Successful Teleconferencing You Can Use Today

Education is going global Newsweek reported in a special double edition Aug. 20, 2007.

"A fancy name like Yale or Oxford doesn't cut it," the editors write. "College kids are now global consumers, ready to buy the best academic package, be it in Australia or Singapore…American and British schools now face rivals with huge potentials."

Community Colleges are joining this global marketing of education using online classes. However, more and more, colleges are teaching real-time classes conducted over common computer software (Yahoo Messenger, Skype, Google Talk) for international course credit or for giving the students on each continent a shared international classroom experience.

After testing software with technicians, knowledgeable students on two continents, software engineers, and faculty on two continents, the consensus is that Skype is the easiest to set up and use.

One can have up to 10 stations talking live on Skype. And Skype will instantly link two stations with video. And when the broadband falters, one can always type into chat, "Can you hear me now?"

Based upon the work done by Cypress Technician Paul Hamblin, Dnepropetrovsk University Professor Tetyana VVedenska, National Instruments Software Engineer Stephen Mercer, Cypress Students Geoffrey Miguel and Bryan Cuaron, and Lutsk Liberal Arts University Student Roman Romanuk, we have created at the following Successful Teleconferencing Check List.

Successful Teleconferencing Check List

Skype only supports multiple location voice connections. It only supports one location to one location video teleconferencing. We are working on third party fixes at the moment. It does a great job with iChat while inside the teleconference. iChat was the best part as it is totally reliable even as audio and video signals are interrupted.

Remember, this is really a TV production and one should use the same production team structure.

Equipment

1. Keep your gear simple.

  • One camera is best
  • One microphone is best
  • Each piece of equipment is a potential problem.

2. Test all you equipment well before airtime and then put it all safely away and only use it for teleconferencing.
3. Put the webcam on a stand.
4. If it is a professional camera

  • Use a tripod.
  • Have one person who is not a participant be the camera operator.
  • For multiple cameras connected through a switcher, you must have a video operator who is not a participant.

5. Have one microphone and pass it.
6. If there are more than two people, one should be the moderator for that location.
7. Have a sound engineer who mixes the sound when using multiple microphones.
8. For multiple cameras or/and multiple microphones, a director is required just to select the microphones and cameras that are on at any time.

Setting Up the Conference by Using This Checklist

9. Have all parties double-check the international time difference. Be aware of Daylight Savings Time changes.
10. Write out an agenda and email the agenda.
11. Send reminder emails to everyone

  • 72 hours before
  • 48 hours before
  • 24 hours before
  • 6 hours before
  • Skype each location as soon as you see their green light announcing they are online and test the link.
  • Telephone participants at a location an hour before if one has concerns about reliability of that location.

Going Live

12. At the official start time, everyone hangs up and the host starts the conference call.
13. The host for each teleconference moderates all conversation using the agenda.
14. When voice is connected, open iChat and connect each location through iChat.
15. Know in advance the names of the participants in the teleconference and don’t have surprise guests. They can embarrass you internationally if they have not read this checklist.
16. Each location with two or more people needs a chair to moderate conversation on that computer.
17. Have everyone sit down and stay sitting down during the conference. This is no different than any formal meeting on campus.
18. Only one person online speaks at a time.
19. Speak slowly and distinctly. We are bridging distances and cultures.
20. Finish speaking and pause and wait for the signal to travel to the other listeners, continue waiting for them as they respond, and continue waiting for that signal to return to you. Otherwise, we get just noise. Don’t interrupt.
21. Hold the microphone close to your mouth. Think of it as an ice cream cone.
22. Look into the webcam when speaking. When you look into the camera lens, see a person listening.
23. Position the camera so that when you look into it, you can also see the other person on the screen to create the illusion of eye contact.
24. Project the video onto a big screen if possible for large audiences.
25. Don't run multiple accounts from the same location. Use just one Skype account for each place on earth.
26. If you lose your connection, we must redial the entire teleconference. Just use iChat to write you lost your signal.
27. If a location signal is lost, the teleconference will continue until the problem is fixed, the location informs the teleconference by iChat, and the teleconference can be redialed.
28. Don't switch between computers in the middle of the teleconference.
29. When a problem occurs, be systematic when troubleshooting. Start with the piece of gear in your hand; follow the cord back to the computer, checking each connection. Then check computer settings. Re-establish voice connection first. We can finish the teleconference without your video.

After the Teleconference

30. Review your broadcast when it is over.
31. Fix any troublesome equipment
32. Store all gear safely away for the next teleconference. Do not use it for other things if possible.
33. Update this list with what you just learned in the last teleconference.

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