I am a singularly lucky man, with regards to my career, in that it is quite varied. When I’m not writing about any number of topics, or working on something related to the pharmaceutical industry, I tutor and teach people. I teach a number of subjects, but predominantly, I teach English as a second language to Arabic speakers, and I teach Arabic as a second language to English speakers.
Often, I have taught people on the other side of the world via video conferencing software. I’ve taught people using a video call online long before the COVID-19 crisis. Which means I missed quite a few amazing features which could have helped me improve the lesson experience I offered my students.
The reason I missed some of these features is because the COVID-19 crisis brought some amazing video conferencing features to mainstream attention. Many of the commonly available virtual meeting solutions before the COVID-19 crisis lacked these features and while these features may have existed in some form or another before the aforementioned crisis, the world undergoing said crisis increased the market’s demand for these features. It was then that I realised exactly which features with the potential to improve my online lessons had been missing. Let me tell you a little bit about some of them.
When you use a quality video call solution (like any of Banty’s solutions), screen sharing during a video call feels like an everyday occurrence. But really, the vast majority of mainstream video calling services never offered screen sharing before the COVID-19 crisis. In fact, many of them still don’t. And that’s okay. Not every video calling solution was designed to do it all. But when it comes to teaching, screen sharing features in general are invaluable. Screen sharing a window in particular is a great asset. You can share a diagram with your students from any image file or format your device is equipped to read, zoom in on the parts you want them to focus on, and even label parts of the diagram in real time with them.
More than that, you can share a PDF or PowerPoint Slideshow, without the need to use a remote projector on their ends. In this way, you can deliver an entire tutorial, lesson or lecture to your students whilst simultaneously viewing the same material as them, instead of telling them to “go to slide 8” or “page 26” and verbally directing them as to what you’re talking about on each slide or page. You can read and highlight entire sections in real time on your screen as well as theirs and ask individual students questions about parts of the text you know they’re looking at correctly.
Virtual learning over video calling bears many similarities to learning in a physical classroom. Students are going to want to ask questions. During a lesson in a physical classroom, a student will typically raise their hand in order to make a point or address the instructor. This is meant to prevent disorderly and unproductive conversation, in case multiple students wish to speak. During a video conference you may still physically raise your hand, but if there are many students in the video call then their portion of your screen might be too small for you to notice their raised hands in a timely manner, which can be frustrating for any students who wish to speak but are never provided with the opportunity to do so.
To deal with this issue, a number of video calling solutions now offer participants the option to “raise their hands” digitally. To indicate they wish to speak next by the simple push of a button, which marks their video feeds during the virtual meeting. In a teaching environment, this is an ideal feature. A mark on one of my students’ video feeds makes me more likely to notice that they’d like to speak and so more likely to respond in a timely manner. This also means that this feature reduces the possibility of disorderly shouting out of answers by students and such. Students who do not exceed a certain level of frustration with how they are taught are more likely to choose to return to their virtual lessons for elearning.
This particular feature is even less common than regular screen sharing. All of Banty’s subscription solutions offer the opportunity for all participants of the same video call to watch a YouTube video simultaneously without a lag caused by starting delays, which is an excellent function for virtual lessons. While this is technically a function of screen sharing, it is advanced enough to be considered a feature on its own. There are a number of usefully educational videos for most subjects available on YouTube. The videos which are not available can be personally uploaded by yourself, provided you can source them.
When teaching students languages during a video conference, I personally like to use YouTube to show them examples of advanced oration, poetry and linguistic performance. For example, one of my favourite clips to show students who have sufficiently advanced in learning English as a second language, is the clip during which Al Pacino delivers himself of a diatribe in the feature film “Scent of a Woman.” There are countless other such examples. Sharing a YouTube video simultaneously with the entire virtual class makes demonstrations of this nature easier, whether you’re showing short clips or full documentaries.
These are just a few of the features I missed when I taught virtual elearning classes using video calls in the past. If you virtually teach classes regularly over a video call and you feel like you’re missing features like that with your usual teaching medium, it might be worth considering the options Banty can offer you.