Day 10: How To Manage Numerous Units Without Losing Your Mind

This post continues our 20 Day Challenge to understand the technical aspects of videoconferencing.

This post is written specifically for those in K12 education who have many videoconference endpoints to support. These are some of the strategies we use to keep our sanity when supporting multiple schools with videoconferencing.

Web Access to Endpoints

If at all possible, have your the districts open up web access to the endpoints (preferably securely to only your IP address/range). With this access you can:

  • upgrade the firmware
  • remotely mute or move the camera
  • remotely place or receive a call
  • update the directory
  • check the status of the unit or the stats on the call

Management Software

All of the major vendors provide management software that can be used to oversee many units. This software usually includes the ability to:

  • Check the status of the unit – is it on etc.? (if SNMP is enabled on the endpoint)
  • Upgrade the firmware
  • Manage phone books on the endpoints
  • Report any problems with the endpoints (remote batteries are low, setting problems, network issues, etc.)

Scheduling Software

While the industry is moving away from a scheduled videoconference environment (to an ad-hoc environment), scheduled calls are still fairly common within K12 education: particularly for shared classes. Depending on the support you provide for your schools, you may find yourself scheduling calls with content providers and partner schools for your teachers. If so, software that schedules and monitors conferences is helpful. All of the major vendors, plus a few others such as Renovo, provide software for scheduling videoconferences.

Database of Contacts

You’ll also want to have an organizational system to keep track of the contact information for people involved in videoconferencing at each of your schools. In Berrien RESA’s schools, the support team includes the main VC coordinator, the principal, the tech coordinator, and sometimes additional staff such as the secretary or media paraprofessional. Keep up to date contact information for everyone:

  • School phone
  • Cell phone numbers
  • Emails
  • Each person’s role

If you have an issue with a school, you want to see at a glance who to contact.

It’s also a good idea to keep up regular communication with your contacts, sharing with them:

  • News and progress about the implementation of videoconferencing
  • Success stories
  • Tips and strategies for promotion
  • Reminders like turning off and securing the equipment for the summer
  • Lists of potential videoconferences to share with teachers

If you don’t have a videoconference contact in each school, you should work on it soon! Here’s what we use to encourage our schools to assign a contact:

Your Turn

  • What have you found helpful and essential in managing a lot of videoconference units? Please share in the comments!

Team-written by Janine Lim, Shane Howard, and Roxanne Glaser. The opinions expressed in these posts are based on our collective video conference experience connecting classes across multiple networks to connect them to zoos, museums, experts and other classes during the past 10 years. This series of posts reflects our usage and understanding, not that of any vendor or manufacturer. No one is paying us to write these. We are just sharing what we have learned.

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About Janine Lim

Janine Lim, PhD, currently serves as associate dean for online higher education in the School of Distance Education at Andrews University, in Berrien Springs, MI. She and her team support over 200 online courses, provide training for faculty teaching online, and work with the campus infrastructure support of online learning. Her department also provides educational technology and Moodle support for faculty and students. In addition, Janine is responsible for the faculty and courses of the Consortium of Adventist Colleges and Universities. Janine has taught over 15 unique graduate educational technology classes online numerous times over the past 15 years, with some classes attracting participants from all over the world. Her undergraduate teaching includes social media courses for communication and digital media majors. Janine has served on the board of the United States Distance Learning Association since April 2015. Prior to her work at Andrews University, Janine coordinated distance education for 22 K12 school districts in southwest Michigan for 14 years. In that position, as one of the co-founders of TWICE, Michigan’s K12 Videoconferencing Organization, Janine has spearheaded popular international K12 videoconference projects such as Read Around the Planet and MysteryQuest. While still serving on the board of TWICE, she was instrumental in designing and implementing the CAPspace website for collaborative videoconference projects. Janine also served on a team of Michigan educational technology trainers providing a workshop called ATA Technology Academy. Her current online learning research interests include successful teacher behaviors, quality online discussions, and student activity patterns in self-paced courses.
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