To say the pandemic popularized videoconferencing in education is only partly true. Thankfully, the network infrastructure that made it possible for students to keep learning through COVID-19 was available before the first infections broke out.
Granted, the global shutdown did accelerate the adoption of videoconferencing in education circles. Videoconferencing company Zoom reported that around 90,000 schools across 20 countries adopted the technology during the first weeks of the pandemic. Along with videoconferencing came a host of unprepared educators and unanticipated problems.
Teachers saved the day
As confusion marked the first few weeks of the transition from in-person to remote learning, teachers bore the brunt of the responsibilities. Almost overnight, instructors scrambled to reconfigure their lesson plans. At the same time, they had to immerse themselves in learning the technology needed to conduct online classes. Finally, they had to make space for a makeshift videoconferencing studio within their homes. Despite the challenges and pressing timetables, most teachers managed to pull it off.
That’s not to say everything went off without a hitch. Obviously, digital classrooms favored homes with strong internet connections. This left those without consistent access lagging–literally. In addition, less affluent school districts had to ask students and teachers to “bring your own devices” to connect. Teachers struggled with connectivity and technical issues, often wasting precious class time setting up and troubleshooting devices. They had to work double-time to work the controls while trying to manage restless students through a screen.
As the pandemic winds down and schools reopen, the verdict is still out on where schools will go from here. Some things did become certain, though. For one, a hybrid learning system will play a bigger role in school moving forward. We also learned that–despite its challenges–videoconferencing in education does have merit.
How to improve videoconferencing
The biggest issue with videoconferencing software is that it usually comes as a separate product. This means that teachers will need to launch and operate at least two other software platforms to successfully conduct a class session. At the very least, the class will need both a content management system and classroom management software to function optimally. The former deals with the storage and distribution of the school’s learning materials and school and student documents. It holds lesson modules, quizzes, examinations, and student files. The latter software deals with keeping students focused during lessons and ensuring only authorized educational materials show up onscreen.
Videoconferencing in education will also need a few more tweaks. Guaranteeing that only students can connect to the conference and network remains a shared responsibility. However, enhancing security measures can help reduce or eliminate the risk of individuals “zoom bombing” online classes.
Teachers who act as videoconference hosts should have the mechanisms to assist students who have trouble keeping up. A normal videoconference setup includes displaying all participants in a group session for the duration of the call. However, there are instances when students can benefit from a private coaching session during online classes.
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Finally, there should be a way to better manage students’ behavior during sessions. Teachers should have the ability to monitor individual students’ devices to check if they’re paying attention. Improving classroom management can include taking over a student’s device, locking unproductive apps, or restricting browsing activity.
Instead of having teachers juggle between three or more software when teaching, why not provide an integrated teaching solution? Software that combines the features and benefits of videoconferencing, learning management, and classroom management give teachers better control.
Hybrid classes are happening
The era of hybrid learning is already here. Schools now have a system so students can attend classes even when circumstances prevent them from doing so in person. This doesn’t refer to just COVID-19 concerns or diagnoses. Students who are unable to physically report for classes–whether that be due to illness, injury or inclement weather–can still join their classmates with just a few clicks.
This integration solution can help boost students’ attendance rates by giving them options to remotely join classes. In addition, it also helps school districts utilize their investments in education technology beyond the pandemic. You know it as well as we do, life is full of a million moving parts. One of them going haywire shouldn’t keep kids from their friends, teachers, and the structure school provides. Parents will be grateful for the opportunity to keep their children where they belong–in class.
Effective educational technology software is the key to implementing a well-rounded approach in hybrid learning. Videoconferencing in education already proved itself indispensable when communicating remotely with students. The same goes for learning management systems and classroom management software. However, acquiring these components separately can prove counterproductive for both teachers and students. Juggling all three software at once eats up more time and effort than teachers have to give. As frustrating as this is for educators, it’s ultimately the students who suffer most.
The next level of hybrid learning should feature seamless integration between videoconferencing, learning management, and classroom management. A single, all-in-one solution that combines all three software can prove to be a wise, worthwhile investment. Whether the pandemic lingers a bit longer or the norm of in-person learning resumes, schools with robust virtual classrooms are prepared for whatever the future may hold.
Nadav Avni is CMO of Radix Technologies.