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Video conferencing is becoming an effective tool in the classroom. Being prepared to instruct virtual learning can be crucial.  Making sure you have an understanding of its benefits, restrictions, and how to utilize it, can help make your teaching experience easier.

Designing Instruction 

When designing instruction to be conveyed with distance learning, the instructor should focus attention on all students, not just those at the main site. Programs should incorporate a variety of activities for all students at the several sites. Lecturers should change instruction methods every 10-15 minutes. Use student presentations, small group activities, and an occasional break to add variety to the lesson.  Try switching from lectures, question and answers, or small group activity to keep the class engaged.

It is often a nice change to have guest speakers in the classroom. Include the distant sites and have the guest speaker at one or more of the sites. This will allow the students at the home site to see what it is like to have the teacher at another location, as well as encourage involvement of the distant students.

Establish Class Expectations

In the virtual learning classroom, it can be easy for students to expect the course to be more entertaining, not educational. Address this by demonstrating planned and focused presentations with emphasis on teacher-student interaction.

The instructor should initiate the course by preparing the students for an active experience. Interactive videoconferencing must have cooperation and communication. Let the Students know they can help make the class much more interesting by being actively involved.

Students should be aware from the first class that distractions will not be tolerated. It can be easy to lose control of a classroom that you are not actually present in. By asking questions and noting body language, instructors can determine the interest and comprehension of the students at all sites. This kind of attention will help all students focus and feel more comfortable. Using variety and interaction will minimize disruptions and keep the students involved in the course.

Training for Instructors 

It is important that the instructor knows how to use the video conferencing technology. Make sure to go through training for the conferencing tools you will be using. Students often get distracted when the instructor is constantly trying to get the equipment to work. Sometimes it is nice to designate a student at the other sites to help if there happens to be any problems. Make sure to be familiar with it, so you can instruct those students on how to operate the equipment.

Interactive video conferencing can be an effective instructional tool for distance learning. As with other technologies, its usefulness is directly related to the instructors understanding of its benefits, restrictions, and utilization strategies.

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