Planning for Videoconferencing


How Do You Plan for Internet Videoconferencing?

When planning for your videoconferences there are many things to consider. Less formal conferences can be spontaneous and they can be used to help you and students hone your skills with this medium. However, when you decide to include students in a videoconference with multiple sites in a more formal videoconference, the planning becomes more crucial in order to ensure that the end result will be an organized and educationally sound experience for all involved. I have tried to include some of the most important aspects I have found that should be taken into account in the sections which follow.

Effective Preplanning
Planning
Conference Facilitation
Conference Evaluation

(Be sure to check out the Archive of Conferences below for sample agendas and conference summaries.)

Effective Preplanning

Find a date and time for all locations to to meet.

Find a reflector or conference server to use and reserve it for your conference.
  • If your conference will be between multiple sites you will need to find a reflector or conference server to use for the conference. Point-to-point videoconferences between two sites do not require the use of a reflector. Booking a reflector site well in advance and trying to find a back up site is a good idea. There are many reflector sites operating however not all permit private conferencing or cater to education groups. So try to scout around and have a list of those which might be available for your use. The reflector's site manager will reserve the date and time you request and assign an ID number to your conference if needed. When a conference ID is used, then only the guests you give the ID number to will be able to log on at the designated date and time. The Global SchoolNet Foundation's educational reflector at 199.106.67.100 (video.GSN.org) can be reserved by filling in an on-line form. Other reflectors you might be able to secure can be found on links listed on the resources page of this article.

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Planning Videoconference Content

To have an effective conference you need to focus on the educational objectives or goals for the conference.

  • Use your curriculum, text books and state/local standards to guide your plan. Set up learner outcomes based on curriculum objectives.

  • Videoconferencing activities should enhance, not just replace your previous lessons on the topic. Some activities can be done better through this medium. Plus, videoconferencing does allow interaction and collaboration with others, regardless of their location. So videoconferencing is well suited for project based learning or research activities which may involve multiple conferences between groups.
Plan for the activities and participants.
  • Set up a tentative agenda based on the curriculum content and desired learner outcomes. Videoconferencing can be used for a variety of purposes and the agenda format you decide upon as well as the number of participants may be determined in part by the overall conference goal. You may decide to have a series of planning and sharing conferences to support a collaborative research project or a single conference to share a special guest expert.

  • Determine if a guest speaker or expert can be included. This should be done well in advance of the conference date.

  • Send out email invitations to the school sites you want to join you. If you do not have schools that you normally conference with check one of the on-line lists which can put you in touch with educators wanting to participate in videoconferencing. (See Sites to Help You Connect to Other Educators on the resource page.) Within the invitation you should include a clear plan for what the conference hopes to address and a tentative agenda. Teachers at the other sites will be better able to decide if their students might profit from attending if they know the expectations. Be sure to indicate a date by which you need a response.

  • Think of a variety of ways to involve participants in the conference interaction. Assigning tasks/presentations which will be done during the conference session and eliciting questions which sites want to have answered are two ways to ensure participation.

  • Develop a guidesheet for use in note taking, or provide students with a list of things they need to find out during the session. This will help keep them engaged during the times when they should be listening and will provide a way to follow up on the session.

  • Once you know who the other participants will be invite them to participate with you in the final planning and activities. A team approach will help make the experience richer for all as educators at each site add ideas/activities to meet the needs of their students. Working with teachers at other sites in a team approach will also help ensure that they will be vested participants not just casual partakers.

Many people want to help in the schools and just do not know how or where to offer their services. By putting out a request to your school community you might find many parents who have expertise or know someone who might be able to offer just the type of information you are seeking. Look around at local businesses/attractions, TV personalities or local politicians to decide if they might be able to offer assistance and then ask if they can participate. Having a clear plan for what you hope to accomplish during the videoconference will help you present your request in a good light. When you invite guests to be part of your conference be sure that you explain the expectations that you have in regard to their participation. (See Tips for CU-SeeMe Guests below.) Some businesses have conferencing capabilities at the work place and can join you on-line from their location. Others may prefer to come to your school and make it a more personal experience for the students at that site.

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Planning for Facilitation