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Best practices and tips for effective web conferences

Synchronous web conferences allow you to meet virtually with your students in real time. Although they are optional, web conferences can improve student outcomes by adding a personal presence and fostering a sense of community.

Here are some common types of web conference:

  • Lectures, presentations (instructor, student, guest speaker)
  • Demonstrations, walk-throughs, screen-sharing
  • Office hours, Q&A sessions

Before You Meet

  • Make sure your instructional goals are clear: What is the purpose of the conference? What do you want your students to take away from it? Plan for rich interactions and lively discussion (e.g. questions, polls, screen-sharing etc.).
  • Use a scheduling tool (e.g. Doodle) to find the best time for you and your students. This time will probably not work for everyone, but those who can’t attend can watch a recording of the conference later.
  • Provide students with instructions on “How to Enter an Adobe Connect Conference Room or Study Group” (e.g. in a course-wide announcement).
  • Plan to share with students UCLA Extension's phone number for technical support:
    (310) 206-4563; Toll-free: (866) 269-7289 (US only)

During the Conference

  • Consider using an ice breaker to make students feel comfortable and encourage them to turn their mics and webcams on. This could be a discussion question, short interactive poll, or a humorous anecdote.
  • Set clear guidelines for how students should interact with you and each other, pose questions, and request the floor – for example, by using the status icons (e.g. “Raise Hand”, “Speak Louder”, “Slow Down” etc.). Encourage students to interact frequently using the tools they’re most comfortable with. Remember that some students may prefer just to chat and not use their mic or webcam.
  • Keep an eye on the chat, but don’t let it interrupt the flow of your presentation, especially if you’re leading the conference alone. If you have a co-presenter or assistant, ask them to monitor the chat and field questions there. To avoid disruptions, you may also wish to set specific times for questions.
  • If you have slides, avoid reading from them directly; instead, use your slides as visual aids to guide your presentation.
  • Record the conference so students who were unable to participate in the live session can view it later.

Troubleshooting & Technical Support

  • Allow students to join 15 minutes early so there is time to verify microphones, speakers, and webcams are working well.
  • Check often that students can hear you and each other, and ask them to alert you if they cannot.
  • Remind students to keep background noise to a minimum and to mute their microphone when not speaking.

References

  1. Linda Macaulay and La Tonya Dyer. "Interactive Web Conferencing Brings Big Benefits to the Online Classroom". FacultyFocus.com. Nov. 14, 2011.
    Available at: https://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/teaching-with-technology-articles/interactive-web-conferencing-brings-big-benefits-to-the-online-classroom/
  2. Paula Jones, MaryAnn Kolloff and Fred Kolloff. "Best Practices to Promote Learning Through Web Conferencing: Resources, Tools and Teaching Methods", 17th Annual Sloan Consortium: International Conference on Online Learning (2011)
    Available at: http://works.bepress.com/paula_jones/6/
     
     

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