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Challenges faced during distance learning

Cisco Webex Research Blog Series

The Design Group at Cisco is a global team of Red Dot Award winning creatives who explore peoples’ needs through research and empathy to make the world a better place to work. This series explores their research and some best practices to make everyday interactions more effective. 

Read all the blogs in the series

What are some of the challenges of distance learning for students and educators?

The recent transition to distance learning has been a sudden, abrupt, and – at some levels – a hard change to adapt to – not just for educators but also for students. We recently conducted a research study with students to understand how their transition to distance learning has been and learned about their experiences.

When asked what students liked about distance learning, many spoke about the ease of not traveling and the reduced expenses on public transport or fuel.

“Learning online gives me a lot of time and flexibility as I don’t have to travel much.”

However, for students who are used to in-person classes, and socializing with friends at school, the conversation quickly moved on to the discomforts they were facing staying back at home.

“I experience video-fatigue. I take many classes, some of which are back to back. In college getting to another building or classroom takes 5-10 mins to wait for everyone to come and greet everyone and then get started. Online classes don’t have any of that.”

Learn more about how Webex can help you with virtual learning

Easy boundary and burnout solutions

The lack of clear demarcation of boundaries between different classes and between school and home left students feeling a little burned out and overwhelmed. The good news is that there is are some easy solutions for this:

  • Educators and school administrators can help students feel less overwhelmed by including short breaks within an online class where they can catch up.
  • They can help students by ending the class a few mins earlier.
  • Administration can also build in breaks between classes so students can refresh and relax before their next class.
  • Instructors can start the class by greeting individual students and further personalizing the distance learning experience.

Watch a live discussion on how to use Webex for education in your distance learning experience

Students and scheduling drawbacks

Another drawback experienced by students was the inability to manage their new schedule and not knowing which online meeting they needed to be at.

I’ve [had] to search through emails to find the online class link, which already makes me late to class. I’ve gone to so many wrong links. Having it on my calendar with the link would have made switching between classes a lot easier.”

A way to help students manage their schedules is to ensure that collaboration tools are linked to calendars, so there is a one-stop-shop for students to manage their schedules.

Learn more about Webex Integration with LMS

Teacher-student interactions

Most students also missed the daily interactions with peers and faculty at school. The visual cues they exchanged helped create a more natural environment for classes.

I miss the little things, like asking the person sitting next to me for notes if I had missed a class. It’s a lot easier doing that in person as compared to online. Also, lecturers know how to pace the class better in-person to gauge if students are still taking notes or is ready for the next section.

How to engage students in distance learning

There are several strategies to increase student engagement in distance learning:

  • Providing an environment where students can use messaging for quick chats outside the class can help students have their own space to catch up and mirror offline interactions.
  • Educators can also create break out team spaces to ensure that students can have smaller and more intimate group discussions that foster learning, file sharing, and collaboration.
  • Online office hours and team spaces can be used for 1:1 interaction with the educator as well.
  • Encouraging students to utilize their video during classes might also help educators understand if students are in sync with the lecture.

More tips to improve engagement with students

As students face distance learning challenges, they are starting to learn how to work around them and provide suggestions to their educators. What can you do to ease the transition? Reach out to your students and see how you can tailor distance learning to their learning needs.

Need help designing your own virtual course? Here are some tips from Webex on how to design an engaging virtual course for your students

In closing

Take advantage of these current secure education feature enhancements and stay informed on the upcoming Webex for Classrooms announcements. Have Questions? Reach out to our Webex for Education Community to ask questions and learn from other educators!

Learn more at Webex for Education

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Cisco Webex Education Connector

Webex Teams

About the Cisco Webex Research Team

Kathryn Parkes, Senior UX Researcher
Kathryn is an experienced user researcher based in Dublin, Ireland, reporting into San Jose. As a member of the UX Research team, she leads research projects across the Webex Suite, working with various Cisco Collab teams in Ireland, the US and across Europe. The team uses a broad variety of research methods, including user interviews, usability testing, and benchmarking studies, to get a deep understanding of Webex user needs.

Varshine Chandrakanthan, Designer User Experience
Varshine loves observing people and their actions – hence she decided to become a User Researcher. She is passionate about creating an impact on people’s lives and loves to volunteer for education and human rights programs. Her interests include designing tattoos, illustrating for books, eating cake and meditating.

