8 Steps to Selecting and Implementing Videoconferencing Solutions in Education

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1 8 Steps to Selecting and Implementing Videoconferencing Solutions in Education

2 8 Steps to Selecting and Implementing Videoconferencing Solutions in Education Successful deployment of videoconferencing equipment in an education organization is predicated on the careful identification of needs and the resulting selection of a system. 1. Select the Videoconferencing Team A well-devised videoconferencing equipment selection and implementation plan for an education organization is a team effort. The team should consist of teachers, administrators, students, building and system-level technical people. Recommended team members and their roles and responsibilities are: Teachers - identify teaching goals and define how videoconferencing will be used in their teaching practice Students find out how students currently use technology, how they would like to learn, etc. School Board Members and Administrators - define how videoconferencing will be used for building-wide activities and ensure appropriate school policies and regulations are followed (e.g. video capture of children or distribution of such video) Building Level Network Administrator - be familiar with the local network including prospective computers, wiring, and telecommunications connections, room space and any end-point technical issue System Level Network Administrator - be familiar with wide area network components enabling videoconferencing into and out of the school system network (firewall, NAT, WAN configurations, etc.) Consultants consultants from manufacturers, vendors, trade associations and private consulting firms can provide valuable advice and information on the types of video conferencing technology available, pricing, applications, and implementation. Consultants can also assist schools in conducting technology and education needs assessment to verify and justify the need for videoconferencing technology. Grant Writers with tight budgets, grant writers can help schools secure needed funding to purchase technology and other infrastructure needed for effective implementation. 2. Define Your Videoconferencing Education Needs At this step you should gain clarity about what you want videoconferencing to do for you. If you are just beginning to investigate how videoconferencing can be used to effectively support advanced teaching and learning practice, including distance and blended learning, BYOD, on-demand programming, and other interactive learning techniques, read through some case studies and white papers from various companies: 2

3 High-Definition_Video_Conferencing.pdf ite_paper_final.pdf t_tok=3rkmmjwwff9wsrouvqjjzkxonjhpfsx67%2b0luagylmi%2f0er3fovrpufgji4 CS8dlI%2BSLDwEYGJlv6SgFTLPEMadm27gMWRU%3D t_tok=3rkmmjwwff9wsrouvqjjzkxonjhpfsx67%2b0luagylmi%2f0er3fovrpufgji4 CS8dlI%2BSLDwEYGJlv6SgFTLPEMadm27gMWRU%3D The price of videoconferencing systems varies according to its capabilities. Before you can select the system that is most appropriate for your organization, district, or school system, you must identify the needs that videoconferencing equipment will address. Education Needs Education needs for videoconferencing can be divided into three categories: Instructional Needs: classroom teaching, videoconferencing with remote locations for the purpose of student learning, "virtual" visits to other learning environments, learning communities, mentoring, remote services for the deaf and 3

4 hard of hearing, or students communicating with other people (e.g. students, teachers, scientists), connecting to content providers from around the globe, ondemand learning, etc. Administrative Needs: faculty communicating with student teachers, administrators able to schedule live observations of teachers for feedback and support, organizing distance learning for administrators or teachers, communication between school buildings or school systems Professional Development and Collaborative Needs: faculty collaborating with other faculty, both locally and remotely, to discuss topics such as sources of educational materials, professional conferences, equipment selection and debugging. Continuing education and training for school board members, administrators and faculty. Baseline Questions Who will manage the system? Who will use the system? What is the expected ease-of-use for the enduser? How will the system align with the technological skills and knowledge of your intended users? Are you selecting the videoconferencing technology to be used at each endpoint? Will there be action in the room (instruction, learning, or conversations) that should be in view of the camera (do you need the pan-tilt-zoom functions on the camera)? What are the audio requirements - teacher, students, participants, or all? Do you currently have a budget allocation to purchase equipment, or will you have to initiate the process? If you have no current allocation, what is your expected timeline to secure funds to purchase equipment? Are you connecting with people using an existing videoconferencing system? If so, what is that system and what are its capabilities and requirements? Will students be seen from the videoconferencing system? What paperwork must be completed to allow students to be seen through videoconferencing? How will students not approved to be seen on video be accommodated (e.g. camera angle, seating arrangements in room)? Determine Location The location of your videoconferencing system is defined by the needs of the users (i.e. teachers, students, administrators, etc.). Location will determine telecommunications and computer-related technology available or needed in that space. Baseline Questions: Based on the defined need - who will need access and why? How many people will need access at one time? Where is the space to accommodate the need(s)? Does the space have the infrastructure to support the system and user needs? (e.g. lighting, network access, power, ability to mount equipment, security) 4

5 3. Define Your Videoconferencing Technology Needs In order to understand what types of videoconferencing and other technology will best address your educational needs, you must also identify the technology and infrastructure currently in place at all the sites that will be utilizing technology, and identify gaps in technology and infrastructure that will need to be addressed prior to purchase, as well as gaps that will be addressed with the purchase of your new system. This is often best accomplished by referring to the organization's technology plan. The technology plan will detail what resources already exist and what is planned for the future. Planners can then coordinate all decision-making with other long range planning efforts. In addition to reviewing any existing technology plans, it may be necessary to conduct a technology needs assessment that will provide information to school-level planners - administrators, technology and media specialists, and school or technology planning team members - for purchasing, resource allocation, or other decisions relating to technology. Obtaining data about technology needs also helps to guide district-level decisions about professional development for educators, including those about content, timing, and type of opportunities provided. All potential technology users should participate in the needs assessment process, including students, instructional staff, administrative staff, and operations staff. There are several sites that offer examples of technology needs assessments for schools. A review of these tools may be useful as you begin to assess your own technology needs C_ID=

6 4. Select the System Your instructional, administrative and technological needs define this critical step - choosing the system. Baseline Questions: 1. Do you need a computer-based videoconferencing system (camera+mic+software to install on a computer)? Advantages: Cost effective May connect to existing equipment Easily placed in classroom Not intrusive to classroom environment Disadvantages: Typically stays with one computer at location Typically not as powerful (i.e. lower frame rate or lower quality video) than allinclusive systems Usually needs more powerful computer to run a software only codec May be difficult to use with a separate projector or display device. Questions to ask: What computer-related technology is available? Will it support the software and hardware requirements? Is it accessible for installation and flexible for adjustment to accommodate viewing needs? What projection technology is available? Is appropriate lighting available? What telecommunications capability is available (e.g. Ethernet, ISDN, Cable, DSL)? 2. Do you want a self-contained videoconferencing system (hardware solution)? Advantages: Typically good mobility - all you need is an Internet connection Higher quality picture and quality of service Options - pan-tilt-zoom, high quality audio, lapel sensor to follow the presenter Disadvantages: More expensive solution Some units are not very mobile Questions to ask: What telecommunications are available (i.e. Ethernet, ISDN)? What projection is available (i.e. LCD projector, TV)? Will the location meet space requirements for one person or multiple people? Is appropriate lighting available? 6

7 Is there flexibility in camera angle and location? Can appropriate audio accommodations be made? Ask about additional features that come with each videoconferencing system. Because classrooms today require many different tools for blended learning, it is important to ask vendors about additional features that come standard or are add-ons to videoconferencing systems. Questions to ask: 1. Will the system allow you to share presentations and multimedia instantly? 2. Is there flexibility in sharing various file types? 3. Does file sharing happen in HD? 4. Is multimedia sharing a separate high-quality stream that doesn t take the place of the participant? 5. Does it have a blackboard-like feature? 6. Do you need recording and streaming capabilities? 3. Compare costs of and analyze ROI of each system. With tight education budgets, education organizations must carefully analyze the costs of each system, and identify the ROI that the system will provide. Vendors will work with you to determine how to calculate ROI many organizations find that they can calculate a reduction in travel to meetings, reduction in cost of providing instruction due to shared classes across districts, and increased productivity. 4. Consider the specifics of the technical environments typical for classroom environments. Once you have defined the need, selected locations, and chosen a system you must also address the technical issues. Of course, it is always best to have resolved and planned for technical issues BEFORE selecting a system, but there are times when this is not possible. For example, a large majority of K-12 schools have firewalls present in their school network system and dealing with them will most likely be a main topic for your discussion (the firewall must be configured in a way that allows videoconferencing to take place). Discussing these matters with your planning team and the network administrators ahead of time will improve your chances of successfully deploying an effective solution. To avoid being surprised by technical issues, as vendors to provide demo equipment prior to your purchase top ensure no problems upon installation! 5. Develop Education Curriculum One of the biggest mistakes that an education organization can make is failing to develop education curriculum that will be utilized for interactive learning, blended learning, and on demand programs prior to large scale deployment. One of the biggest mistakes that an education organization can make is failing to develop education curriculum that will be utilized for interactive learning, blended learning, and on-demand programs prior to large scale deployment. Having curriculum ready-to-go facilitates adoption of the technology, and allows the education organization to begin evaluating effectiveness right 7

8 away. It is best practice to have curriculum developed and approved by boards/administrators prior to purchasing a system that will be used for teaching and learning. In addition, if the education organization plans to seek grant or other funding to support the technology acquisition, funders prefer to see a formalized learning curriculum focused on specific student populations and courses. For example, funders may have a preference for courses focused on Science, Technology, Education and Mathematics (STEM). Higher education organizations may focus their curriculum on a particular program such as Advanced Nursing with a focus on Interprofessional Collaborative Practice (IPCP). 6. Create Training Plan for Faculty and Administrators Prior to purchasing and implementing large-scale deployment of video-conferencing technology, faculty and administrators should be trained on how to use the selected videoconferencing equipment. Having demo equipment on site prior to large-scale deployment will facilitate the training. In addition, vendors will typically provide education and training on site about the use of equipment, its capabilities, etc. Faculty must also be trained on how to deliver curriculum using the technology as well as having access to ongoing support. Faculty that will be using equipment for teaching courses via distance learning, on demand learning, etc., should receive training on how to structure lesson plans, how to be accessible to students for questions regarding assignments, etc. The education organization should also plan to provide faculty with access to best practice information, peer networks of other education organizations already using videoconferencing and other mobile technologies, to improve their facility in using technology for learning programs. 7. Purchase and Implement a Solution Before you purchase your final solution, take time to analyze the right choice of vendor. Ask vendors to visit the sites where you plan to install equipment and to conduct a demo connecting to other buildings on site, as well as to other organizations remotely to ensure that there are no technical issues. Different sites will have different types of videoconferencing solutions and different networking capabilities, and you should examine the quality of sessions with each site well before the main session. If technical issues occur, ask the vendor to explain the problem, whether it can be fixed prior to purchase and implementation. Request use of demo equipment for a period of time to ensure reliability and provide you the opportunity to address any issues prior to purchase. Using demo equipment prior to purchase will also help you become acquainted with the equipment features, and to train others that will be using the equipment prior to large-scale deployment. In addition, ask vendors what kind of technical support they will provide to you once the equipment is purchased and installed. Ask about warranties and upgrades, maintenance and any other service costs associated with the selected equipment. Many 8

9 education organization fail to consider ongoing costs for these items when purchasing systems. 8. Evaluate the Videoconferencing Technology Prior to large scale deployment of the videoconferencing technology, the videoconferencing team should develop an evaluation plan for measuring the effectiveness of the technology. Some general system measures to consider include: System Usage (how often and for what) System Disruptions / Down Time Service Desk Tickets Overall audio quality (volume, clarity, delays, artifacts) Overall video quality (resolution, frame rate, camera angle) Video calls that disconnected during a call Class starts on time Interoperability Latency Room availability or unavailability User Satisfaction Cost per use If an education organization is seeking grant funding to support their technology purchase, funders will expect measures around student performance. For example, if a curriculum is implemented using a blended learning approach for a science class, a funder may expect measures on a particular student populations academic performance in that blended learning classroom as compared to that of students in the same course but not in a blended learning classroom. For More Information For more information on implementing videoconferencing solutions in the classroom, and for information on how to access grants to support your technology needs, please contact us: PrimePoint, LLC Phone: Web: 9

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