After a much needed and well-deserved rest, it’s time for us to jump into the spring semester. I always enjoy this time of year in the classroom because there’s so much excitement about pushing toward the finish line of another school year.
However, sometimes the distractions of spring can pull students and teachers in many directions and keeping focused on education can be a real challenge. One of the ways I try to pull everyone together is through collaboration. It’s always important to provide students avenues to clear communication with their peers and me throughout the learning process. Guided collaboration that fosters free communication helps me keep a pulse on the course’s direction and challenges.
In the last several semesters I’ve been using Cisco Webex Meetings and Teams as central tools for these lines of communication. With Webex Meetings, I can guarantee seamless video meetings to host all my classes and lectures. With its new video-centric user experience, I can ensure to retain active engagement with my students. Webex Teams provides us opportunities for file sharing, collaborative white-boarding, synchronous audio and video communications and the free exchange of ideas via messaging. Now, with the release of the Cisco Webex Education Connector, both are embedded directly into my Learning Management System (LMS).
The Cisco Webex Education Connector brings the best of both Webex Meetings and Teams and tailors those features to meet the needs of both student and teacher. Now that both apps are inside my LMS, synchronization of enrolled learners in the course with the Webex Meetings and Teams experience is automatic and easy to configure. Setup is straightforward and takes just a few minutes to get up and running. No other vendor on the market offers anything close to it. It’s that simple.
Schedule course lectures and virtual office hours
Office hours are an essential part of the learning experience, but it can be difficult to keep schedules on track. With the Webex Education Connector, I can set my schedule ahead of time and open my available times to students to sign up for slots and get assigned a Webex Meeting link. Likewise, I can schedule reoccurring classes right inside the portal which populates in the LMS calendar. Joining lectures or office hour sessions are super simple—just click the join button when the time is ready from your LMS calendar. Students can also access full recordings or portions of class sessions directly in their LMS. Recorded class sessions are automatically embedded in the course with links containing hidden passwords so that content has to be accessed through the course portal.
Keep projects going outside the classroom
While live lectures and office hours are certainly an important part of class delivery, learning doesn’t just stop when class ends. Now, more than ever before, collaboration and teamwork can happen wherever and whenever—this is precisely where Webex Teams comes into play. With Webex Teams embedded in the LMS, students have easy access to all their assignments and tools. They can share files, communicate via chat message or voice call to collaborate on projects and peer review, keep accountability on which of their teammates have or haven’t read messages, whiteboard brainstorming sessions, and store all their productivity in one place. Students can also easily reach out to me as the teacher for guidance whenever it’s needed, or even add new teammates or experts to their project group when appropriate. No need for guest accounts or special access. As the instructor, it’s great to know that expertise can assist the students in a group without having purview into the rest of the course materials.
The conversations and peer learning processes are much more organic that I’ve experienced in other online tools with students. The ability to easily escalate a message conversation or file exchange experience to a live, face-to-face conversation enhanced with dynamic multi-way whiteboarding has really helped to build a sense of “community” within the course. Students can “spin up” new collaborative groups, and I can create brand new project teams—all within my course.
It’s easy to try out if your Learning Management System is LTI compliant. Learning environments like Blackboard, Desire to Learn (D2L), Moodle, Sakai and Canvas are ready to roll. For more information, visit us here or reach out to me directly.
I hope you have a great spring semester!