Mani Pande, User Experience Manager
Mani leads the user research team in San Jose. Her team is responsible for understanding the needs of Webex users to inform product strategy and direction, and ensure that the software we ship is not only simple and easy to use, but also delightful. You can find her and her team members huddling with Webex users understanding how they use our software and mapping opportunities of improvement. In another life, Mani worked as a reporter for the Times of India, India’s largest selling newspaper, covering media and crime. Outside of work, Mani loves to travel, cycle, run, and cook. She posts photos of food that she cooks and places she visits on Instagram.

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Webex for Education and Cisco Webex
Experience the new Webex for Education – Simple and secure out-of-the-box

Webex Meetings tailored for needs of educators with security top of mind

As educators virtually attend REMOTE: The Connected Faculty Summit, held July 13-14, hosted by Arizona State University to develop and execute fall learning plans, Cisco introduces enhancements to Webex with new features and settings targeted at the education sector to support secure distance learning.

Learn more at Webex for Education

Schools transition to distance learning

It seems the entire world has changed over the past several months. Changes to our daily lives have dramatically impacted the education sector, where educators and students have had to adapt to teaching and learning remotely. With the surge toward distance and hybrid learning, there is more to consider than teaching over video conferencing. Educators need to engage and reach students anywhere and anytime outside the traditional classroom setting, using technology to deliver lessons and materials. With recent challenges related to video conferencing, security is now top of mind for educators. In this new climate, revised teaching models and methods are taking shape to establish a new foundation for education. Amid an evolving landscape, Cisco Webex is dedicated to supporting educators as they transform teaching and learning. 

Why Cisco for education?

Cisco has already long supported distance learning by integrating Webex into popular learning management systems (LMS), so teachers can teach and students can learn right within familiar tools. Now, we are doing even more. Webex for Education directly addresses teachers, administrators, and students’ needs, while making distance learning more secure than ever. In addition, we’re introducing “Webex Classrooms,” ideal for schools looking to transition to distance learning quickly.

As educators leverage collaboration technology and drive digital engagement with their students, they will require technology that:

  • Is trustworthy and reliable
  • Connect them with students and administrators
  • Provides a highly secure classroom environment

Webex provides these plus additional tools and features to optimize effective and safe distance learning

Secure and easy-to-use experience for education

As more school districts, colleges and universities utilize Webex to meet their needs, we are building dedicated education functionality for educators and students. Webex for Education provides a highly secure and easy-to-use experience for educators, administrators, and students.

With these features and enhancements for education, Webex allows teachers to focus on teaching and students to focus on learning without worrying about privacy and security concerns.

Technology enhancements for Webex for Education

Teachers must protect and provide a safe environment for students, so they need control and security over their classes’ attendance. When instructors schedule a class with Webex, there are two simple options: allow external members to join the class or not. By establishing this at creating the class, instructors can easily control the attendees who have permission to join the class. Additional features and functionality are based on roles. For instance, a student may not share their screen without permission being granted during class. These settings enable easy-to-schedule and secure classes from day one.

Schedule a Meeting setting in Webex

Automatic Webex for Education security settings

Why is it important to have automatic and secure settings for Webex for Education users? These out-of-the-box default settings enable security and consistency across the institution. Instructors and students know what to expect, benefit from the unified experience, and don’t need to worry about interruptions due to security concerns. Other collaboration solutions do not currently offer these standard out-of-the-box security settings.

Here are a few key features:

  • Meeting rooms will always be locked to ensure no one without a password can join
  • All Meetings, Events, and Trainings will be unlisted, so no one can locate your Webex unless invited specifically
  • Meetings will not allow hosts to leave without ending them, to protect Webex Rooms from being used beyond their intended purpose. Webex Meetings will automatically end if there’s only one participate for 15 minutes.

If administrators want to modify any of the above default settings, all they need to do is go into Webex Control Hub and update all teachers and students’ settings.

Integrate with learning management systems

The Webex Education Connector allows educators and students to collaborate where they teach and learn, and is deeply integrated with leading learning management systems (LMS). Webex Meetings and Teams integrated into the LMS platforms provide a seamless experience. Inside the LMS platform, Webex Education Connector enables classroom collaboration, office hours, and virtual learning benefits.

