Current use of video conferencing in education
Education is constantly evolving and upgrading itself. It is no longer confined in a classroom by four walls. With the increasing range of curriculum standards and a rising demand in expertise, video conferencing has been utilised as an educational tool to efficiently meet these demands, especially with current Covid-19 situation.
Video conferencing is defined as an audio and visual connection in real time between two or more people that are in different locations. The prerequisite conditions and equipment required are a high speed internet and a device that has video (camera) and audio (microphone) input. Almost all laptops, tablets and smartphone mobile devices can be used for video conferencing, depending on which application platform you are using.
Benefits of investing in video conferencing for education
There are MANY benefits of adopting video conferencing as an educational tool in your school. Here are just a few reasons on how a video conferencing system can upgrade your school curriculum.
Video conferencing removes the walls of a classroom by allowing educators and students to learn from anywhere, as long as there is a stable internet connection. This allows educational institutions to make better decisions without having the consequences of cost and location. Students can be virtually present for lessons, even if they are late for class, sick at home or face unforeseen circumstances.
In light of the current COVID-19 virus pandemic, all schools from primary school to universities will be shifted to full home-based learning, says the Ministry of Education (MOE) and the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF). At trying times like this, video conferencing is the only way that education can continue without severe disruption. Hosting video conferencing lessons allows students to learn from home without putting a halt to their curriculum.
With video conferencing, physical limitations are no longer a factor. Experts and guest lectures can be easily invited to share their knowledge in a class without having to spend time and money flying into the country. Students can also take virtual field trips around the world from the comfort of their classroom or their home! These virtual trips to the museum, zoo, hospital etc, are extremely cost effective for schools and reduces issues such as student transportation safety and scheduling issues.
Encourage self-paced learning
Students are able to record down the lessons on their own devices and replay as and when they would like to revise the notes. This is especially useful for students who are slightly slower in understanding the syllabus and are unable to catch up during lesson time. Educators are also able to hold more one-on-one mentoring sessions to ensure each student gets the additional help if required.
What is Zoom?
Founded in 2011, Zoom is the leading modern enterprise of video communications with an easy, reliable cloud platform for audio and video conferencing. Zoom has been used around the world for collaborations, conferences, training, classrooms and webinars on mobile devices, desktops and room systems.
This short video is a small introduction on what Zoom is.
As the COVID-19 virus continues to sweep the planet, many businesses, schools and cities have been shut down in efforts to stop the spread. Zoom on the other hand, has been thriving as people utilise their video conferencing platform as a tool for businesses to run and students to learn. So far, 343,000 people worldwide have downloaded the Zoom app from January to February of 2020 according to Apptopia, becoming one of the most in-demand software tools for work-from-home adults. While Zoom has been very popular among businesses such as Uber, 21st Century Fox, Delta, Groupon etc, the education sector has also picked up video conferencing once the COVID-19 shut downs were implemented.
Zoom for education features
Zoom has a dedicated platform called “Zoom for Education” where they cater packages tailored for educational facilities. Zoom believes their systems will help universities and schools to improve student outcomes with secure video communication services for hybrid classrooms, administrative meetings and more.
Zoom can be downloaded on any device, making it easily accessible for students and educators. Sessions are recorded with automatic transcription which allows students to learn at their own pace. User management dashboards lets the educators track student engagement, attendance, in-meeting data and more. The multi-sharing, polling, text chat and video breakout room features increase the level of engagement for students to participate actively during class sessions.
The Zoom interface also integrates with most educational facilities’ Learning Management System (LMS) such as Moodle, Canvas, Desire2Learn, Sakai and Blackboard learning management systems.
One special feature that is highly sought after, yet unavailable to most video conferencing platforms is the digital whiteboarding function. This feature allows participants to write or draw on a plain white screen, enhancing collaboration on projects and ideas with real-time co-annotation. Several participants can write on the digital whiteboard at the same time, the host (educator) of the meeting can also lock the digital board to himself/herself for facilitation of the session.
Drawbacks of using zoom
Zoom has pledged to protect the security and privacy of customers’ data with strict compliance to the Federal Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) for the education sector. This includes submitting privacy practices to an independent assessment for certification, undergoing an annual SSAE-16 SOC 2 audit by an independent third-party and performing regular vulnerability scan and penetration test to evaluate security.
All the security measures were not enough as there have been many cases of Zoom hackings. 500,000 Zoom accounts were hacked and sold or given away for free on the dark web. In more sinister cases, a secondary 1 geography lesson conducted on Zoom was hacked and the young students were harassed with obscene images of private parts. Because of security and privacy issues, many schools have banned Zoom across the United States, Germany, Taiwan and Singapore and are looking for alternative video conferencing platforms.
Cost of Zoom
Zoom Education is currently priced at US$1,800 per year for a minimum of 20 hosts. Each host has unlimited meetings that support up to 300 participants. There are also other add on features that can be included into the Zoom Education package for a top up fee such as Webinars (US$400/yr/host), Zoom Rooms (US$499/yr/room) and Cloud Recording of 500GB (US$1,200/yr). For example, if an educational facility would like to tailor their package for 50 hosts with 500GB, this would cost US$5,700 per year before taxes.
There are currently 6 currencies available for purchase of the Zoom Education package.
Basic education pricing package of 20 hosts:
US Dollars $ 1,800 / year
Australian Dollars $ 2,520 / year
Euros €1,680 / year
British Pounds £1,440 / year
Japanese Yen ¥242,000 / year
Canadian Dollars CAD 2,400 / year
Alternative to Zoom
With the pricey cost of Zoom’s platform, there must be other alternatives that are cheaper right? HeyHi is a video conferencing application that is designed specifically for educators in collaborative work and learning. It is available on both GooglePlay and the App Store which means it is available on any and all devices.
HeyHi has many features that encourage high levels of engagement and management of online sessions. Other than the common features such as screen sharing, video call of up to 50 participants and text chat, HeyHi’s platform also accommodates special collaborative engagement features such as live polling and interactive whiteboard which other video conferencing platforms do not usually offer.
The interactive whiteboard is very beneficial to educators as it allows you to write and draw on the unlimited writing space with multiple screens for all participants to see. For Zoom, their digital whiteboard works like an actual whiteboard where you write on the blank screen and it will be erased after. HeyHi has added features where you can upload your own PDF documents and make annotations directly on it through the interactive whiteboard function. You can also scan QR codes through your mobile devices on HeyHi’s interactive whiteboard and write on it in real time using your finger as a stylus!
HeyHi also has an attendance check system feature that automatically tabulates student’s time clocked into the lesson as well as the number of exits made. This eases the educator’s administrative duties, allowing them to focus more on teaching.
Here is a short and simple step-by-step tutorial on how to use HeyHi.
The good news is HeyHi’s platform is made exclusively FREE for educators and students till the end of May 2020! Our platform is highly customisable to suit your school’s educational needs. If you would like to give it a go, you can request for a free demo or sign-up to understand the application and how we can help aid your school and educators. Do contact us if you have any customisation request or questions that we can help with.