Live Synchronous Video Conferencing Interaction
I recently had a job interview for a position in music education at a major university that was some 2,000 miles from my home. We worked through Skype, which does not have the speed qualities of Internet2, but still provided a relatively decent communication vehicle. The benefits from this personal experience should be well-noted because of the opportunity for experiencing and examining the possibilities, benefits, and limitations of IVC in a firing line situation as synchronous teaching through this medium is examined.
As we consider live synchronous video conferencing interaction as a tool for instruction I wish to mention several items as we consider the conferencing physical atmosphere experienced by students for the online classroom. From my online interview experience I noted several items to think about as I prepare for future communications with my online students and try to remain “happy as I am synchronous.” These are: room appearance, lighting, hand and other physical gestures, eye-focus, and dress.
A good rule of thumb is to open your webcam and note what type of picture you are receiving from the “set” of your room. I experienced a “rude awakening” from the camera image on my computer. The room I work from has much clutter and usually I would not notice this; however, since this was to be an interview of extreme importance I immediately became quite aware of the disarray my camera was capturing and the obvious impression I would make upon members of the search committee. A background poster, picture on the wall, or some type of “set” will certainly enhance the image your students receive of you as they engage in your teaching dialogue. I had to locate several small lamps around my computer to provide even lighting so there were no shadows, which were very obvious and impeded the image I was transmitting from my camera.
Of humor for this interview situation was my dress! Since this was an interview I wore a tie, white shirt, and formal black suit coat. However, since the committee members would only see me from the waist up, I kept my shorts on and did not include my matching trousers that were part of the suit. This turned humorous as I had to answer the door prior to the interview and the person who I talked with gave me several incredulous looks as he was talking to someone in a formal black coat, tie, and a white shirt that was hanging out over a pair of unraveled blue jean shorts!
Physical gestures and eye contact are something to be very aware of. One of the committee members made a comment to the chair of the committee as I used my hand extensively to support my answers. There was too much of this and I will note that in the future. Eye contact can be lost if you do not look directly at the camera on your computer, or, if using a laptop, the screen is at an angle that does not accentuate the focus of your eyes. Prior use of the camera and observation of the results are very important, as the image of the person being viewed can be very critical in developing an appealing personable view of the speaker, or communicator.
Video Conferencing with Music Students