With all of the recent updates related to Covid-19 (IE: Coronavirus) outbreak in the United State and other countries, one of the areas which are being impacted are schools. From what I am seeing in the US most of the schools are putting in place a plan to convert to teaching virtually. As an example, both of my children who are in college are now attending all their classes virtually. This does leave smaller organizations (such as private schools and tutors) in a situation where they may not have the technical skill-sets or resources required to provide their instruction virtually. Luckily, both Google and Microsoft have stepped in and offered their collaboration solutions to the public for free during this outbreak. Details on these offers are available here for Microsoft and here for Google. In this blog post, I will focus on the Microsoft option as that is the stack that I am familiar with (if anyone wants to send me information on how to use Google Meet feel free to email me and I will add that information to this blog post)

Use Teams!

How to know if this option is for you? This option is for you if you need the ability to teach or tutor students remotely and your school has email addresses which are for your school. This is not a viable option if you do not have a school-based email address. Based on my experiences, no other types of email accounts can be used to set this up (Gmail, Hotmail, etc). Microsoft Teams provides a well-rounded solution that can be used to provide a full school experience for classes in a single user experience by having a Team for the school with Channels for each instructor or class.

Microsoft has provided some excellent articles to help with this which are available below:

Microsoft’s offer for Teams is available here: https://Office.com/TeamsFree. Here’s what’s included:

 

  • Unlimited chat and search (for communication with students and faculty)
  • Video calling (to run classes)
  • Team and personal file storage (to share files with students)
  • Real-time collaboration with Office (works with Office products like Word and Excel)

 

To get Teams, each teacher, student and faculty would need a unique email address from their educational institution and register here.

 

Use Skype!

How to know if this option is for you? This option is for you if you need the ability to teach or tutor students remotely, but you do not have school-assigned email addresses. I have provided a step-by-step guide for how to accomplish this via Skype as I haven’t found this covered yet.

The following are the steps to make this happen for your class:

1. Download and install Skype

Allow install of skype

Click Yes to continue

Skype setup

Skype setup

And Install to install Skype

Welcome to Skype

Welcome to Skype

Click on Let’s go to continue

Skype - get started

Skype – get started

2. Create an account or log to an existing account if you have one for Skype: If you already have a Skype account log into that account. If not, you will need to create an account to log into Skype.

Log into Skype

Log into Skype

Upload a photo so that your students will recognize you.

Skype - add a photo

Skype – add a photo

Get your audio working and press Continue

Skype audio

Skype audio

Get your video working and press Continue

Skype - Video

Skype – Video

Click Ok to continue logging in.

Find contacts - Skype

Find contacts – Skype

3. Invite someone else to join you on Skype to test: To test the functionality of Skype, pick one person either in your class or in your family who can be your tester. They should go through the same process documented in steps 1-2 above with a different account.

4. Test a call via Skype: Add a new contact from the person whose account was created in step 3, Inviting them to Skype as shown below.

Add contact - Skype

5. Create a group to test Skype: Once you have successfully had a Skype video call, the next step is to create a group to test Skype. To do this go to Chats, and choose New Group Chat.

Skype - New Group Chat

Skype – New Group Chat

Create the group with the name of your class and add a picture that represents it if possible.

Skype Group Name

Skype Group Name

Click the right arrow to continue and add the person you created in Step 3 for your test call.

Create new group - Skype

Create new group – Skype

In the top right corner, you can now do your test video call by clicking on the picture of the video camera.

Video call - Skype

Video call – Skype

6. Schedule a test meeting on Skype: Now what you have had a successful meeting the next step is to schedule a test meeting to validate you can schedule your classes. You do this by clicking on the … in the bottom right corner and choosing “Schedule a Call”

Schedule a call - Skype

Schedule a call – Skype

And schedule the class for when it would normally occur.

Scheduling a class in Skype

Scheduling a class in Skype

7. Add the rest of the class to the group: Now that you have a functional class, you can invite the remaining students to the class. This is done with the + icon next to a person in the top right corner.

Skype - add to group

Skype – add to group

Then you choose the “Share link to join group” option.

Choose the “Share group via link” option and either email this to your students or do a copy to clipboard and provide it in whatever method you normally communicate with your students.

Skype - Share and Connect

Skype – Share and Connect

Assuming your students all accept the invitation and download/install Skype you should be good to go!

8. Rinse/repeat: Once you have one class functional, you can repeat steps 3-7 for your remaining classes.

 

Tips and Tricks when presenting with Skype:

Skype will let you as the teacher (and the students as well) share your video on your computer allowing them to not only talk with you but also see you during your lecture. Additionally, Skype gives the option to share your desktop via the Share screen option in the bottom right corner.

Skype - screen share

Skype – screen share

Within this screen share, you can share applications such as the Microsoft Whiteboard (shown below).

Microsoft Whiteboard

Microsoft Whiteboard

I hope the above step-by-step helps! If you need further assistance please reach out to me via LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/cameronfuller/.