Technology is changing the way we live and operate not only in the company boardroom, but also in the classroom. Virtual Conferencing can be used to communicate with military parents across the globe and with other children across the country.
So how does a teacher setup virtual conferencing classroom style? There are thousands of virtual conferencing software programs available. Schools should review their specific needs with the software's features before selecting virtual conferencing software. Most times an IT manager will be the one selecting the software for the classrooms.
The next thing you'll need to consider is the hardware needed to do virtual conferencing in the classroom. Some schools and classrooms are lucky enough to have a SmartBoard. If your classroom has this wonderful piece of equipment, the virtual conference may simply be shown on the SmartBoard with no other equipment needed.
If your classroom does not have a SmartBoard, you'll need to have a computer with speakers and a projector. Unless the class has a small number of students, crowding around one small computer will not make for an effective virtual conference.
WebCams are optional when it comes to virtual conferencing. However, if the virtual conference will be interactive; a web camera would help with the interaction. WebCams may be picked up at any electronics store for as little as $20.00. Again, you'll want to work with the IT manager to select an appropriate camera that is compatible with the software as well as your school's hardware.
Virtual conferencing may also be called web conferencing. With that in mind, here is a list of virtual conferencing software programs as well as some of the features available within each of them.
WebEx combines sharing the desktop through a web browser in combination with phone conferencing. In this case, the classroom would need to have a phone with loud enough speakers for all students to hear the conference. If the computer in the classroom has audio capability, the computer may be used for the audio.
WebEx provides recording of the audio and video. This is important if the teacher would like to replay the video conference for any students that were out sick or for any other reason.
WebEx, like many online virtual conferencing software companies, charges on a monthly usage fee. Work with your school's IT manager to find the best package for your school. Prices start at $49.00 per month.
GoToMeeting allows the presenter, or the person setting up the virtual conference, to select the level of sharing. This means the presenter or teacher is able to share his or her entire desktop or share only a single application.
Just like WebEx, GoToMeeting provides the audio via phone or computer. The benefit of both of these is that if you have a student that is unable to make it to the classroom, maybe he or she is sick, then they could viably call in from their home phone and become part of the conference.
Also similar to WebEx, GoToMeeting provides a recording and replay option and charges a monthly usage fee.
Virtual Conferencing Online
Virtual Conference Online is yet another web conferencing software that allows users most of the same features as the two listed above. The monthly cost of Virtual Conference Online is $44.95.
While each of these programs are very similar, it really will come down to the school's IT department's decision, along with the budget allowed.
The wonderful thing about virtual conferencing is that with any software you decide, teaching and interacting with students and other organizations around the world is now easier than ever. Once you do virtual conferencing, classroom online teaching may even become more personable!