Videoconferencing Pedagogy at NWIC


Many courses at Northwest Indian College are taught over iTV, a technology that allows our sites students to connect to each other through real-time videoconference.  There are many advantages to offering courses this way, as it allows for higher enrollment, saves on transportation costs, allows for the sharing of multiple tribal perspectives and gives students more exposure to technology, thereby increasing digital literacy.

On the other hand, the challenges we face when teaching this way include technological hurdles, decreased connection with students and therefore engagement, difficulty reading non-verbal cues, challenges in distributing content and collecting homework. All of these factors lead to the fact that a different approach should be taken in teaching these courses as compared to traditional face to face courses.

Tools and Strategies

On November, 9th 2012, the Teaching and Learning committee hosted an in-service session in which faculty gathered to look at iTV / Videoconference pedagogy to share ideas on how to meet certain challenges they currently face. The following is a distillation of the discussions and findings gathered that day.

Challenges Faced when teaching over iTV / Videoconference:

  • Low Student Engagement / Facilitating group interactions (group work is challenging due to communication barrier, students distracted by other stimuli in their site-based classrooms)
  • General Communication and feeling of community (non-verbal communication, can’t see facial expressions, etc)
  • Managing content and student assessment (distributing hard copy readings, collecting assignments, proctoring tests)
  • Equipment malfunctions


General Strategies to deal with Challenges

  • Maintain a positive attitude
  • Be an animated and engaging facilitator
  • Intentionally direct questions to all site students equally
  • Become aware of technology limitations at remote sites
  • Have students brainstorm and discuss how they want to interact in class
  • Be intentional in  facilitation of group discussions
  • Provide a clear class schedule in syllabi
  • Work with other faculty and students to find out what works and what doesn’t


Low Student Engagement / Facilitating group interactions

  • Whenever possible, promote student-student interaction
  • Ask students open ended questions that don’t have a right answer, and ask students to justify their response to others
  • Give students a problem to solve, based on real world scenarios
  • Relate real work experience with material
  • Have students pose questions to each other
  • Have a Student Lead discussion
  • Include guest lecturers or discussion participants
  • Ask sites a question every minute
  • Group discussions at each site then report back to larger group
  • Play music at the beginning of class to raise energy level
  • Use email to follow up with individual students who may be falling behind
  • Identify site mentors to help with attendance, proctoring, etc.


General Communication and feeling of community

  • Make sure all students know each other on a personal level
  • Travel to a site and teach from there at least once a quarter
  • If possible, take students to visit other sites
  • Include text conversations to help students support each other


Managing content and student assessment

  • Use more online resources to supplement instruction (videos, case studies, etc.)
  • Scan hard copy resources to PDF
  • Post resources online
  • Email resources to students
  • Use Google Docs to share info
  • Provide instructor notes and copy of  presentation for each lesson
  • Use document camera to show hard copy resources or to draw diagrams
  • Teach students how to use resources if unfamiliar


Equipment Malfunctions or shortcomings

  • Try your best to ignore hardware issues
  • Use web conferencing software to hold office hours or tutorial sessions
  • Come early to class for setup
  • Take advantage of support staff



Faculty concluded that in teaching over this modality that the traditional lecture does not work as students become disengaged much faster due to challenges in direct communication. As a result, teaching strategies mentioned above are encouraged to bring all site students together, helping them to interact with each other as well as the instructor and make them feel part of the group. In addition, leveraging other technologies to support iTV / Videoconferencing such as Moodle, email and others is encouraged.

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