Failure to test the technical equipment for distance learning in advance leads to deterioration of the effort put into well-meaning instruction, to a loss of student interest, loss of time, and mutual frustration.
In all cases, we recommend that instructors schedule a test call with student volunteers in advance to verify the performance of the hardware and software systems. You should test all of the tasks that you want to use in real teaching:
- Two-way voice connection (headsets to reduce feedback)
- Visual contact via a web camera
- Audio connection between students
- Desktop/application sharing by authorized persons
- Delegation of teaching rights to another person (co-host)
- Audio functionality for shared videos (it sometimes involves clicking on the audio sharing box when the sharing commences)
- The ability to annotate shared content
- Chats and the attention needed to monitor chats during one’s own course; if chats do not occur during our own lessons, we inform the students that they can write, for example, questions in the chat, and we will return to them at a time reserved for discussions.
- Recording functionality (local or cloud) and the subsequent availability of the recordings
- Security settings and access rights – whether only for accounts authenticated by the university or for anyone without restrictions
- Use of feedback tools, which depends on the specific program (e.g. requests to speed up/slow down lecture, raising one’s hand to speak, quick YES/NO answers)
- The ability to mute and unmute participants’ microphones; preparation of recommendations for when students should be able to speak and when, on the contrary, turning on their microphones would be disruptive (if they are not speaking)
- Dividing the class into groups
- …in other words, all activities that we want to use during live instruction.
During the test call, students can simulate problematic users who try to take control of or interrupt teaching. It is advisable to be prepared for these situations in advance, because they do happen. If we make recordings of the lessons (in compliance with all the requirements and approvals) and want to make them available to other students, this can be done the Moodle environment. It is not intended for storing large files of hundreds of MB or larger. A tried-and-tested procedure is to save videos to streaming service servers (e.g. OneDrive, Stream) and to paste them into a Moodle URL.