Sneak preview – Webex Classrooms

We are building the education of tomorrow with Webex Classrooms.

Webex Classrooms is a perfect solution for schools and universities looking for a single pane for schedules and recordings. Webex will have a dedicated portal for educators and students that syncs with the Student Information System (SIS) to fetch course details and enrollment information. Stay tuned for more details soon.

Cisco Webex is dedicated to providing secure and easy-to-use technology on- and off-campus learning for teachers, administrators, and students. Hungry to learn more? Join our Webex for Education user community to ask questions, learn from peers, and more!

Take advantage of these current secure education feature enhancements and stay informed on the upcoming Webex Classrooms announcements.

Learn more at Webex for Education

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Improve engagement with students with these tips

Cisco Webex Research Blog Series

The Design Group at Cisco is a global team of Red Dot Award winning creatives who explore peoples’ needs through research and empathy to make the world a better place to work. This series explores their research and some best practices to make everyday interactions more effective. 

Read all the blogs in the series

Tips for better student engagement

One of the growing concerns for instructors delivering online lessons is how to understand if their students are engaged and how to increase engagement in class. At Cisco Webex Research, we spoke with 34 students and instructors to understand what helps students to be engaged during an online class. One of the things that stood out is how the class behavior is different based on the class size.   

Here are some tips to help your classes, based on the number of students in them. 

Improve engagement with students with these tips

  • Small- sized classes (Less than 10 students): Small sized classes open up the possibility of a discussion-based class which is great to increase engagement. A discussion-based class will provide the opportunity for each student to talk about their perspective. Encouraging students to have their video and microphone on ensures they take the class from a quiet space that enhances their focus. Another method of encouraging participation is having students share content during class, and having them lead the discussion.
  • Mid-size classes (10-30 students): Typically, in mid-size classes, instructors tend to have a discussion-based class along with group work where students work in break-out groups. In these classes, sharing content with students as well as the video of the instructor will help increase engagement. Additionally, having students turn on their video while they ask questions will help other students know who is asking the question. Another method of improving class participation is by engaging with students via chat – answering their questions or sending out a poll will drive students to ask more questions via chat if they are hesitant to turn their video on.
  • Large classes (Greater than 30 students): A pattern seen in large classes is that all students tend to have their videos and microphones off. In such a class environment, it helps to ensure the instructor has their video turned on. Most of the students prefer to ask their questions via chat, and to keep the class engaged; it is necessary for the instructor to monitor the chat and interact with students on this channel. An additional way to improve engagement in class would be to work with a group of students and have them present some portion of the lecture. 

We would love to hear from you. If you are an instructor or student who would like to share about your online learning experience, please email us at webexresearch@cisco.com

Connect with all of our blogs in the series here 

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(Contributors: Varshine Chandrakanthan, Kathryn Parkes and Mani Pande) 

 About the Cisco Webex Research Team

Kathryn Parkes, Senior UX Researcher
Kathryn is an experienced user researcher based in Dublin, Ireland reporting into San Jose. As a member of the UX Research team, she leads research projects across the Webex Suite working with various Cisco Collab teams in Ireland, US and across Europe. The team use a broad variety of research methods, including user interviews, usability testing and benchmarking studies, to get a deep understanding of Webex user needs.

Varshine Chandrakanthan, Designer User Experience
Varshine loves observing people and their actions – hence she decided to become a User Researcher. She is passionate about creating an impact to people’s lives and loves to volunteer for education and human rights programs. Her interests include designing tattoos, illustrating for books, eating cake and meditating.

Mani Pande, User Experience Manager
Mani leads the user research team in San Jose. Her team is responsible for understanding the needs of Webex users to inform product strategy and direction, and ensure that the software we ship is not only simple and easy to use, but also delightful. You can find her and her team members huddling with Webex users understanding how they use our software and mapping opportunities of improvement. In another life, Mani worked as a reporter for the Times of India, India’s largest selling newspaper, covering media and crime. Outside of work, Mani loves to travel, cycle, run and cook. She posts photos of food that she cooks and places she visits on Instagram.

