Video Conferencing (VC) is a relatively new tool for both teachers and students at OneSchool Australia and is here to stay. Traditional face-to-face teaching is still an important element of any student’s educational experience, but with the advent of technology, new methodologies are always emerging.
Jenna Connell is the site Coordinator of Gnowangerup Site (Southern Campus) at Woodthorpe, and knows that while there are challenges, there are plenty of positives, too.
“Some challenges that may arise [from VC] are students being wary of asking questions in front of their peers and the difficulty of giving students specific, ongoing and timely informative feedback,” says Jenna. “These challenges can be overcome by creatively thinking of ways to check in with students throughout lessons, visiting students at their home campuses to develop rapport, and utilising an effective online Learning Management System such as Canvas.”
One of the key benefits of this type of VC is that distance is no longer an issue. In a country as vast as Australia, with many of its residents scattered in remote and rural areas, VC not only allows teachers to interact with students, but students can interact with each other.
“There are many significant benefits for students who engage in VC courses, especially those in rural areas,” says Jenna. “These specific students have more options when it comes to course selection and choosing subjects that suit them as an individual. During VC classes, students have the opportunity to learn from one another and engage in activities that provide cooperative learning experiences.”
What about as a teaching tool? Is one system better than the other – face-to-face or VC?
“As a teacher who teaches both VC courses and more traditional face-to-face subjects, I feel strongly that cooperative learning activities and engaging lessons significantly enrich the education of many of the students I work with,” says Jenna. “Without the VC subjects to bring together small classes, I feel they would not be as exposed to each other’s terrific ideas, hear other’s questions, or have the encouragement and support of their peers.”
As for how students find the experience, Jenna believes that their initial reaction is one of apprehension, but it’s not too long before they embrace VC and what it has to offer.
“I believe that many of them initially find it both exciting and nerve-wracking when it comes to asking questions,” she says. “I believe that most students overcome this apprehension after the teacher works hard to provide a safe, judgement-free learning environment. Those who still feel uncomfortable have many other ways to ask questions such as the Learning Management System the school uses, email, phone, or a separate VC tutoring session. It is also important that especially in the younger years, the teacher explicitly helps the students to develop organisation strategies as they may not see their teacher as often throughout the week. The students do really seem to look forward to seeing their friends and family members from across the state and engage in conversation throughout lessons as they may be interested in what each other is researching for their project. "
What about advice to teachers who might be thinking about using VC as a teaching tool, but are a little reluctant to do so?
“Although VC teaching can have its challenges such as the additional time it may take to cover content and to maintain timely communication with students, it is still very possible for teachers to create engaging lessons in which students can both learn from and get excited about,” says Jenna.
And while we are living in the 21st Century, Jenna has one final piece of advice when it comes to VC being utilised as a teaching tool. “It is important for teachers to have a backup plan for lessons in case technology issues arise!”