Virtual Classroom Connections

Students videoconferencing with alumni
Slavic studies students connect with alumni via Zoom.

This post was written by Laura Little and Jessica McCullough.

More and more CC faculty are using web conferencing or teleconferencing tools to bring experts into their classes, to connect students to a different culture or language, and to broaden course offerings. To facilitate these connections, the instructional technology team has worked with many technologies: Skype, Google Hangouts, Zoom, GoToMeeting, and a host of others. You can see how these tools stack up against each other in this chart.

We really like Zoom. It is easy to use, for both organizers and participants, only requiring a small software download. You don’t have to establish reciprocal relationships with Zoom; “hosts” send invitations to “guests” via email instead of linking accounts, as you have to with Skype. The audio and video quality of Zoom, in our experience, is much higher than other programs we tried, and it easily accommodates multiple participants. It includes a number of useful features, such as screen and file sharing, on-screen annotation, instant messaging. You can also easily record sessions. If you attended our virtual workshop in January you saw some of these features in action. You also may have read Hisae Kobayashi’s post about using it with Japanese students. 


Though you can easily get set up with Zoom on your own, there is a 40-minute limit to meetings with a free account. Instructional Technology has purchased 20 educational licenses, allowing you to host longer meetings. To request one of these licenses, contact Laura Little.

Although we favor Zoom and are happy to get you started with it, there may be good reasons to stick with what you or your virtual guest already knows. If either side is doing a “virtual visit” for the first time, but feels comfortable using, say, Skype, you can reduce the number of unknowns (and associated anxiety) by using that as your connection platform.

As we work with faculty to connect to other people and places, the Instructional Technology team is gradually developing best practices. We’d be glad to share these with you to make sure that your visit is a success. If you’re not sure who to contact, start with your Instructional Technology liaison.


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