Read more
Make online learning more effective with these best practices. Young woman student working on laptop sitting in library at home
Make online learning more effective with these best practices

Cisco Webex Research Blog Series

The Design Group at Cisco is a global team of Red Dot Award winning creatives who explore peoples’ needs through research and empathy to make the world a better place to work. This series explores their research and some best practices to make everyday interactions more effective. 

Read all the blogs in the series

Implementing best practices in online learning

As more and more learning moves online, educators and students are scrambling to figure out how to make online education effective. The research team at Cisco Webex spent time with educators and students to understand their needs and challenges in the online learning environment. Based on the interviews with 39 educators and students in the US and Europe, we have compiled a list of best practices that could help educators and students to get the most out of online learning.

Educators:

  • Test Class If this is your first virtual class, then do a test class with a colleague. This will help you get acquainted with the meeting tool. Test out scenarios that includes sharing screen, muting the microphone, turning off and on the video and muting students
  • For the actual class itself, join the meeting 10 minutes early and ask your students to join early as well to iron out any audio or video issues before the beginning of class.
  • Effective role-taking If taking attendance is required for your class – call out names and have students feel comfortable talking through their microphone. This is more effective in a small class scenario.
  • Class engagement To ensure class engagement, structure your class into 15-20 min intervals spaced by activities that involve discussion with everyone. Additionally, ensure you content is a mix of one-way lecture as well as content sharing (using screen-share) which can bring variety to the class.
  • Improve engagement Class engagement can also be improved by having students type their questions into chat. Have the chat panel open and try and keep an eye if questions are coming in.
  • Having your video on during the lecture will help students feel comfortable about sharing theirs and help them be more engaged. See how video improves communication during any conference call
  • Encourage your students to have their video on – this will help you understand how to the class is feeling and also help students be more focused. See how turning on your video is a better way to communicate.
  • Record classes so students can go back to it when in need
  • In case of ambient or background noise coming from one of the participants in the call – as a host you can mute that participant during class or even mute all if needed.
  • Schedule office hours online with students to ensure they are doing okay with the transition to online classes. This also presents an opportunity for students to provide their feedback
  • If possible, end class 5 minutes early so students have the time to switch to their next class in time.

Students:

  • Thwart technical issues Check your audio and video settings to ensure that they are working properly. If possible, join the class a few minutes early to triage any technical issues.
  • Chat Use the chat option to interact with your peers as well as your educator. Check out how to get started with Webex Online Classes
  • Office hours Connect with your educators 1:1 during office hours for follow-up questions and clarifications.
  • Video on Keep your video on so your instructor as well as peers can see you. However, if you experience bandwidth issues, turn off your video so you don’t miss out on the class.

Please be on the lookout in this space as we share more tips on how to improve online education experience based on our research and connect with all of our blogs here.

Learn More

Webex Integration Partners join Cisco in offers for education

Higher education, meet Webex

Blackboard Learn and Webex join forces to expand the reach of education

 About the Cisco Webex Research Team

Kathryn Parkes, Senior UX Researcher
Kathryn is an experienced user researcher based in Dublin, Ireland reporting into San Jose. As a member of the UX Research team, she leads research projects across the Webex Suite working with various Cisco Collab teams in Ireland, US and across Europe. The team use a broad variety of research methods, including user interviews, usability testing and benchmarking studies, to get a deep understanding of Webex user needs.

Varshine Chandrakanthan, Designer User Experience
Varshine loves observing people and their actions – hence she decided to become a User Researcher. She is passionate about creating an impact to people’s lives and loves to volunteer for education and human rights programs. Her interests include designing tattoos, illustrating for books, eating cake and meditating.

Mani Pande, User Experience Manager
Mani leads the user research team in San Jose. Her team is responsible for understanding the needs of Webex users to inform product strategy and direction, and ensure that the software we ship is not only simple and easy to use, but also delightful. You can find her and her team members huddling with Webex users understanding how they use our software and mapping opportunities of improvement. In another life, Mani worked as a reporter for the Times of India, India’s largest selling newspaper, covering media and crime. Outside of work, Mani loves to travel, cycle, run and cook. She posts photos of food that she cooks and places she visits on Instagram.

Read more