Archive for the ‘web conferencing’ Category

Online course communications – tooling up for e-learning.

June 7, 2010
Trade Honours Program Certificate IV in Post-Trade Technical Applications (Supervisor)

Cert IV Supervisor course

This semester, I’m piloting a new Trade Honours Program course – Certificate IV in Post-trade Technical Applications (Supervisor). Because the course is delivered online, and my students are spread around Queensland (with just a few in Brisbane), it’s unlikely that I will get to meet each person face-to-face. To enhance the learning experience for my students, I’m including a guide for communicating with me (Cert IV Mentor), and with each other.

About the course.

Certificate IV in Post-Trade Technical Applications (Supervisor)

THP Cert IV Supervisor core and elective units

The course is designed to provide tradespeople with supervisory skills in a post-trade situation. Some students are already fulfilling the role and need a qualification, and others are moving into the role and need the skills. The first phase delivered in semester one focuses on technical skills, and phase two (semester two) addresses people management skills.

Meeting students where they are.
The course is also designed to fit around a student’s busy work schedule and home life, so it is delivered entirely online. This can be both a selling point and a barrier for students – while they wish to access learning using their home or work computer without ever visiting a TAFE campus, they are also hands-on practical people who do not identify with the advanced computer user – they are not “geeks”. Hence, there is a need for extra online support to replace the face-to-face contact in a computer classroom and to tailor the training delivery support to suit each student.

During the pilot, I’ve introduced a few online communication tools that will be useful for other course mentors to consider in their own course inductions. Described briefly in a list here, I understand that it can at first appear as a bewildering display of geekiness – but I am only too happy to help with guidance and further explanation. Just ask me!

Course comms: Advice to students.
This list is subject to change, according to developments and improvements in the my.TAFE Learning Management System (LMS).

Using hashtags.


hashtag 'thpcert4'

The course ‘tag’ is ‘#thpcert4’, and each student cohort is identified by the semester in which they start– for example, the current class starting in 2010 semester 1 is ‘#thpcert4_1001’; the next class starting in 2010 semester 2 is ‘#thpcert4_1002’ and so on. Course events, student assignments and announcements are all tagged to make them easier to find.

Voice call: Students call the course mentor 24/7 – if there is no answer, they leave a message and the mentor returns the call as soon as possible.

SMS txt:

Students send a Short Message Service (SMS) text message 24/7 and expect a reply when it’s convenient for the mentor to do so.

SMS text message

sms txt msg

It’s a good idea for students to send a text message each time they upload an assignment to the LMS; likewise, the mentor should send a message when feedback is provided by email, and when an announcement is broadcast by email.

Optus Redcoal

Optus Redcoal

The institute subscribes to Optus Redcoal which supports mass texting, facilitated via the Web.

Email: It is critical that students provide a correct email address to enter the course. Email and mobile phones are the most important ways of communicating with students.

Upload to LMS: Each assessment item in the course has an “Upload to LMS” facility so that student activity is recorded. It is necessary to do this to track student activity for marking and recording results, and to prove student participation for audit purposes. The action of uploading to the Learning Management System (LMS) triggers a notification email sent to the mentor so that the assignment can be marked, and feedback provided, as soon as possible.

YouCanBook.Me, GCal and GMail:

YouCanBook.Me logo

YouCanBook.Me logo

The meeting booking tool YouCanBook.Me integrates nicely with Google Calendar (Gcal).

Google Calendar logo

Google Calendar logo

Displayed on a “Calendar of Events” page in the LMS, the YouCanBook.Me application lets students book straight into the course GCal. Both applications were registered using the course Gmail account set up for this purpose – all emails sent to the course Gmail inbox are copied straight to the mentor’s personal Gmail inbox. Doing this allows activity to be monitored without logging in separately to each account.

Chat with Yammer:

Yammer logo

Yammer logo

The course Yammer is a discrete student community within the DET Yammer, and it requires a student’s work email for registration. Students cannot see mainstream DET messages, nor can DET staff see students’ messages. Several DET colleagues have been invited to share membership in this network to preclude an exclusive relationship between mentor and students. Yammer is useful for sharing files and web links, and the threaded discussions are searchable using tags. Yammer is particularly useful for hosting discussions between students, and it also allows private messaging.

Tweet in Twitter:

Twitter logo header

Twitter logo header

The course Twitter account is not currently subscribed to by students, but it is a useful way to broadcast information about the course to participants.

Webconference in Flashmeeting:

Flashmeeting logo

Flashmeeting logo

Flashmeeting is a sophisticated but cost-free webconferencing facility that provides video recording, text-chat recording and meeting analysis at the close of each session. Access to the recording of each meeting is gained using the same web address that was used to access the meeting, which means that the course GCal can be loaded with future meeting details, and then the archived recording accessed for an indefinite period afterwards without editing the calendar entry. Flashmeeting is useful for engaging students using a whiteboard, voting, web link sharing, and uploading, downloading and screen capturing of images and slide presentations. During a Flashmeeting session, one participant at a time broadcasts video and voice to a large main screen by clicking ‘start broadcasting’ and ‘stop broadcasting’ buttons, while all participants (who have a webcam connected) are visible in individual, smaller windows on the main screen. A session text-chat conversation is maintained on the public screen, while private text chat conversations take place via participant windows.

