Virtual Conferencing in Education – How and Why

Innovation; Online Learning; Research; Technology
Virtual conferencing opens doors to new learning and teaching opportunities beyond the classroom. Victorian teachers and students have access to a suite of virtual-conferencing tools including Polycom, Blackboard Collaborate, Microsoft Lync and Skype. These tools enable teachers and students to connect, interact, share and learn with others outside their classroom and school.

How is virtual conferencing being used in Victoria?

Virtual conferencing provides great benefits to student and teachers. Virtual conferencing is being used to:
  • allow teachers to participate in high quality professional learning provided by subject matter experts without leaving their school. The Mathematics Association of Victoria (MAV) is currently facilitating a professional learning series about Wolfram Mathematica via Polycom in 20 venues across the state with a number of schools attending at each venue. Other professional development through Bastow is being delivered using Polycom for evening seminars and course delivery.
  • support VCE students by offering access to subjects that cannot be delivered locally. Students from Horsham, Casterton, Murtoa and Warracknabeal Colleges participate in virtual English Literature classes with their teacher based in Horsham. See FUSE resource GYRYJ9 https://fuse.education.vic.gov.au/
  • build intercultural understanding and a sense of global identity especially for students in rural Victoria. Students in Trawalla Primary School and Lismore Primary School are working on an art project with schools in Japan. Students work together to plan a mural and then each school paints part of the mural. Students involved in the project work together and find out about each other’s countries as they plan and construct the mural.
  • connect languages students to native speakers  and have a language exchange. Over ninety Victorian schools expressed interest in the Asia ConneXions project and sixteen lucky Victorian schools have been selected for the first intake. Lesson content is negotiated via videoconference between the two teachers to suit both schools. We hope that this program may lead to ePal communication and possible school exchange visits.
  • access a vast number of cultural, scientific and literary events including science experiments and musical performances. Students from across Victoria have had the opportunity to attend the ‘Monet’s Garden’ Exhibition  via Blackboard Collaborate from the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) and participate in activities lead by NGV Education Officers.
  • connect students  and teachers in regional Victoria and share perspectives on curriculum. Teachers in Hawkesdale College and Lismore Primary School planned an inquiry unit on ANZAC Day via video conferencing. The culminating event was a video conference where students in Hawkesdale and Lismore shared their investigations into family and community history. Anne Mirtschin, an innovative educator from Hawkesdale College in rural south west Victoria, documents her videoconferencing journey in her blog, http://murcha.wordpress.com/
Do you need help?

Four classroom teachers have been funded part-time as Virtual Conference Centre Coaches and they are available to assist schools set up equipment and online conferences, to train online conference moderators and suggest ideas for using virtual conferencing with your students
Two full-time Victorian Virtual Learning Project Officers are available to support schools that wish to explore shared curriculum delivery for specific groups of students. Their website highlights great use of virtual conferencing. http://vicvirtuallearning.tumblr.com/
Additional information and a comprehensive range of support materials is available at http://edugate.eduweb.vic.gov.au/virtualconf