Videoconferencing

Introduction for Instructors

Welcome to videoconferencing at College of the Siskiyous. This document will introduce you to the basics of videoconferencing and include instructions and procedures specific to COS.

Videoconferencing, also known as video teleconferencing, compressed video, or two-way, interactive video, is a means of sending large quantities of information back and forth on high-speed, high-capacity phone lines or over specially-designed networks. The result is real-time, interactive "TV" that can be used to teach classes and hold meetings.

Classroom Equipment

You will be teaching in one of two classrooms, DLC 3 or DLC 8, both of which are in the new Distance Learning Center. Each classroom has an instructor podium set up with the same equipment, so once you are familiar with one classroom, the other functions virtually the same. Each podium contains a built-in Crestron panel that controls all the functions in the classroom, from lighting and shades to presentation sources and camera views.

A computer is integrated with a SMART Sympodium, allowing you to show your class anything you can bring up on your computer. Additionally, the SMART technology lets you write notes for your class and save them as HTML or PDF files for sending to students or posting on a website. This interface also lets you annotate over anything else shown on the computer screen, including websites, a PowerPoint presentation, etc.

Two small preview monitors let you see what you are showing on the VCR or DVD players before you show them to the class. The VCR selection also can show whatever signal is coming through the campus closed circuit TV system (usually set on CNN news) or from CCCSAT, the California Community College Satellite Network.

The document camera is another way of showing notes, photos, or 3-D objects to a local or distant class. The preview monitor on the right (for DVD) can preview the document camera if "Video 2" is selected.

The projection unit mounted on the ceiling shows whatever source is currently selected on the projection screen at the front of the room. Press "Power / Projector On" to turn the projector on. It will need a few seconds to warm up and will show a countdown image on the screen as it warms up. When you select "Power / Projector Off," you must also press the button in the middle of the screen labeled "Power Down System." When you see and hear the projection screen roll up, you will know the projector has been powered down correctly.

Plasma Screens and TV monitors - A large plasma screen at the back of each room will show the site(s) you are videoconferencing with, for use by the instructor. At the front of the room, a plasma screen (in DLC 8) or TV monitor (DLC 3) will show this view for students. When conducting a videoconference, the site where you are is called the "near end." All other sites are referred to as "far end" sites. For someone at another location, their own site is their "near end."

Cameras are mounted at the front and back of each room for views of the instructor and class, respectively. These are very versatile and fragile devices that can pan, tilt, and zoom to show many views of the room. Please do not touch these cameras or move them by hand and instruct your students to do the same. Four "presets" for each camera can be set at the Crestron panel. This makes it easy to go from one view to another without waiting for the camera to pan across the room, for example. Please check with a staff person for instructions on setting new camera presets.

Networked printers are located in the podium in DLC 3 and in the hallway right outside of DLC 8.

Microphones and speakers are built into the ceilings of DLC 3 and DLC 8. Anytime the system is turned on, these mics will pick up what is being said in the classroom. In addition handheld and lapel mics are available if the far end sites are having trouble hearing what is being said.

Hearing assistance devices are available in DLC 7. These work any time the system is turned on. Transmitters for these devices can be seen on the ceiling in the classrooms.

Support Room Equipment

In the backroom, DLC 7, is all the equipment that controls the "traffic" for your videoconference. Each classroom is connected to a video codec, the "brains" of the video unit, similar to a computer CPU. These, in turn, are connected into a video "bridge" or MCU (multipoint conferencing unit), which enables each classroom to connect to more than one remote location at a time. Staff can schedule and monitor conferences through a web interface. A console houses the video codecs and other switching, recording, and monitoring equipment. Most signals from any type of device can be routed through this area and sent to the classroom, so please ask if you are interested in making a presentation to your class from media presentation equipment not found in the classroom.

Procedures at COS

When you sign up to teach a videoconferenced class at the College, the support staff will be in touch with you to conduct training in the classroom. They will enter all of your class times into the video scheduler for the entire semester. Our standard method for scheduling brings the conference up 15 minutes before class time (or less, if scheduling does not permit the longer time) to allow for checking audio and video and troubleshooting any problems. It brings the conference down at the time class ends, though we schedule 5-10 minutes past class ending time to avoid your class being cut off abruptly. Please let the staff person know as soon as possible if you would like to regularly schedule additional time for your students. Any individual conference can be extended and other conferences added as long as the room and equipment are free and a staff person is available. Be sure to confirm your final exam time with the scheduler, so it can be added.

Any time a conference is in progress, there will be a staff person on duty to resolve technical issues and answer any questions you may have. The staff person can also support you in other ways, which may include: e-mailing or faxing documents to the other location(s); photocopying items you discover you need during the class session; passing out or collecting assignments; or proctoring exams if you are teaching from Yreka or another location.

Tips for a Successful Conference

 The most important thing you can do is involve your students in the class. If at all possible, plan to teach from different locations during the semester so students at each site can get to know you face-to-face and you to know them. It is much easier interacting with a real person you have met than with a face on a TV screen.

 A "head shot" is best for helping students feel involved in your teaching. Prepare a camera preset that shows head and shoulders and doesn't leave much space between the top of your head and the top of the frame. If you want to create an even stronger sense that you are listening to a student at the other end, move in closer. Be sure your students usually see your face, not the side of your head, as you teach.

 While you want your students to see you well, be careful not to intimidate them by zooming in closely. Keep at least a couple of students in your shots.

 Be aware of the slight delay between/among participants. Instructors must be especially mindful of this to allow and encourage participation from students. When asking a question, allow longer for an answer than in a face-to-face classroom.

 Make sure the microphone levels are set such that you can speak at your normal voice level.

 Do not turn the volume down all the way during a class session or an exam. During tests, keep the volume high enough that students can get your attention if they need to ask a question.

 Arrive a little early to orient yourself to the room, re-arrange things if necessary, and check your camera settings.

 Arrange your printed information horizontally (landscape), as that is the orientation of the monitors. To ensure your material can be read at the far end, use a 24 point font or larger.

Contact Information

The phone number for the videoconferencing office is 938-5520. If no one answers and you need to speak with someone immediately, call Technology Services at 938-5222.

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