Scribble on an online whiteboard: I considered that an online whiteboard could be useful to explain mathematics concepts which require sketching and maths symbols. Scribblar was the best of a series of online collaborative whiteboards trialled for use in the course, selected for its ‘freemium’ features which include embedding capability, and multiple pages suitable for ‘breakout-room’ discussion. However, the embedded whiteboard did not display well in the LMS, and consumed too much bandwidth when used in conjunction with Flashmeeting.

TTS Easi View:

Desktop web cam and document camera

TTS Easi View

A better alternative to an online whiteboard is a gooseneck, high-resolution desktop web camera which can be used as a document camera for capturing hand-drawn explanations on paper. This device is simple to use in a classroom (displaying objects or notes via data projector) as well as for sending almost instant feedback to a distant student.

Post a note student survey:



The WallWisher application is good for a quick and easy survey among the student group. Students receive a web address in their email, which when accessed, displays a screen for posting responses to a survey question. Students post notes by double-clicking the screen and then typing their comment which remains visible to all invitees. When trialled, the LMS survey tool may prove to be useful, but would need to be very good to compete with WallWisher’s elegance.


Virtual meetings

December 14, 2008

Virtual meetings

Originally uploaded by st0nemas0nry

Stone industry personnel have suggested regular meetings to discuss their training needs, as well as delivering training and carrying out skill assessments. However, the state-wide geographic spread of employers and apprentices means that it is impossible to get everyone in the same place at one time, and it is difficult for trainers to see every client face-to-face.

SkillsTech Australia has a commitment to sustainability, providing training in sustainable practices, as well as “…innovative, technology-driven, efficient and flexible training.” Travelling many miles to deliver training is no longer justifiable, given the institute’s position on climate change.

AQTF Standards.
The Australian Quality Training Framework (AQTF) standards insist that:
2.1 The RTO continuously improves client services by collecting, analysing and acting on relevant data
2.3 Employers and other parties who contribute to each learner’s training and assessment are engaged in the development, delivery and monitoring of training and assessment.
2.4 Learners receive training, assessment and support services that meet their individual needs.
Hence, there exists a need for additional ways to communicate with employer, students and RPL applicants, supplementing workplace visits.

Employers’ contributions.
Employer feedback will be necessary during the future upgrade of our current training package from BCF00 Off-Site Construction to CPC08 Construction, Plumbing and Services Integrated Framework.

Training delivery.
Stonemasonry apprentice numbers have outpaced staffing and infrastructure resources available at SkillsTech Australia. A continued increase in student numbers means that some of the stonemasonry teaching delivery load must be undertaken in a flexible mode.

Virtual conferencing.
I believe that some of the communications issues could be addressed by using virtual conferencing tools (together with phone, fax, email, Web, etc.) to supplement face-to-face meetings with clients. In choosing a conferencing platform, there are several issues to be considered:
o Most employers have computers and Internet access
o Not every student has a computer, let alone Internet access
o Most employers and apprentices are busy working during the day
o It is important to track both employer and student interaction for audit purposes
o Recorded sessions should be available for replay by participants
o Conversations should be conducted using a service that is proven to be reliable
o Internet access is limited by bandwidth in regional areas
o Information gathered should be secure
o The conferencing platform (including meeting replays) must be accessible via the SkillsTech Australia student network

Researching virtual-meeting communications tools, two in particular look promising: Videolinq videoconferencing and Flashmeeting webconferencing.

Videolinq videoconferencing.
Videolinq is a TAFE Queensland service “…providing video conferencing, video streaming and learning technology services to support enhanced educational opportunities for off campus, distance and integrated educational delivery models.” I have been a videoconference teacher since 2004, actively participating in and contributing material to Videolinq videoconferences and media streams, archived under VeMentoring and Stonemasonry headings. Videolinq videoconferences are currently only accessible at TAFE institutes around Queensland, and as many stonemasonry apprentices do not have computers and Internet access, I believe that Videolinq will be a suitable platform for delivering training to stonemasonry students at their local TAFE institute.

I’ve been regularly using Flashmeeting as a virtual meeting tool since April 2008, connecting educators from Australia and New Zealand (as well as the UK and the US) via their computers. A link to each meeting is displayed on a wiki, and immediately after the meeting, the link automatically accesses the recorded video and text files. Flashmeeting uses webcam, voice and text chat communications, although participants may choose just text, or text and audio, or a combination of text, audio and webcam. Flashmeeting will be a useful tool to connect stone industry people in between face-to-face meetings.

Meeting times and dates.
I plan to facilitate two virtual sessions a month using Flashmeeting webconferencing with employers and Videolinq videoconferencing with students. This schedule can later be expanded to four sessions a month, if required. Alternating Flashmeeting webconferences with Videolinq videoconferences gives a choice of first and third, and second and fourth Monday evenings.

My experience with meetings informs me that 6pm is a good time for a one-hour session. Participants in a Videolinq videoconference require time to get from their workplace to their local TAFE institute, perhaps eating a small meal on the way. Flashmeeting participants can access the meeting from either their home computer or the workplace. Using either videoconferencing or webconferencing, 7pm is not too late a time to finish. Additionally, a 6-7pm time slot allows me time to prepare for a session after students leave TAFE classes at 3:30pm.

Monday evenings are a popular time for industry meetings, however there is a potential conflict with public holidays, when participants should not be expected to attend. Considering the ten Queensland public holidays in 2009, five occur on a Monday. Of these, one is on the first Monday of the month, two are on the second, and two are on the fourth. I believe that students should be given more opportunities than employers to access virtual meetings, hence, choosing every 2nd Monday of the month for Flashmeetings, and every 3rd Monday of the month for Videolinq videoconferences will give 10 student meetings and 9 employer meetings, with options to expand to a further 10 student meetings (totaling 22) and 9 employer meetings (totaling 19) during 2009.

Hence, the proposed dates for virtual meetings 6-9 pm on Mondays in 2009 are:

Videolinq (subject to room availability).
January 19th
February 16th
March 16th
April 20th
May 18th
June 15th
July 20th
August 17th
September 21st
October 19th
November 16th
December 21st

January 12th
February 9th
March 9th
May 11th
July 13th
August 10th
September 14th
October 12th
November 9th
December 14th

Agenda items.
When confirmed, meeting dates will be published at the stonemasonry wiki using an embedded Google calendar. The booking will also include meeting details such as meeting chair, agenda, access to previous meeting minutes, etc. This method will suffice until a dedicated my.TAFE course structure is developed.

Expected outcomes.
Gathering employer feedback about skills training, and providing training delivery to regional students are quality assurance requirements of the Australian Quality Training Framework (AQTF) standards for every Registered Training Organisation (RTO). Using virtual meeting platforms such as Videolinq and Flashmeeting provide sustainable ways to manage unnecessary travel. Regular meetings will also strengthen the established master-novice network, as well as managing the increasing training delivery workload.

Flashmeeting as a training delivery tool

December 2, 2008
The Flashmeeting booking form

The Flashmeeting booking form

Flashmeeting is a free, online video conferencing tool useful for distant training delivery. This view is a screen capture of the meeting booking form.

email triggered by booking request

email triggered by booking request

The meeting booking request immediately triggers an email with URL and other details

publishing meeting times and agenda items

publishing meeting times and agenda items

The meeting details are published in the stonemasonry wiki to alert students about the time and agenda items.

Using webcam video with audio and text chat

Using webcam video with audio and text chat

The meeting is conducted using text chat, audio and webcam. Audio and webcam are optional.

storing and accessing meeting recordings

storing and accessing meeting recordings

Immediately after the meeting, an archived version is available at the same link that was originally used to access it.

replaying the meeting

replaying the meeting

The “meeting replay” is a downloadable video clip, useful for recording interaction during the session.

recording the chat session

recording the chat session

The “meeting minutes” link archives the chat line, recording participants’ engagement during the session.

analysing participation

analysing participation

The “meeting analysis” link analyses participants’ activities as a time line. Votes on issues during the session are also recorded here.

graphically representing partipants' broadcasts

graphically representing partipants

The “meeting analysis” link provides graphic representation of participants’ webcam/audio broadcast activity.

analysing text interation during the session

analysing text interation during the session

The “meeting analysis” link also provides graphic representation of participants’ text interaction.

In addition to this blog update, the topic has also been Plurk’d, Flickr’d, Slideshare’d and Ning’d

Tokbox video mail and conferencing

February 25, 2008


Originally uploaded by st0nemas0nry

Tokbox is a cool way to send video mail and video conference. All you need is a web cam and microphone (computer and Internet connection too of course). Register at the Tokbox site and you’re ready to go straight away.

I embedded a Tokbox widget at my Facebook profile page (using the “embed” tab at the top of the Tokbox page) so I can send video mail directly from there.

Sue and Jo in Melbourne invited me to a conference via Twitter this evening. Six participants is the maximum at one time. There was a bit of confusion as each new participant adjusted their webcam and microphone settings, and logged in to get as user name set up.

I video mailed Carol, who immediately replied with her own video message.

Will teachers and students use this application?


February 25, 2008
Get your own TokBox at

VETVirtual in the workshop

December 18, 2007

VETVirtual in the workshop

Originally uploaded by st0nemas0nry

I arranged for my webcam software to be installed on the Eagle Farm library’s laptop, and with the help of an extra long network cable, wheeled it out into the workshop on a trolley. So now that I have web conferencing capability in the training workspace, I can demonstrate hand skills live to remote and regional students via VET Virtual