January 3, 2018
Education at its core is about communication. How can a teacher transmit knowledge to learning students in the most direct, clear, and efficient way possible? How can educators ensure that their lessons are heard, learned, and retained by the student population? As in an office environment, teachers often act as project managers for each individual student and coordinate their homework, activities, and reports.
Though traditionally thought of in a business context, Cisco WebEx, a leader in collaboration technology, addresses both of these aspects of the classroom. WebEx can bring together student and teacher, connect them with clear communication, and enhance the learning process.
What is Cisco WebEx?
Before we discuss how WebEx can benefit a school, we must first outline the varied tools and capabilities of Cisco WebEx. WebEx is not just a collaboration tool. It is every collaboration tool in one comprehensive platform. To start, Cisco WebEx includes the following capabilities:
WebEx Team Spaces
In WebEx Teams, users can be assigned to WebEx Teams, which group individuals in your classroom. From there, you can organize your interface to display your main WebEx Teams Space and any branching sub-spaces that the team needs. Any member can access any WebEx Space with which they are associated.
This WebEx Space system allows you to organize your conversations around the people and topics most valuable to your role, thereby eliminating confusion and creating greater efficiency. Every WebEx Space is persistent and stored in the cloud. Every message sent and file uploaded to a WebEx Space is saved indefinitely. Students involved in these spaces will have a permanent reference document for their coursework and classroom conversation.
WebEx File Sharing
With WebEx, users can share files of all kinds through the WebEx Space system. Simply drag and drop your file into the space, and it will be posted and saved in the persistent space indefinitely. Users can then preview and download the file from the Space at any time and onto any device.
BYOD and WebEx
WebEx can be used on any PC, laptop, tablet, or smartphone through a user-friendly and intuitive application. This helps schools leverage a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy in their organization. This is particularly useful for schools who may not have the resources to provide tablets or laptops to every student in their district.
WebEx Video Calls and Video Meetings
WebEx allows you to host video conferencing meetings from wherever you are, be it on a PC, Mac, mobile device, or other WebEx-enabled device. With a clear picture and clear sound, you can instantly connect with anyone and address an issue on the spot or plan your next steps.
WebEx as a Standalone Cloud or Hybrid PBX System
Cisco WebEx can also double as a complete cloud hosted voice system. By using the WebEx Phone OS on select Cisco phones, users can make calls and join meetings through WebEx. Alternatively, the WebEx app itself can function as a soft phone. Using Cisco Unified Communications Manager (CUCM), you can connect WebEx with existing Cisco telephony.
End-to-End Content Encryption
Cisco WebEx provides thorough protection of user data through end-to-end content encryption. Data is encrypted during transit from user to user or from the cloud to the user, and not even Cisco can access your content without your consent.
Cisco WebEx serves as a central hub for all communication within a school, a business, or other organization. Users can connect with anyone in their organization without the normal inefficiencies of email and voicemail.
Cisco WebEx in Education
Cisco WebEx offers an opportunity to create a new dynamic classroom free from physical limitations and outdated teaching strategies. When directly applied to the classroom setting, WebEx offers the following benefits:
- Project-based Learning: By using the WebEx Team and Space system, students will be organized into groups most relevant to their particular education. They can ask questions, receive answers, reference previous conversations, and stay current on the activities of the classroom.
- Physical and Virtual Classrooms: WebEx allows teachers to host video meetings with ease. Students can now attend their most important lectures remotely from wherever they are. Furthermore, the WebEx Space itself can serve as a virtual classroom with teacher and student participation through chat.
- Cloud Connectivity: WebEx is entirely supported in the cloud. Students and faculty alike can access their WebEx application at any time, from any location, and on any WebEx-enabled device. This ensures that students always have access to the course materials, so during class they can focus more on the lecture and less on taking notes.
Cisco WebEx Spaces at Every Level
The WebEx Space is an organizational tool that works at every level within the school. Whether at the micro, macro, or administrative level, the WebEx Space is a boon for the entire organization. Here are some use cases for WebEx’s application in education.
- Space for Each Class: Every teacher in the school can create a specific WebEx Space for the classes they teach throughout the day. Each class will have its own WebEx Space using the class period, teacher name, and subject to help distinguish the Space. For example, one Space might be named, “Johnson – Spanish – 1st Period.” In this Space, Ms. Johnson can post assignments, publicly answer direct student questions, share files relevant to today’s lecture and more. When replicated for each period throughout the day, students and teachers will find their education far more organized and accessible.
