APEST and discussion about functions in the church
Tips on recording video for online courses and tips on teaching online

Initial impressions of WebEx for online teaching

Here is my tweet storm about trying Cisco WebEx.  WebEx

1/ I used WebEx for the first time tonight after using Adobe Connect for synchronous online sessions for 4.5 years. Our school has moved to WebEx. I did 30 minute sessions with 8 and 10 students.

2/ See this whole tweetstorm and my note to my students beforehand at: http://www.andyrowell.net/andy_rowell/2018/01/initial-impressions-of-webex.html

3/ I was hugely relieved to learn that with WebEx as many as 500 can be on webcam at once. https://collaborationhelp.cisco.com/article/en-us/WBX000019846 I had read somewhere else only 7 simultaneous video feeds. I usually need between 8 and 20. 

4/ Negative: I'm sitting here waiting to be emailed the WebEx recordings. "An email notification is sent to you when the recording is available." https://help.webex.com/docs/DOC-10501 Did they really record?! How long does it take? With Adobe Connect, the recordings are available immediately. 

UPDATE: No email was sent. The recordings showed up in my My Training Recordings in the Training Center 6.5 hours and 5.5 hours later at 3 am. But the next recording and the subsequent four appeared less than 30 minutes after the session ended. Does a new account like mine need time to warm up? The recordings show the webcam relatively small and the PowerPoint quite large. It does not show the chat.   

5/ The WebEx webcam video feeds look better than Adobe Connect. But the viewing window is harder to navigate. The "Participants" webcam view in WebEx is triggered by who speaks. So you see the person who is speaking.

6/ In WebEx, you have to maximize the Participants video window to see everyone on webcams. But if you do that, you can't see the PowerPoint being displayed. In the default view, it is easy to accidentally cover the Participants (webcams) panel with the Chat panel.

7/ So far I have not figured out how in WebEx to see people on webcam ("participants"), and chat and the PowerPoint. You can more easily resize windows in Adobe Connect.

Update 1/31/2018: One important tip is to encourage students to expand Participants panel to full screen. THEY are able to also see the PowerPoint slides in this view while also seeing all of the people on webcam. They can also use the Poll or Chat from this view by clicking on the top. They can in this view resize the different panels, etc. HOWEVER, the presenter cannot see the PowerPoint in this view unless they choose it from above. SO, presenters (like me) don't realize that encouraging students to go to Participants full screen view is recommended as the presenter mistakenly thinks that this means that students can no longer see the PowerPoint BUT THEY CAN (because the poor presenter cannot initially see the PowerPoint in Participants full screen view unless they enable it manually).

8/ In Adobe Connect, it is easier to scroll through your PowerPoint. In WebEx, you cannot press the arrow keys on your keyboard.

9/ I would not submit your participants' email addresses ("Invite attendees") or WebEx will send them emails any time you change the slightest thing with a session. Or be careful with the settings. I say communicate with your participants through your regular means.

10/ In WebEx, if you are the host and you close "exit" a meeting, poof, the session is gone. Everyone is kicked off. Not good for clumsy hosts.

11/ WebEx is also finicky with regard to scheduling. It thinks it knows better than you. So, no scheduling a meeting once for say Jan 1, 2018 and just coming back and reusing it. No, no, no, that date is past and so the scheduling is denied.

12/ With WebEx, your overwhelmed participants need a different URL for every single meeting unless repeating very precisely. For example, no two (discussion group options) on one day. No skipping the password or customizing the URL like you can with Adobe Connect.

13/ There is no way with WebEx to access the URL for a certain session through the online interface. You have to wait for an email to get the links (which are different for the host and participants).

14/ WebEx settings: I use VoIP only. I would not use registration and security settings for online classroom sessions. A password is already required.

15/ I used WebEx training center because it seemed most closely designed for online teaching with the best features. https://www.cisco.com/c/en/us/products/conferencing/product_comparison.html

16/ For scheduling a course worth of sessions, I ended up using the option in WebEx training center: "Schedule irregular sessions." Make sure you enter the first date not just above but also as Session 1.

17/ In WebEx Training scheduling, I would unclick "Automatically delete session after it ends" and click "Send a copy of the attendee invitation to me." I would NOT do: "Mute attendees upon entry" because you will have to Unmute all to get them able to talk again.

18/ WebEx: DO NOT put in a "Destination address (URL) after session" or that might torpedo your whole attempt at scheduling if the URL is blocked. Also don't bother with Agenda / Description / Graphic. Yes do, Save as Template. Then "Schedule."

Here is my email to my students before the first session: 

I have posted the links to our online synchronous session discussion of Modules 1-2 on the Moodle page. I have also pasted them below for your convenience. Please note that there is a different URL for each session. The password is always _____

Ideally, for an online synchronous session, you are in a quiet room and have a webcam / microphone with a laptop or computer. Most laptops come with a webcam and microphone. If not, you can buy a USB microphone and / or USB webcam at Amazon.com for $20 or so. It is best too if you are wearing a USB headset or regular earbuds or headphones plugged into your computer so when you have your mic unmuted in order to talk, there is less feedback noise. You can also participate with the Cisco WebEx Meetings app on your phone or tablet. If you can't be on webcam or use voice, you can still participate by watching and chatting by typing. Usually, the advice with webcams is for you to have a lamp / light shining in your face so we can see you. It is fine for us during introductions to have a wave and a smile from your kids, spouse, roommates, or pets if they are nearby. :-)  

Of course, there may be hiccups in using the technology. We'll do our best. I taught for 4.5 years with Adobe Connect and this is my first time using WebEx as Bethel has shifted to it.  

We will have some brief introductions and respond to a case study for you to get a chance to put into practice what you have been processing. The goal of these online synchronous sessions is to help us all get to know each other a bit better and get the experience of a live classroom with its banter, laughter, spontaneity, and verbal processing, while also reinforcing and furthering what you have been learning. 

We'll try to start and end on time. You are welcome to come 15 minutes early if you want to test the technology and say hello or ask questions. You are also welcome to stay afterward if you have questions. We'll just record the 30 minute session, not the questions before or after the session.   

Again, you are welcome to come to either session or miss both and write a response to the recording. I try to accommodate everyone's schedule as much as possible by surveying people ahead of time with Doodle but I know it is difficult sometimes for people to attend a synchronous session.