Skype for business
My day starts by making some coffee, turning on my computer and start teaching via Skype for Business. That easy? Indeed. Remote teaching via Skype for Business approaches a face to face lesson for 90%. Let's take a closer look. In case you are considering starting up a distance learning project in you classroom/school, I'd be happy to help you. More info: www.timmers.me/distance-learning
Using Skype for Business to enhance remote learning
A Teacher's Guide to Distance Learning
In this manual I'll discuss the possibilities, benefits, pedagogical approaches of Microsoft Skype for Business and distance learning in general. After a short introduction we'll learn to install and use Skype for Business. Last but not least well take a look at an evaluation of the students.
1 About Microsoft Skype for Business
Microsoft Skype for Business is a web conferencing tool. It allows people to set up meetings, online workshops and even distance learning. By using screen, microphone and webcam students and teacher can see and hear each other. Screen sharing allows students to pick up the information their teacher is sharing with them. Skype for Business allows synchronous distance learning. Lessons can be recorded and the chat promotes Q&A. Skype for Business can be used on different platforms (Windows and Mac) and devices (pc, smartphone and tablet). My school is in the Office 365 Education A2 plan, which implies Microsoft Skype for Business.
2 Benefits and considerations
Using web conferencing tools to enhance distance learning offers pedagogical, financial, socio-cultural and technical benefits to the student, teacher and school.
Availability of apps, possibility to learn/teach anywhere
Possibility to collaborate, recorded lessons, increases accessibility, increases student-to-student and student-to-teacher interaction and participation
Con: taught and learned by one screen
Efficient time use, financial benefit, no transportation, extra grants from the government (for the school)
Familiar environment, advantages towards employment
Traffic jams and costs can be avoided. People are learning in a familiar environment. Ill or immobile students can catch up lessons since they can be recorded. Weaker students can rehearse by reviewing recorded lessons. In Belgium, the government offers grants to school who offer distance learning. However, some considerations have to be made: students are learning and working on one screen, this might change the pedagogical approach. It might also be difficult to ascertain whether students are really present (they might log in to a session and then leave). The use of a web conferencing tool increase accessibility but also student-to-student and student-to-teacher interaction. Participation can be increased by allowing students to use annotation tools on a white board.
Literature confirms the benefits of using web conferencing tools in education:
- Anderson and Elloumi (2004) claim that "Educational institutions are moving toward the use of the Internet for delivery, both at campus and at a distance".
- Thissen et al. (2007) advocate "Its possible to use web conferencing for teaching, because the built functions closely approach face-to-face teaching. They also believe that web conferencing technologies provide rich enough interaction to maintain a sense of community amongst the team members".
- Hambley et al. (2007) discuss that "Although face-to-face communication has been shown to be the richest form of interaction within a team, video conferencing capabilities mimic that ability closely".
- Everett (2007) advocates "Web conferencing is seen as a tool that encourages an interactive and collaborative environment while creating a sense of community".
Personally Im combining distance learning with screencasts. In case of technical problems (poor sound due to low bandwidth, no internet connection), students can take a look at short videos which offers them the theory. This approaches the flipped classroom situation. It also allows to differentiate. Weaker students are able to rehearse, stronger students get the opportunity to absorb the maximum amount of knowlegde.
On the other hand OneDrive allows us to share files. A side effect was that students spontaneously started creating and sharing own written tutorials on OneDrive. A wonderful experience!
3 Skype for Business: Software versus Web app?
At first we need to make a distinction between the software and webapp of Microsoft Skype for Business. The software allows telephone calls and meetings. The webapp is perfect for distance learning. We'll learn how to install and use Skype for Business (both software and webapp).
You don't need to install the software version! In case you are only interested in using the webapp, go to chapter
4 The installation of Microsoft Skype for Business (software)
Open Internet Explorer and navigate to http://login.microsoftonline.com/. Log in.
Sign in with your account.
Click on the icon and choose "Office 365 settings", or navigate to https://portal.office.com/OLS/MySoftware.aspx.
Click on Software and next on Skype for Business.
Click on Install. The installation file will be downloaded. Find this file in the download folder and double click on it.
You might need to change the version (32 versus 64 bit), by clicking on "Review system requirements".
The installation is very easy. You even dont need to hit buttons in a wizard. After the installation the Skype for Business icon can be found by searching for the program. Start Microsoft Skype for Business by clicking on this icon.
Start the program op and sign in.
Click on Sign In.
The following window appears:
3.2 A conversation with a colleague
The software Skype for Business might be very useful for conversations with colleagues. Meetings can be arranged on a distance.
Start Skype for Business by clicking on its icon
You can change your status on the top, so colleagues and students can check your availability.
Add contacts by searching for their name.
Click on the avatar of a contact. Some extra icons will appear.
