Student life and coronavirus: make the most of video conferences

Student life and coronavirus

Student life and coronavirus don’t exactly go hand-in-hand. We usually think about starting university as a time to meet lots of new people, explore new places and dive into a new world of learning. It tends to involve a great deal of organisation, socialisation and collaboration. But a global pandemic can put the breaks on these things a little. That doesn’t mean that students, professors or university administrators should despair, though! Sure, there’s been a fair bit of doom and gloom recently. Aside from the daily updates on coronavirus, there are natural disasters, train derailments, a growing climate crisis, tense racial and political relations… Not to mention the uncertainty and chaos brought about by the exam results-related disasters.

When it comes to student life and coronavirus there’s no need to despair!

Still, the government provided a seemingly satisfactory resolution. And there’s more good news! With video conferencing, student life and coronavirus don’t have to be a destructive or restrictive pairing. In fact, we’ve spoken to students about to embark on their university careers, and they’re brimming with excitement and positivity.

Student life and coronavirus: what web conferencing features will you need?

Freshers events, new local pubs, student sales and university societies are undoubtedly a key part of student life, with or without coronavirus. But, of course, the main reason for going to university is to learn. To ensure that they continue to provide the best possible education without compromising on health and safety, many universities will be implementing remote learning in some form. And the most powerful tool for remote learning is video conferencing.

There are so many web conferencing softwares to choose from, and each offers a whole range of features and functions. It makes sense, seeing as web conferencing has such a huge amount of applications. To cater to so many needs, a veritable buffet of features is necessary. Different groups want different functions – a small business might look for certain tools for web conferencing, while a university will want others. But what exactly will help make student life and coronavirus as harmonious a co-existence as possible?

Students and web conferencing – think beyond audio and video

Obviously high-quality video and audio are crucial for helping lecturers communicate their ideas. Nevertheless, you have to think that a pre-recorded YouTube clip would also provide that. And while there is certainly a place for pre-recorded videos in education, you’ll probably want a few more features to help with instruction and collaboration.

1) Screen-sharing

Screen-sharing is a vital tool as we plan for student life and coronavirus restrictions. It means that professors can talk through any PowerPoint presentations, graphs and charts or other visual aids that might be relevant, in real-time. It’s surprising how easy it can be to get lost in documents and slideshows when you’re clicking through for yourself, and trying to listen to the lecture at the same time. Even the brightest amongst us can get muddled! To avoid any confusion, look for a web conferencing provider that offers screen-sharing to facilitate remote learning.

Not just for the professor

And it isn’t just great for the lecturers! A great part of student life pre-coronavirus was study groups. There are so many reasons to form a study group. Perhaps most important of all, they’re a powerful educational tool. Plus, they’re also another way to meet even more new people. But as we navigate student life and coronavirus, there’s no reason why we have to say goodbye to the mighty study group. And a key tool for having successful collaborative virtual get-togethers is the capacity to share your screen. That way, you can talk through tasks as well as share your own work with the team.

It’s not just for studying that screen-sharing is great, either. For many amongst us, web conferencing has become an integral part of our social life. And you may have seen how screen-sharing can enhance these experiences. Activities like virtual pub quizzes have become all the rage. They’re a great way to have fun with friends, whether old or new. And you get to sharpen your trivia prowess, too! Or you can even make the quiz personal to your group – whether that be private jokes and memories, or handy study questions.

2) Unlimited call recording for universities

Here’s one aspect of student life that coronavirus restrictions might improve. If you deliver seminars and lectures via web conferencing, recording every moment is really easy. And that means ready-made study materials.

Haven’t we been recording lectures for a while?

Recording lectures isn’t a new idea. But even for professors who were technologically progressive enough to opt into lecture-recording, and educationally progressive enough to dispense these recordings to all students, recordings haven’t always been the clearest. When delivering a lecture in-person, many professors walk around the room, stand up, sit down, interact with their students. All of this can lead to inconsistencies in the recording. There are often moments in which no words can be discerned at all. Aside from that, listeners have to contend with background noise. The infamous Freshers’ flu means start-of-the-semester lecture recordings are often little more than a cacophony of coughs. Then there’s general muttering, keyboards tapping, papers rustling, rain thundering down… All kinds of variable factors.

Remote seminars can be recorded, too!

Aside from that, it’s more unusual to record seminars. For many students, that can be a real shame. Collaboration and conversation are so vital to learning that it’s not rare for students to find seminars much more valuable than lectures. The ability to listen back to stimulating chats could be a real, positive game-changer to come of student life and coronavirus restrictions.

With both lectures and seminars delivered remotely and recorded, students will have more and better learning resources at the tap of a button. No more furious scribbling, so exhausting and distracting. Instead, they can concentrate and participate, and listen back to it all later.

Look for a provider like Call.Group which doesn’t place caps on call recording. Otherwise, you might find that only the first couple of weeks are available when revision time comes at the end of the semester!

3) Web conferencing apps smooth the merging of student life and coronavirus restrictions

Contrary to popular belief, many students are busy bees. They’re often out and about, not lazing around watching daytime television. There are sports teams and societies, part-time jobs, visiting family at home and friends at other universities – all kinds of things to get up to. That means students are often out and about. Another great bonus that might come of the ways we handle student life and coronavirus is the ability to continue your learning from beyond the university walls. Beyond any walls at all, if you so choose!

Learn on the go to balance learning, student life and coronavirus restrictions

That’s the great thing about choosing a web conferencing service like Call.Group which provides free mobile apps for Apple and Android devices. You don’t need to skip netball practice because you don’t have time to go home, shower, change and get into university afterwards. Instead, you can join the lecture presentation from your phone right from the changing rooms, from a quiet park or cafe nearby, or even on the bus. And with that wonderful call recording, you won’t need to worry about taking notes.

If it’s a lecture and it’s being given in a dedicated Presentation Room, then you’ll be completely muted and any location will do. You will need headphones, an Internet connection and the ability to concentrate, though. If it’s a seminar and you’ll be contributing, then you’ll give a little more thought to your setting. Opt for somewhere relatively quiet and free from distractions, for you and the rest of the group.

Again, you’ll likely use the app as much to stay in touch with friends and family as with university! Having a service that’s so easily accessible from anywhere means your schedules don’t need to match. Catch up on the fly at the push of a button.

4) Chat messaging and hand-raising for efficient lectures

Presentation Rooms are really great for lectures, because Guests are automatically muted. That means all eyes are on the professor, and students’ microphones or cameras won’t emit any interruptions or distractions.

But rather than do away with interaction altogether, why not look for a provider that offers tools for quiet contribution? All Call.Group Rooms include a live chat feature, and the capacity for Guests to raise their hands. That means that asking questions or providing answers is still possible, without having to put up with disruptive background noise. Guests can send either private or public messages. Here again, there’s a possible benefit student life gains from coronavirus restrictions. In an in-person lecture, many students don’t ask questions purely because they’re embarrassed. But being able to message the professor directly will remove this obstacle. That means better teaching and better learning. Everyone wins!

Inbound students we spoke to cited reduced ability to interact with professors as one of their chief concerns. They also specifically mentioned the ability to ask questions and get fast responses as crucial to maintaining educational standards even in the face of COVID-19-related restrictions. If you’re planning on delivering any of your educational materials remotely, be sure to look for these features!

5) YouTube sharing lets you integrate extra educational materials to remote teaching and adds an extra dimension to social calls

Call.Group offers YouTube sharing on all calls. It’s a great tool for delivering lectures and seminars remotely. With it, you can seamlessly play a clip from YouTube to all students, without them having to leave the app or open a new tab. That can be really educationally powerful! There are loads of amazing instructional videos on YouTube. It’s not just a tool for film students: from maths to engineering, coding to veterinary science, literature, history and music. Whatever you study or teach, there’s a YouTube clip for it.

