Distance learning has become more and more popular with improvements in internet-based technology. The days of students sitting at desks, tethered to the classroom are ending. Distance learning allows students to learn from the comfort of their homes. Students have the freedom to learn from anywhere there's internet—and even without it.

But distance learning isn't without its challenges. When students aren't inside the physical classroom, the distance can cause a disconnect. Modern teaching hasn't changed much since the old schoolhouse days. A teacher stands in front of the classroom and interacts with students. In more integrated learning environments, the teacher may weave between groups of students. This enhanced interaction can improve the experience of learners.

With distance learning, some of the benefits of interpersonal interaction may get lost. This is where video conferencing can make a considerable difference.

[Get 5 Steps to Conduct a Virtual Lesson, a new online resource from 8x8.]

What Is Video Conferencing?

Video conferencing involves people in different places interacting through a video connection. In many systems, the conference allows for two-way communication and you can record it.

How Video Conferencing Is Used in Education and Distance Learning

Video conferencing can serve as a bridge between the classroom and students who are not able to be there. It also gives students the opportunity to learn if they choose to not come to class. Further, video conferencing allows for the setup of virtual classrooms.

In a virtual classroom, the students "meet" online. The teacher conducts the class using video interaction. There are several benefits to this style of learning:

1. Project Collaboration

Video conferencing can make project collaboration possible even when students are miles apart. When students collaborate on projects, the end product is often better. Each student brings their own contribution, which can enhance the final result. Students get to learn how to interact in a team atmosphere. Learning how to produce within a team framework is an essential skill for the working world.

Video conferencing makes the distance learning environment possible by facilitating effective communication. Students have the ability to open their computers and get started in a matter of seconds. There's no need to drive miles, or spend time fighting through traffic and wasting valuable time. Students can stay home or at the office and connect with their peers. Many video conferencing systems allow for two-way communication. Collaboration is almost like it is in a face-to-face meeting.

Video conferencing brings a bonus to project collaboration. You can share auxiliary materials with your collaborators. Using various apps, you can send text messages and attachments during the conference. Students can talk about a concept and then send it to inspire others in the group.

2. Self-Paced Learning

One of the most lauded advantages of video conferencing in education is self-pacing. In today's work environment, it's hard to find time for education. Even younger students often have obligations outside the classroom that need their attention. The ability to self-pace can help students have greater access to learning.

So that students don’t miss out on learning, the teacher can record each video conferencing session. Then students can watch it at a time and place that's convenient for them. Any student who is unable to attend class or joins a class late can catch up with the rest of the class at their own pace. Also, a teacher has the option of retaining sessions for later use. If a student is progressing faster than the rest of the class, they could watch a "future" lesson.

Students can also review lessons to reinforce knowledge. A student can use a recorded conference to brush up on areas where they're weak. For example, in a math class, a student can replay a lesson about the Pythagorean theorem. Because this is the basis for the quadratic equation, understanding it can be helpful. If the student’s grasp of the topic is a little shaky, a simple review of the lesson can help them catch up.

3. Reaches Students in Remote Areas

Access to learning can be hard to come by for many students. This is particularly true for students who live far from the campus. A video conferencing system helps bridge this gap. The teacher can connect students from a variety of areas to the system. Then they can all access the lesson regardless of where they are. This also applies to situations in which students don't have the ability to travel—or don't want to.

Many educators see video conferencing as a way of attaining equity in learning. It removes the advantages students who live closer to campus have. Everyone is on equal footing.

The distractions and costs involved with traveling to a classroom can be discouraging. When a student has the freedom to tie in via video, they can invest more of their energy in learning. This may help enhance the learning process.

4. Universities Can Extend Their Curriculum

Video conferencing can help remove the walls surrounding standard university curriculum. It can enable both distance learning and distance teaching. For instance, a university may want a teacher who lives far away to join their staff. Video conferencing could be the conduit. The university could extend a full invitation or ask the professor to deliver a few lectures.

This could be a big benefit if the university has a partnership with another institution. Instead of having professors trek for miles, they can simply log in. With two-way video conferencing, the professor can interact with the class. Students can ask questions and provide feedback like in a live classroom.

5. Recorded Lessons

Recorded lessons are one of the best benefits of a video conferencing system. In some ways, they can make distance learning superior to learning in person. In a normal classroom, the insights of the teacher and students dissipate into thin air the moment they're uttered. When you record a lesson, both the students and the teacher can review it.