Lets take a closer look at the different icons and options.
Start a conversation with a colleague by clicking on the second icon .
The conversation will start in a second window.
Communication is enabled by microphone (voice), webcam (video) or chat. All functions can be activated.
3.3 Starting a meeting
Start a meeting by clicking on and next by choosing "Meet Now".
Confirm by choosing OK:
The following window appears.
You can invite other participants to this meeting.
1. Open/close the chat window
2. Activate microphone
3. Activate webcam
4. Share your desktop, a program, etc
5. Overview participants
Using the fourth icon, you can share your desktop, or limit screen sharing to one specific program. You can share a Powerpoint file, which will be uploaded. Participants can browse the presentation at their own pace. By sharing a whiteboard, participants can participate by using annotation tools. The poll allows to ask feedback.
The extra menu on the right corner (3 dots) allows to record the meeting or manage recordings.
5 Scheduling a lesson
There are different options to schedule a lesson:
1// invite people to a Skype for Business session which has already started
Once a Skype for Business session (software) already started, the url can be shared to other people.
2// schedule a session via your agenda (office 365)
As an Outlook or Outlook Web App user, you can schedule meetings.
Click on Submit. The meeting is scheduled.
3// Scheduling via sched.Skype for Business.com
Last but not least, one can schedule using https://sched.lync.com
After signing in, meetings can be scheduled.
After scheduling a url is offered. Your students can access the online class by entering this url in their browser.
Once the url is accessed, the visitor can participate to the online session using the Web App.
6 Skype for business: the webapp - How participants can access a meeting
6.1 The first time
When a student enters the url of a meeting for the first time, a plugin needs to be installed. This needs to be done exclusively during the fist time. The student will be confronted with this window:
The student needs to fill in his/her name. Next he/she needs to click on "Join the meeting".
The plugin needs to be installed. Choose execute.
Using the browser (web app), the student can participate to the online meeting.
Windows Firewall might ask for access. Click on Allow access.
Click on Participate to the meeting.
1. Ability to end the presentation (eg. a shared Powerpoint presentation)
2. Ability to end the meeting
3. An overview of all presenters and participants (and whether they activated webcam/microphone)
4. Your own webcam
5. The presentation, software you are sharing
6. The chat window
7. Show/hide the chat window
8. Activate/deactivate microphone
9. Activate/deactivate webcam
10. Share desktop, Powerpoint presentation, software / set up whiteboard or poll / use OneNote
11. Show participants window
12. The duration of the current meeting
13. Extra options which allow you to record the meeting, manage recordings, configure audio, video and telephone options.
Being a presenter, you can deactivate the microphones of participants (students). Its also possible to deactivate all microphones or the ability to chat at once.
You can also allow participants to be a presenter, so they too can share their screen and ask a question. When an icon turns light blue, this indicates someone is talking.
Record a meeting:
After clicking on "Start Recording", you will notice these buttons:
Important to realize: Skype for Business allows several simultaneous meetings!
7 Skype for Business on different platforms and devices
Due to nice apps, Skype for Business is available on different platforms and devices. A quick overview:
- Windows 8: http://apps.microsoft.com/windows/nl-be/app/lync/ba4b9485-8712-41ff-a9ea-6243a3e07682
- Windows Phone: http://www.windowsphone.com/nl-be/store/app/lync-2013/d85d8a57-0f61-4ff3-a0f4-444e131d8491
- Android: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.microsoft.office.lync15&hl=nl
- iPad: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/lync-2013-for-ipad/id605608899?mt=8
- iPhone: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/lync-2013-for-iphone/id605841731?mt=8
Skype for Business can be used on Mac too. 2 features arent available on Mac though: the ability to share one program (rather than the complete desktop) and the ability to record meetings.
8 Tips for Success:
- Schedule at least one test session with your students to ensure they can access, hear and participate in your meetings.
- Provide "How to Join a Meeting" instructions to your students. In our school, student get the chance to bring heir own computer, to try to activate the Skype for Business plugin on their computer. In a next stage, an online tutorial will follow, before we actually start using Skype for Business during our lessons.
- Always check that students can hear you (before you start teaching) well and ask them to alert you if they are having trouble hearing.
- Make sure the learning goals, and not the technology, drive the instruction.
- Make clear arrangements about the use of the chat. Students have to be polite as in a regular classroom
- Allow students to join 15 minutes prior so there is time to verify microphones and speakers are working correctly before beginning
- Consider not using the webcams because this may cause a higher usage of bandwidth and thus a possible lag.
- Keep e-mail running in the background and have your phone handy in case students try and contact you when having technical difficulties.
9 REACTIONS FROM STUDENT: EVALUATING Skype for Business
After one semester we evaluated the project by offering anonymous polls to our 16 students. The outcomes: