Web Conference Skills ... a 101 for everybody ...

Dear educators and employers alike - we have been using web conferencing technology for at least ten to fifteen years. It works - the bandwidth is now great, most souls have webcams, microphones and technology able to cope. Yet many users still struggle - why?

I have my own biased and cynical view - based on often using the technology for training (delivering) and staying in touch with others. Some souls thrive - others strike me as having come to grips with the telegraph now having to deal with this new darn fangled telephone.

Appreciating that some souls have less experience than others, it is all about practice, experience and a little know-how. Which is why I feel (strongly) that students should experience online communication - via any means while learning:
  • That connection is not instant - prearranged meetings must be attended early to be on time. If, not attended on time, as you will be late.
  • That if you have not used the system before - install the software - or allow ten minutes pre-meeting to install software and invoke prayer to whomever you worship for a successful first attempt.
  • To mute - always mute - mute the effing microphone. Unless you need to speak - mute it. As a an oft host - I mute others by default - we do not wish to hear you wandering around with your laptop going for a piss.
  • To shut up, listen - wait to speak - there may be multiple voices. Many of these systems have chat back channels. Use them - as you can get your point across and then get invited to speak.
  • To dress appropriately - there is nothing more embarrassing than your webcam coming on when you are dressed in your favourite Batman garb. Conversely, if you have a nice view, share it. I have amused American collaborators with views of London - as they see the backdrop of some places I have been during my time online. 
  • To pay attention - listen, watch, observe - obvious in print yet I get members from some multi-participation events ask the same question that was explored minutes beforehand. We hate eejits that ask us to repeat or recap - that is what the recording is for.
  • When sharing desktops - take care - your semi-pornographic desktop picture of a teletubbie may not be to everyones liking. Also, think what else is open as you are showing off. I have taken the time to read perfectly visible personal and professional emails while bored during some inane web conference. It is better to share an application - rather than share an entire desktop.
If you need to practice - or try out this technology on students and/or colleagues alike. Try appear.in ... its free, works for small groups and is a great starting point. The same goes for Google Hangouts. The reality is that this is life skill in our ever connected and globally distributed world.

All Credit to Scott Adams and Dilbert - what would we do without you?


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