Distance learning programs have been around for years.  They’re a great way to extend a college or university’s reach to students who otherwise wouldn’t be able to attend. For example, moving across the country or sometimes even the state isn’t feasible. However, with distance learning programs, these students can attend classes from their home and receive their degree remotely.

Over the years the method of delivering distance learning programs has evolved significantly.  The first virtual classroom wasn’t much of a classroom at all. Professors would upload PowerPoint presentations with voice clips attached to each slide and students would listen to each session on their own time. To facilitate discussion, professors could pose questions on message boards and require students to post responses or comment on each other’s posts.  Unfortunately, these classes lacked the interactivity and group discussion typically found in a traditional classroom. Students were unable to ask questions or discuss topics in real time causing an isolated learning experience.

Then web conferencing solutions came along. These solutions allowed a presenter to share content (a presentation) and talk through the slides while participants joined the conference and followed along virtually. This allowed students to ask questions and participate in real-time, making the learning experience much more interactive. However, these solutions lacked the face-to-face interaction common in traditional classrooms which allows students to bond and develop relationships with each other; both of which are necessary to stimulate open discussion.

Eventually, video conferencing began to integrate into web conferencing solutions. Cloud-based virtual meeting rooms were also developed which provided a way for professors and students to interact face-to-face while simultaneously viewing the presentation. This created a more interactive learning environment and allowed a virtual classroom to more closely emulate a traditional classroom.  However, the ability break out into small groups during class or work on group projects still presented a challenge. These services were not scalable and it was cost prohibitive to give small groups of students their own room let alone give each student his or her own virtual meeting.

Acano, a visual collaboration technology that was recently introduced, overcomes these scalability barriers and allows virtual classrooms to truly rival a traditional classroom. Every distance learning student can receive their own account and licenses can be redistributed as students graduate or leave the program. Virtual meeting rooms can be set up for each class and students can be subscribed to the classes they are registered for.  Additionally, professors can set up separate rooms for breakout sessions then subscribe small groups of students.  A list of rooms that users are subscribed to is always available, allowing students and professors to easily switch between different classes and breakout groups.  As a result, distance learning students are able to listen to a lecture while simultaneously viewing the presentation, easily engaging and interacting with professors and their peers, as well as participating in both class and group discussions.

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Advancements in video conferencing technology have continued to propel its usage and adoption. Cost of ownership along with different interoperability barriers have decreased while ease of use and scalability have increased.  It’s no wonder that 76% of respondents in a recent survey conducted by Polycom and Redshift Research say they use video solutions at work today while 56% of those users participate in at least one call per week.

Video conferencing is quickly becoming the “go to” tool in business today. Check out the infographic below for other interesting facts from the survey including top dos and don’ts during video calls.

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Welcome to our bi-weekly recap of the week’s best articles surrounding collaboration.

1. Distance Education 2.0

The MOOC movement allows professors to reach anyone in the world with an internet connection through these online open courses. Specifically, China has put a focus on MOOC’s in order to try and improve their domestic education.

2. Taking Video Conferencing out of the boardroom

With mobile devices being used for video conferencing increasing over the last couple years, companies have been able to expand their video environment outside of the boardroom. This is due in part to the interoperability and decreased costs that mobile devices bring to the video conferencing industry.

3. Doctor Visit in the Palm of your hand

New technology allows mobile users to pay a fee to find a practitioner for an immediate live video visit. This can help increase access to doctors regardless of time or location.

4. The tricky balancing act of mobile security

As the demand for mobility and BYOD increases, the need for more advanced mobile security policies increases as well. The main challenge when creating these policies tends to be allowing employees the information that they need without compromising the data or infrastructure.

5. The many advantages of Video Interviews 

Both employers and job seekers can benefit from using video conferencing for interviews. This outlines the benefits for both parties as well as certain things to take in to consideration as the interviewee.

Part One and Part Two in this series focused on having a solid usage plan as well as properly preparing your network for mobile video. This last part focuses on adoption of mobile video and a positive end user experience. Usage, adoption, and positive experiences are paramount when rolling out a new technology. Having a clear program in place for those aspects helps to ensure adoption and a positive end user experience. This plan focuses on the following key areas:

  • Promotion
  • Training
  • Support
  • Tracking

All of these pieces go together to best create a usage and adoption plan. Starting with promoting the new technology is as important as tracking usage and user experience as an on-going process. Understanding all of the steps in this process will help to create an effective implementation as well as assist in ensuring a positive on-going experience.

Download our User Experience and Adoption Checklist to help you put a solid plan in place.

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5 Best Practices for Conducting a Video Call

Video conferencing has proven to be a great way to enhance collaboration and increase productivity. In the last few years, video has gained popularity due to technology advancements and ease of use improvements. That said, there are important user elements to keep in mind to ensure a successful video call.

Here are five best practices to keep in mind:

1. Lighting: Lighting is one of the most important aspects of a video call and bad lighting can take a good quality to poor quality very quickly. First, make sure there is enough light in the room. If dimly lit, turn more lights on or add a lamp to your workstation. Second, look at the direction of the light. If your lighting is coming from directly behind you, particularly from a window, then you are going to appear as a very dark shadow to the person you are speaking with. It would be best to move to where the window is not directly behind you, close the blinds, or try and counter the light with a lamp on you desk.. Lastly, overhead lighting can create a lot of shadows. Having a lamp pointing at you on your desk can help with creating the ideal lighting that is pointing towards you and illuminating the face.

2. Camera Angle: testing and adjusting your camera angle prior to the call is important in ensuring proper set-up. Using the self-view mode can help to give you a good idea of how you will appear to the participant on the other end of the call. If on a laptop, positioning your web cam at eye level is a good way to avoid awkward angles. If conducting a video call on a mobile device, keeping the device as steady as possible while also holding it out in front of you at eye level are very important. When using a room based system, zoom the camera to focus on the participants in the room while making sure that everyone on the call is in the frame.

3. Speaker/Volume: There are a few important aspects you want to pay attention to when it comes to speakers and volume while on a video call. First, test your speakers and audio prior to the call to ensure they are working properly. Second, using a headset can help with reducing outside noise, echo, and improving overall audio quality when using a laptop or mobile device for your video call. Lastly, if on a larger multiparty call, mute yourself when not speaking so as to avoid any added noise.

4. Eye contact/Multitasking: Often on video calls, people will look down to take notes or work on their computer. Try to look in to the camera while speaking and avoid looking down for long periods of time. Also, when sharing content, place the content on the same level as the camera so as to not appear you are looking away while presenting. Because eye contact is so important in a video call, try to avoid multi-tasking including checking email, looking at your phone, or even getting up. This can be very distracting for other parties on the call, and it can create the appearance that you are not actively participating in the call. Eliminating distractions in your environment can help with keeping you focused on the call at hand.

5. Bandwidth: Having adequate bandwidth is one of the most important elements when conducting a video call. Testing your video prior to a meeting helps to ensure you have adequate bandwidth for the call. Required network speeds for video conferencing vary depending on the solution. For example, consumer applications tend to require less bandwidth, whereas enterprise options can require more. Likewise, depending on the solution, multiparty calls can increase requirements as well.