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Video Conferencing

Video conferencing is a way to virtually bring together people in a synchronous online environment. Google HangoutsSkype, and Zoom are just three popular free video conferencing tools.

Video conferencing can create a virtual way for students to travel and experience people and places far away. Conversely, web conferencing can help bridge long distances and allow for more personal, one-on-one conversions with students who are at a distance.

Read 7 Things You Should Know About Video Communication from Educause to learn more about how it’s being used in education.

Potential Uses

Use it to make “face to face” class discussions possible in a virtual environment.

Instructor and student social presence is an important element for students to succeed in an online environment. One way to help accomplish this is to have some synchronous sessions, where you “meet” the students virtually to consider complex concepts from the class.

Use it to promote student collaboration.

Students may be able to collaborate more effectively on joint work if they are able to meet virtually for face-to-face discussions at key points in their project.

Use it to make virtual office hours more personal.

Being able to see your students’ faces may help you judge understanding and thus be able to answer questions more effectively in virtual office hours. In addition, you can use screen sharing capabilities to expand functionality of the tool.


Video chatting allows face-to-face interactions. Instructor and student social presence is important for student success in an online environment, and video chat is one mechanism to help promote such interaction. It can allow small group work. It’s possible to video chat with groups of students. It’s adaptible. Most conferencing applications allows for screen sharing, text messaging, and sending files to a groups, and are compatible with tablets and smart phones.


There is a limit to the number of chatters. Some free conferencing tools limit the number of people who can be connected at once. Depending how each person is connecting to the call (wifi, ethernet, cellular,) and the number of participants on the call, there is some lag in signal processing, resulting in delayed audio/video signals.


Free web-based video conferencing tools

Google Hangouts is a web-based video chatting service. It is a great option for synchronous class sessions where you present and discuss ideas with your class. It can also be used for student study groups and collaborative projects.

Skype is an IP telephone service that allows video chatting between those who have the program, or internet phone calls between Skype subscribers for free, or to non-subscribers for a small fee.

Zoom is another