Thinking outside the classroom

And don’t forget, another crucial question when it comes to student life and coronavirus is how to maintain those social connections. With YouTube sharing, you can hang out virtually with friends and still share funny videos. You could even do YouTube workouts together! Plus, example clips can be a great way to spruce up a virtual pub quiz.

Photo by Kari Shea on Unsplash

One concern many students have – including those we spoke to for this article – is meeting new people. Not only meeting, but creating bonds from afar can be daunting. Video chatting with old friends is all well and good. But with strangers, it can sometimes feel a bit more awkward. With features like YouTube sharing, you can have lively calls and a few useful distractions and fillers if there are any pauses in conversation. It also offers a great way to let your personality and interests shine through.

6) Advanced call scheduling prevents disruption and distraction in student life from coronavirus

One thing that adds structure to any student’s life, whether they’re a social butterfly over-achiever or have no outside commitments, is their university timetable. Lectures and seminars usually occur pretty reliably a few times a week. But not having to physically get to university can make it more difficult to keep track of days. It can even be easier to forget a lecture.

Equally disruptive is having to find different dial-in details every time you’re joining a call. If you have three modules, each with different seminars, lectures, study groups, labs throughout the week, there might even be times you can’t find the right details at all, and end up missing out.

But with a service like Call.Group, which offers advanced scheduling and permanent dial-in details, all this becomes much easier.

Professors can schedule calls to recur as frequently as necessary. By adding students as Guests, they’ll also ensure email invitations get sent out. These invitations include the links and numbers to join by app, browser or telephone call. They also have handy calendar attachments. Students can input lectures straight into their calendar apps, and set alerts so that they never forget or miss out! These attachments (and the emails) have links which will direct them straight into the right Room, as well as the PIN they need. They also have useful speed-dial buttons. These allow callers to dial-in at the tap of a button from their smartphone, even without the Internet. No more scrambling around for the right details.

7) Accessible conference calling

A concern most students have is staying in touch with all their family and friends back home while making new friendships. By having all their web and call conferencing needs in one simple platform, this concern can be easily addressed.

Call.Group differs from many conferencing platforms in allowing participants to join on web browsers, apps, or by dialling in from any telephone. That means even your most technophobic relatives can join in the Sunday evening family quiz. And once it’s over, you and your school friends can jump onto a video chat without you leaving the app. Having the option to dial-in also means that students who don’t always have access to the Internet or to devices with web browsers or apps don’t miss out on lectures and seminars. They’ll be able to hear everything and join in the discussion by dialling in from their landline or mobile phone.

03 numbers prevent educational or communication inequalities

The great thing about Call.Group is that dial-in participants (those not using the Internet) don’t pay exorbitant charges to call premium-rate numbers. All of our Conference and Presentation Rooms are accessed by dialling an 03 number. According to Ofcom rulings, calls to 03 numbers must be included within callers’ bundled minutes. As long as their telephone contract includes calls to UK landlines, and have minutes available, they won’t pay a penny. If they don’t, they will still only be charged at the standard rate for UK landlines.

Students are already facing huge debts and high costs for studying at university. Lecturers shouldn’t expect them to pay to attend every lecture and seminar, too!

Student life and coronavirus can co-exist with savvy web conferencing

The bottom line is that, as the students we spoke to know, coronavirus doesn’t mean the end of student life as we know it. It’s likely that some face-to-face learning will go ahead, observing social distancing guidelines. For bigger events, and to reduce social contact, there will probably be a move to incorporate distance-learning too.

And the human spirit, so powerful and ambitious – particularly in budding students – will not be so easily quelled. We have a need to forge bonds, and talk to the people we hold dear. As a result, we’ll always find a way to do so.

By choosing the right web conferencing platform and making use of its features, neither learning nor socialising have to be compromised in the name of safety. In fact, the merging of student life and coronavirus restrictions might bring about some lasting improvements to the world of education. Just be sure to get to grips with the basics of web conferencing beforehand. You can even check out our handy checklist. It’s also worth thinking about things like how to break the ice on web conferences, whether with students or new friends.

Photo by bantersnaps on Unsplash

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