- Smaller Groups: The Space will also function on a smaller level. Within a single class, there might be group projects. Simply create a Space for each project group. There they can coordinate their efforts, submit their respective portion of the group project, and complete their assignment. This strategy can even help a teacher assess whether each student contributed equally to the project.
- Larger Groups: WebEx Spaces will even be useful at the macro level. Create a WebEx Space for the entire school. Using administrator and moderator tools, you can include the entire student body in a single WebEx space while also keeping the conversation on task. Use this Space for announcements from the administration, notifications of snow days, and other large scale communications.
- For Faculty: Faculty can organize their spaces for administrative communications and by department. If teachers are collaborating together to co-teach a unit, the WebEx Space serves as an excellent channel to share lesson plans and bounce ideas around.
- For Administration: At the highest levels of the institution, the administration can use WebEx to communicate about the direction of the district, discuss important disciplinary matters with deans, and provide support for faculty. The WebEx Space can help the administration become more accessible to their faculty, their students, and their support staff on every level.
- Student Teachers: Student teachers can form spaces together to share advice and support during their time at the school. Advising teachers can also offer guidance in these spaces, answer questions and help the student teachers develop their craft.
- Replace Email: One of the biggest uses for Cisco WebEx is to reduce the amount of email teachers receive on a daily basis. Instead of communicating through long, confusing email threads, faculty can access a WebEx Space, use advanced search functions and @mention tools to find the passage or file they need in a moment’s time. This will help teachers spend more time during their planning periods and after hours working to directly benefit their students rather than working through a mountain of unread emails.
What is the Cisco WebEx Board?
Cisco WebEx is an application, but bringing it to the classroom is best achieved when a WebEx Board is included. The Cisco WebEx Board includes all of the capabilities of Cisco WebEx in one designated device. It is best thought of as the physical embodiment of the WebEx application.
Coming in either 55 inch or 70inch models, the Cisco WebEx Board resembles a large tablet or flat-screen television. It can be mounted on the wall and features a camera, microphone, and touch screen interface.
In a school context, this board could be used to completely replace the traditional chalk or white board at the front of the classroom. Doing so will equip your teachers with a powerful all-in-one collaboration tool. It provides your organization with everything you need to wirelessly present, whiteboard, and hold video and audio calls. The WebEx Board combines multiple devices and whiteboards into a single, consolidated tool.
Cisco WebEx Board in Education
- Digital White Board: The WebEx Board is a full-functioning digital white board. It includes all the colors one might expect to find at a traditional white board, and teachers can draw on the board using the touch screen interface. The best part of the white boarding feature is that each white board drawing is automatically saved in the WebEx Space. Students can recall and download previous drawings, and teachers can pick up right where they left off in last class.
- Teleconferencing Screen: The WebEx Board also functions as a teleconferencing device. Teachers can arrange guest speakers for their classroom and connect them to their students without the need to arrive in person. The lecture is simply hosted as a video meeting. The lecturer can give their presentation, see the classroom from their screen, and interact with the students as normal.
- Presentations: Instead of using an expensive projector to display a Power Point Presentation, teachers can simply display their slide decks through the WebEx Board, and because the Power Point can be uploaded to a WebEx Space, students can follow along from their own devices. Alternatively, they can download the presentation to study and reference later before a test.
- White Boards and Math: The white boarding tool is ideal for math and science courses that require calculations. Students can use the white boarding tool to complete their equations and submit their work mid lecture. A teacher can then take a student’s white board, display it for everyone in front of the classroom and point out exactly where a student went wrong in their calculations. This can all be completed with just a few clicks in real-time.
Education in the Internet Age
Technology is revolutionizing the classroom, and Cisco WebEx is a perfect touch-point for that transformation. It takes the traditional procedures of giving lectures, doing group work, taking notes and more and makes them more efficient. Students can connect to their teachers and fellow students faster and with greater clarity, and the uses teachers will find for WebEx in their classrooms will be near endless. Improve communications among departments, explore new teaching methods, and enhance the learning experience of your students with Cisco WebEx.
Contact Mindsight today to learn more about how Cisco WebEx can benefit your students, your classroom, and your district as a whole.
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