Category Video Conferencing

The Top 10 Reasons Why I Think AVI-SPL Symphony Is the Best

Over the past few years, I have seen the benefit that AVI-SPL Symphony has provided to my clients.  While I am convinced that Symphony is the best thing to happen to collaboration technology since the Bluetooth headset, I am often having conversations where people ask me about the one, singular reason why they should choose Symphony.  This is a hard question, because there are just so many ways that Symphony can provide real benefit to their organization.  Rather than select one, I have decided that there are 10:

  1. Gain enterprise-wide insight into rooms and technology usage with analytics. The heat map of the most popular days and times, along with most popular spaces and technologies always catches my eye.
  2. Automate daily room sweeps to proactively see technology issues before they become end-user complaints and thus avoid meeting impact.
  3. Integrate with your existing ticketing and scheduling – it’s your solutions talking to each other
  4. Provide your users a concierge experience, with VIP features and conference producers providing meet & greet and live meeting monitoring.
  5. Customize meeting, device, and incident reporting, providing data- driven continuous service improvement plans with the ability to compare locations, dates, and technologies.
  6. See all of your devices in one portal. Track and report software versions, warranty, lease and service expiration dates, and other relevant info to improve lifecycle management.
  7. The Symphony Adapter Marketplace enables native monitoring and control of any device or application, enabling any device or application to become part of the Symphony environment.
  8. Proactively find and fix trouble spots. Monitor for developing issues, remotely troubleshoot current issues, and create reports to show improved ticket closures.
  9. Room-based subscription models make it easy to scale Symphony. Management is simple with your team or ours.
  10. Never run into a question you cannot answer. Customized reporting with graphical views make it easy to find and interpret the information you need.

Interested in getting a demo of the application that does all of these?  Contact AVI-SPL today.

 

Today’s post comes from Christina Murgo, the service account manager for the central region.  With a wide background in the AV and UCC industries, Christina designs service applications to enable any organization to meet and exceed their business goals.

 

 

 

 

 

Higher Ed Collaboration Tech: Positive Effects of the COVID-19 Response

Now that educators and students have worked from home for a few months, the focus is shifting to planning for summer and fall semesters. Some colleges like Boston, Purdue, and Brown Universities, discussed plans to carefully reopen this fall, while others have delayed welcoming students back to campus until 2021. Many organizations are also taking a “wait and see” approach until at least June 2020 before choosing a back-to-campus date.

Regardless of the opening date, social distancing and full-time online learning will be long-term, if not permanent, solutions that began as responses to COVID-19. After making the best of a sudden, fully-remote learning experience, administrators can now reassess their digital classroom needs. You can evaluate technology for continued use to deliver effective online education. Here’s a look at how new and upgraded collaboration solutions launched during the COVID-19 response can produce positive long-term effects.

Summer bridging

Schools and students that had a learning curve, or still need to deliver interactive classes such as labs, may need to play catch-up. The summer semester could be used to bridge this gap to prepare students for the fall semester. Educators may return to campus over the summer months, using collaboration technology solutions such as lecture capture carts to deliver digital classes to remote students. Helping online learners stay current with coursework can help retain students into the fall semester. 

Remote collaboration solutions move on campus

The time spent learning to use new collaboration software at home can produce a return when your students are back on campus as well. Implemented solutions such as Microsoft Teams can:

  • Augment in-person classes by facilitating communication, group projects, and class assignments
  • Increase student participation beyond classroom hours
  • Save time for teachers and students with online delivery of assignments, class notes, and research papers
  • Allow students to work together anytime, anywhere, even when social distancing requirements keep them from gathering in groups

Here’s a video that shares Microsoft Teams best practices for educators:

Upgraded Collaboration Tech Cleaning and Sanitizing Processes

COVID-19 made us aware of how much we touch things like our phones, remote controls, and touch screens. Part of the pandemic response was for everyone to upgrade their cleaning habits. Deep cleaning and sanitizing routines should extend to shared collaboration tech in classrooms and conference spaces too. Check out detailed cleaning tips from AVI-SPL and device manufacturers in this blog.

Communicating your new cleaning regimen to new and returning students can help them feel more at ease when visiting or moving into dorms.

Enhance Existing Online Learning Programs

Many schools offered online learning programs before COVID-19. Lessons learned from suddenly delivering every class online can be used to enhance legacy virtual programs. Several solutions and apps may have been used to deliver courses immediately. Take the time now to review feedback from educators and students.

Discuss what worked well, and which solutions posed the most challenges. Create a list of technology best practices and roll them out across your online learning curriculum.

Boost fiscal recovery

COVID-19’s financial toll on higher ed organizations is estimated in millions of dollars per school. Consider that leveraging collaboration tech to offer additional virtual classes could play a role in colleges’ economic recovery. If your school hasn’t explored offering full-time online degree programs, consider doing it now. Online classes expand enrollment options for more students since:

  • Geography is no longer a barrier to attend classes
  • Online learning is often a more affordable option than living on campus
  • Virtual courses offer scheduling flexibility, which helps working students, and those with families, attend more classes

Accept international students now

International students can benefit from your virtual classrooms too. Students traveling from abroad to move on campuses this fall could face challenges if embassies and consulates remain closed for an extended period, or your school will not reopen this year.

Instead of losing these students and tuition revenue, open your virtual classrooms as a temporary solution. Online courses could bridge the gap between the start of the semester, and the point when students from other countries can safely join school populations.

Next Steps

While the financial toll is extensive, and students lost the intimate experience of living and attending classes on campus, online learning solutions have allowed colleges to deliver quality education during these unprecedented times. Leverage the investment your school made in online learning. Review ongoing virtual classroom opportunities to drive additional enrollment and revenue now.

Don’t forget, the AVI-SPL team is here to help if you need assistance evaluating or upgrading your online learning collaboration tech. Contact us online or call your local office.

Clean and Assured: Getting Your Tech Ready for Back to Work

Without a doubt, the COVID-19 pandemic is changing how we interact with each other and our surroundings, and the world of work will never be the same again. While some companies are declaring that they won’t reopen their doors until 2021, many will gradually begin the process of allowing staff back into the office when stay-at-home restrictions are lifted.

Employers need to start taking operational steps to promote the health and safety practices dictated by law and good sense – and provide assurance that their workplaces are clean. Touch screens and other audio-visual equipment are almost everywhere – work, home, schools, retail, public spaces, and government offices. Getting technology clean and ready will be an important part of this planning.

Here are a few recommendations to help you get your technology ready for when you reopen your doors – and beyond.

Schedule preventative maintenance before employees return to work

The first thing you can do is schedule service calls now, while your office is still empty to ensure your equipment is functional, clean, and safe. Network changes, equipment auto-updates, and systems repairs make a significant impact on the functionality of your systems. If equipment needs repair or replacement, extended lead times can seriously impact the productivity of your teams as they return.

AVI-SPL has several preventative maintenance options, so check one more thing off your list and schedule a service call today. While at your office, our team will adhere to any site-specific or client-specific requirements, in addition to CDC recommendations on social distancing, hygiene, and personal protective equipment (PPE) protocols.

Deep clean and sanitize

All businesses will certainly need to develop policies, standards, and schedules for the deep cleaning and disinfecting of common areas, surfaces, and individual spaces, and your technology should be a part of this plan. Refer to the Guidance for Cleaning and Disinfecting issued by the CDC to inform and develop your plan and best practices for preparing and maintaining your workspaces.

However, these guidelines don’t provide instructions on how to clean and sanitize technology according to the manufacturer’s best practices. Assure your workforce that the technology they are reliant on is safe, clean, and sanitized. Add our cleaning option to a new or existing preventative maintenance check to ensure your equipment is clean per manufacturer specification.

Routine cleaning

You’ll also want to set up guidelines and protocols for shared electronics—such as tablets, touchscreens, keyboards, and other accessories. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that you clean and disinfect high-use devices and surfaces with a solution of 70% medicinal isopropyl alcohol and 30% water (70:30).

But be aware, most manufacturer’s recommendations for the medicinal isopropyl alcohol and water solution vary by product, depending on the materials that make up the product. Protect your investment and refer to the following guidelines for best practices from manufacturers:

Reference and post the guidelines established by the manufacturer to ensure that everyone uses the proper solutions for your devices. It’s also important to have all the recommended supplies readily and visibly available, so cleaning can occur after each use.

Personal devices and potential contamination

For phones (desk, conference, and smartphones), keyboards, and most other accessories, the cleaning part is relatively simple – it’s safe to use approved disinfectant wipes and cleaning solutions with microfiber cloths. Remember to spray the solution on the cloth, not directly on the device.

But here’s where things get tricky; we’re just not used to cleaning our devices, particularly our phones, as frequently as we should. As soon as we use a personal device and then touch a shared space or surface, the potential of contamination is there. So how often is enough? This is definitely unchartered territory, and you’ll need to figure out the best policy for your business and then over-communicate your established protocol with your employees.

Your health and safety are important to us, and keeping devices clean, especially those in high-traffic environments and high-use applications, is a crucial step in minimizing the spread of infections.

If you have any questions about getting your meeting room tech ready for everyone to return to work, contact us now or call your local AVI-SPL office. We’re here to help.

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.