Video Conferencing Comes to the Wilmette Institute

Video conferencing was added to the Wilmette Institute’s online arsenal when two courses—‘Abdu’l-Bahá in America and Science and Religion—experimented with a newly purchased video-conferencing system.

Student response was instant. One student wrote: “I just attended the online lecture that Dr. Robert Stockman gave—it was excellent! Robert basically gave a talk on ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s travels in America in chronological order, touching on the highlights at each location. For me, I’m thinking about the capacity of the San Francisco Bahá’í community and its connections which allowed ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to give some of His weighty talks.”

Another student added: “The Web conference was great. I think it is a significant upgrade to our course. Thanks for arranging it and working through the tech problems.”

How did the video conferencing come about?

After experimenting with the system for some time, on November 15 the Wilmette Institute subscribed to WizIQ, a video-conferencing system used by 150,000 teachers and some 2 million learners worldwide.

How does videoconferencing work?

With WizIQ, the faculty for a Wilmette Institute course can schedule a live video meeting that allows up to six people with cameras to be visible to everyone at one time. Up to twenty-five people can have their microphones on at once. If a student does not have a camera or microphone, that works, too, for the student can watch and listen (just like watching a YouTube video) and can type out questions and comments in a chat window that everyone can see.

The video system allows faculty to turn off microphones if the video conference becomes too noisy. The faculty can also select whose cameras will be turned on. A student can “raise his/her hand” to ask a question and have a microphone and camera turned back on.

The faculty member can give a lecture—or put information on a series of whiteboards, switching from one to another—or show everyone anything on the screen—or display and explain a PowerPoint presentation. After the presentation, the faculty member can then chair a question-and-answer session.

Will you miss out if you cannot attend a live video-conference session?

Wherever you live, whatever your schedule, and whatever your time zone, the audio and video will be available for you to replay later. The faculty member in your course will email a link to everyone in the course.

Is the new videoconferencing system available on iPad or other systems?

WizIQ has a free app for iPad that allows anyone with that device to participate in video conferences.

A free app for Android systems is being developed. A Moodle plugin allows WizIQ to integrate with Moodle courses. Eventually the Wilmette Instittue may use that feature as well.

What are the immediate plans for using the new videoconferencing system?

The Wilmette Institute plans to use WizIQ to train its faculty, first in the use of the video- conferencing system and then in other aspects of the Institute’s functioning.

Other uses will include instructional videos for students, including a video about how to use Moodle course-management software.

For prospective students we already have an Introduction to the Wilmette Institute (http://www.wiziq.com/online-class/1023350-introduction-to-the-wilmette-institute).

The Wilmette Institute also envisions videos promotional videos about specific courses.