Recorded lessons benefit the teacher because they can use them for self-evaluation. A teacher can replay the recording and examine strengths and areas for growth. They can also use the recording as an artifact to provide evidence of good teaching. Administrators can use recorded lessons to help teachers improve. They could also incorporate them into the evaluation process.

6. Connect With Experts

There's no need to allow the walls of a classroom to limit learning. With a video conferencing system, you can engage in a different kind of distance learning. The students can stay in the classroom and interact with an expert in a remote location. Getting first-hand knowledge straight from the expert’s mouth is a great way to learn. This can be a good way for a teacher to augment students' education.

The teacher only has to arrange for a video conference with the expert at a designated time. Then the expert can tie in with the classroom and engage with the students. If the expert is too busy to join during class, the teacher can record the expert's contribution. The teacher can then play it for the class.

7. Out-of-Class Learning and Remote Learning

Connecting with students shouldn't be limited to classroom interactions. If a student can't leave their home—or even a hospital room—they can still learn.

Distance learning also expands the bounds of the classroom across countries. An institution can expand its student base, which could enhance enrollment revenue. Also, as students from other countries tie in, the reputation of the school grows. It can tap a wider range of students. This could present new marketing possibilities.

8. Allows for Remote Work on Theses or Dissertations

Often, as a professor progresses toward tenure, they work to develop their thesis. This takes mountains of work and time. In some cases, the professor may be unable to come to the university to present their thesis to the panel. In other cases, the professor sacrifices valuable time and money to make the trip. For the convenience of the hard-working professor, a video conference could be set up.

On the other side of the table, a video conference could help the panel as well. In many instances, those listening to the professor's presentation come from disparate areas. They have the humility and professionalism to sacrifice their time to come in. But they may not have to. With video conferencing, each person on the panel can stay at home or in their office. With two-way communication, they can also provide feedback and ask questions.

9. Connects Parents With Teachers

The interaction between parents and teachers is invaluable in today's learning environment. Parents are one of the most powerful players on the student's team. Video conferencing can help connect teachers and administrators with students' parents and guardians. When it comes time for parent-teacher conferences, those who can't come in could log- in.

Also, if a teacher or an administrator needs help with a student, they could video chat with the parent. This could help the educator glean valuable insight—on the spot. There's no need to wait for the parent to come in. Also, the parent doesn't have to end their workday. The video conference can only consume 20 minutes of their time instead of hours.

10. More Effective Teacher or Professor Consultations

Teachers and professors are often connected via professional learning communities. Forming a supportive community is one thing; finding time to meet is another. With video conferencing, time becomes less of an issue. Teachers and professors can consult with each other easier. They don't have to leave their homes or offices. Also, educators from other institutions may choose to partner up. These kinds of connections could happen across town or across the world.

A teacher or professor may need professional support but may not have time to go see someone. Using a video conference, they can connect in an instant and get the help they need.

11. Reduces Costs

The costs associated with wasted time and travel can disappear with video conferencing. If educators have to stop their workday to attend a meeting across town, you lose valuable time. Each meeting also incurs costs that come with having educators meet together. These may include snacks, catering or setup costs. The time it takes to set up the meeting is also money down the drain.

With video conferencing, each participant only has to log in, and they can do so from their desks—or even their house.

FAQs

1. Is a video conferencing system complicated to set up?

A: No. The camera, which may be part of the computer already, interfaces with the software. After logging in, the connection is straightforward.

2. Are video conferencing systems expensive?

No, particularly when you take into consideration the money they save. They can also make life easier for educators, students and parents, which has value as well.

3. Do teachers really need to use video?

While it's not necessary, video is a useful tool. This is especially true because students spend so much time in front of screens. Being in front of a screen is a comfortable zone for many students. Using video conferencing helps teachers "meet them where they are."

4. What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of video conferencing in education?

Some of the advantages include increased access to other educators and students. One of the disadvantages is students may miss out on face-to-face interaction. For students who need to work on their social skills, this could be an issue.

Distance Learning With Video Conferencing: How 8x8 Can Help

8x8 provides flexible video conferencing solutions for educational settings. You can hold and record classes in the cloud. Students and educators can view them later at their leisure. Participants can connect on a variety of devices. These include a desktop, laptop, tablet, phone or other mobile device. A professional from 8x8 can help you set up the system according to your needs.

Ready for the Next Step?

Contact a solutions expert to learn more about how 8x8 cloud communications and collaboration solutions can help increase productivity and lower costs at your institution. Call 1-866-879-8647 or visit 8x8.com.