What to do when the video goes dark?

In this period of remote schooling, remote working, and remote living we’ve come to count on video conferencing solutions more than ever before by an order of magnitude. Unfortunately, most of these platforms aren’t ready to work at these levels and collapse under the strain. What can you do when the lights go out and you’re unable to deliver content the same ways you have in the past?

Idea #1 – Create a “safe space” for your content

If you’re teaching a class and know some of the content will be delivered virtually but aren’t sure everyone will be able to access the content equally (for various reasons) try creating a “safe space” for your students to go to in case things break. If they’re dropped from a session they should know the session will be recorded and posted for them to review afterwards rather than wasting their time and yours trying to get back into a virtual session. Posting content, reference links, materials, videos, and audio recordings to a tool not dependent on a video connection is an excellent plan B for keeping people engaged.

Idea #2 – Use tools that provide offline sync

If you have access to tools such as OneNote, you can use it’s offline sync capability to create the “safe space” I mentioned earlier. Creating a notebook for each student and then posting content in that notebook for them means they can connect to the notebook when they have connectivity restored and the content will sync down to them to work on offline. As they work, their updates can be automatically synced back to you for review and evaluation. Leveraging tools designed to work when connectivity is spotty is a great way to keep things moving along.

Idea #3 – Smaller is better

If connectivity is an issue go for bite-sized chunks rather than full meals when it comes to your content. Recording an hour-long class can be tough to get through without technical issues, but if that class covers six major topics breaking it down into six 10-minute recordings is technically easier as well as more reliable. Think about it this way: people have gotten good about binge viewing content on Netflix and Disney, so why not put some of those skills to use for you and your content?

Trial and error

We’re in a period where there are few good practices and even fewer best ones. Take time to save time where you can and simplify whenever possible. There’s nothing more difficult than keeping a distracted student engaged and one operating from the comforts of home is that much more distracted.

To paraphrase a line from Frank Herbert’s DUNE, “I see plans within plans…”. This is what you have to do to make your way in this new world.

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