"At a basic level, all learning results from interactions, whether they be with aspects of the environment, with information, with other people or through some combination of these." Andrew Milne, Educause Review, 13-31, Jan/Feb 2007
The interactions that we, as faculty members, have with our students can be instrumental in students' decisions to engage more deeply with the course material. As noted by Chickering and Gamson (1987), a connection with a faculty member not only helps increase student motivation, it also plays an important role in helping students persist in the face of challenges. And it's not only interacting in class that makes a difference - interactions outside the classroom have a powerful motivating effect on student engagement and learning. These interactions might be any of the following:
Of course, on a commuter campus it can be difficult to have an unplanned conversation with a student, and sometimes your office hours are scheduled when your students have other classes. What to do?
Today, I'd like to introduce you to a new tool available at NYIT, which enables you to talk with your students face-to-face, even at a distance. Zoom.us is an on-demand web conferencing tool, much like Skype, but simpler to use. Zoom supports HD video- and audio-conferencing for up to 25 people at a time, screen-sharing with optional annotations, and recording.
The only person who needs an account is the person who originates the meeting. The program generates an email that includes all the information other participants will need to join the meeting. People invited to a meeting simply click a link in the invitation. It's accessible from Mac, Windows, iOS, and Android devices, and there's even a teleconference number for participants who don't have access to a computer or mobile device.
While meeting, you can share an application or your entire desktop, annotate the document being shared (think "revise an article prior to submission"), and record part or all of a meeting (think "exam review session") and put it online so students who cannot be there in person can access the information. Some faculty and staff at NYIT have already tried the application; here's a sampling of their reactions:
"Zoom was great. I used it for my online Anatomy course for live reviews prior to the exams. Both instructors were able to participate (the other professor lives in North Carolina), and approximately 20 students participated at one time. I think it helped the students feel that they had a connection with us as the format allowed for give and take not only between professor and student, but also student to student. We recorded the sessions and posted them on YouTube for those students who could not make the live session. Feedback from the students was very positive." Rose Gallagher, School of Health Professions
"I used Zoom on my iPad to conference with colleagues; they were in OW and I was in Manhattan. I found Zoom much more streamlined than Skype, and easier to use, too. With respect to visual and audio, Zoom was much better than my experience with Skype. I felt as though I was right there in the room with my colleagues." Gail Linsenbard, College of Arts and Sciences
"I've been using Skype, Elluminate and Google Hangout. Zoom is a lot better than these three in terms of video quality, number of participants connected at the same time and connection speed. The best part I like is that it allows 25 participants to have video conversation at the same time without compromising the video quality. The desktop sharing feature is also wonderful." Shiang-Kwei Wang, School of Education
"We love Zoom so far ... much better than Skype for our purposes. Using Zoom has been incredibly helpful in conducting staff meetings. The video and audio quality is much higher compared to Skype, which would occasionally freeze or start to echo after a while and required us to recall the group. It is also very helpful to have the share screen feature that any one of the members can access. I plan to use Zoom to meet with a student who is off-campus later this week." Monika Schueren, Advising & Enrichment Center
"Zoom Pro has been an essential tool this semester so far for the Fine Arts Department, bringing together diverse groups quickly and efficiently in clear, easy-to-use multi-person video conferencing. Participants simply need to click one link in an e-mail inviting them to the meeting, and they can join the video conference. Whoever is talking gets featured on the large screen, and the transition is seamless and natural." Yuko Oda, College of Arts and Sciences
Everyone with an NYIT email address has an account. The basic account includes the full set of features, and limits meetings to 40 minutes, while Pro accounts do not limit the time. To activate your account, log in through Google Apps (PDF documentation). If you need any help getting started with Zoom, you can contact any of us at the Center for Teaching and Learning: Jea Ahn, email@example.com, Olena Zhadko, firstname.lastname@example.org, or myself at email@example.com.