

Even with in-person events prohibited right now, you can still recognize your class of 2020 graduates’ hard work and commitment. Instead of canceling the commencement ceremony, deliver a virtual event that creates memories that will last a lifetime. To prepare for a remote celebration, review the 5 Keys to a Successful Virtual Event.

When you’re ready to get started with your virtual event production, choose an on-site location or a studio equipped to satisfy social distancing requirements. You’ll need cameras and microphones along with streaming and broadcasting technology. You can include a mix of live and recorded video in your virtual event to recognize graduates and awards, then present your guest and valedictorian commencement speeches.

No worries if you don’t have the in-house staff and technology you need to host a virtual commencement. The teams at AVI-SPL and our video production and broadcast arm VideoLink are ready to help you deliver a memorable experience for your class of 2020 graduates.

Three ways to help graduates start a virtual job search

After celebrating their virtual commencement, graduates must get down to the business of finding a job.  Follow these tips to support their remote job search in these uncertain times:

Promote your job placement programs

graduation tassel celebrates virtual commencement

Remind graduates of any job placement assistance your school provides. Promote your programs on your website and social media channels. Reach out to graduating seniors who opted-in to receive text messages or contact them via social media direct messaging or email.

Help seniors connect with counselors

Make sure seniors know how to contact job placement counselors who are working from home. Provide different ways to get in touch with staff, including mobile business numbers for calls and texts, email, and video conferencing appointments.

Remote meetings will also help graduates prepare for the next step in their job search, the virtual interview.

Share virtual interview tips

While students will connect virtually with prospective employers, the same guidelines apply as if they were meeting in person. Students should also take a few extra steps to ensure remote interviews go smoothly. Share these notes with your graduating class:

  • Prepare for the interview by researching the company and reviewing the job description. Have a few questions ready to ask the interviewer.
  • Know which meeting platform the prospective employee uses for meetings and test your device a few days before the interview to address any technical glitches. Know how to share your screen or documents. The interviewer may ask you to share your resume, your website, or your portfolio of work.
  • On meeting day, join the session a few minutes early. Don’t be late!
  • Wear earphones with a microphone or a headset to stay focused on the meeting.
  • Avoid the video freeze! Ask family and roommates to limit streaming movies and music, so your interview isn’t interrupted or stopped by a shaky Internet connection.
  • Find a quiet place with good lighting. Don’t sit with bright light behind you to avoid showing up in silhouette to your interviewer.
  • Turn off all mobile phone sounds, including your ringer and notifications. If you’re not using your phone for the interview, turn it off to avoid distractions.
  • As with in-person interviews, dress your best. Wear a complete interview outfit even though you may not be seen from the waist down. Looking your best can boost your confidence.
  • Send a thank you message in the meeting chatbox, then follow up with a thank you email too. To show your continued interest in the job, include a question about the company or position in your email.

After virtual commencement, prepare for summer and fall semesters

online learning tools

As graduates move on to their next steps, your educators must prepare for summer school and next semester. While teachers are headed back to campus, they may still be presenting virtual classes to remote students. Outfit your classrooms with online learning technology that’s easy to install and use, such as bundled lecture capture carts and room solutions.

Contact us now or call your local AVI-SPL office to learn more about hosting a virtual event. Pass on my virtual job search tips to your graduating seniors.

Don’t forget to check our Together We Can page for more online learning resources and weekly updates.