Operational Issues

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This year began with quite a challenge for us at Annesbrook Leadership College. We launched a small campus in Pukekohe, Auckland but had no available local tutor. This meant we had to source an effective solution to teach those learners from our classrooms in Nelson via the internet. The major issue here was that we had no budget for video conferencing hardware and none of us on staff had ever used anything other than Skype before.

Having researched a variety of options, we decided to try Zoom (www.zoom.us) for these reasons:

  • It was free for our students to download
  • It can be used across all devices (PC, tablet, smartphone)
  • It operates on all platforms (Windows, Mac, iOS, Android)
  • We didn’t need to buy new hardware as we could use our own laptops.
  • It is really cost effective for one Pro license

The result has been excellent. We did have some teething issues to begin with around sound and integrating the remote students with the students in the classroom, however it only took us two sessions to resolve this and it is now working really well. One of the major benefits to the students is they can log in from home if they cannot get to class, which has been a wonderful solution to two of our learners who have babies. Another great feature is the recording function. We can record the classes and upload the video, or audio only file for students to watch/listen again.

Q&A

Q: I have been asked the question “how did you find interaction with the remote participants?” after posting this blog.

A: Initially it was a bit awkward. We have four learners in one room in Auckland each with their own laptop. When they turned their microphones on at the same time there was a lot of feedback at both campuses. The learners very quickly adapted to muting their mic’s and then turning them on when required to speak, but only one can speak at a time. The tutors in Nelson had to allow for the delay of switching mic’s when questions were asked. After the first two sessions it became quite easy.

Zoom also has a function called ‘break out rooms’ which has enabled us to engage in collaborative exercises between campuses. We can split the participants into separate online meeting rooms in groups to work through activities. One room might have students from Wellington, Nelson, Christchurch, Timaru and Auckland. Without this technology, they would only be able to work with the students in their own physical location.

 

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