We all know that teaching and learning styles are rapidly transforming with movements such as 'flipped learning' swiftly spreading in the UK. From school, to college, to university, technology is changing the way students learn and enabling teachers and tutors to spend more time individually helping students on problems in class, and developing students' transferable skills such as working in a team and managing projects, as opposed to reading out course materials.

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This week whilst scouring the Skype blogs which I like to follow to see what new and exciting communication initiatives are bubbling, I fell upon an exciting announcement which, like a glaring neon superstore sign, flashed scenarios in my mind of how remote collaboration in learning and teaching could be made extremely accessible to everyone.

Skype have just announced that group video calls will now be FREE for all Skype users! You will be able to connect with up to 9 other Skype users at once on any call.

This exciting announcement was wrapped up in a delightful Skype blog giving a super example of how Free Group Video Calls is being used by a group of friends in the USA. They are all based in disparate areas, and are using Skype Group Video to plan and run training updates for a group charity cycling challenge going from USA coast to coast.

 

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I applaud the cyclists for their epic determination - sheer commitment, a good sense of humour and most probably 'Deep Heat' will be winning companions for their impressive journey.

Swerving away from the sports track, I want to highlight 5 ways that Skype Group Calls could be used effectively in the Education space!

1. Homework

Students have always liked working together on projects and homework, whether it be individual work or project work. This should be applauded as opposed to considered 'cheating' as collaborative studying is an integral aspect to many college and university courses, as well as arguably one of the most important skills required for the commercial world! I can just imagine kids getting home, and feeling more motivated to get stuck into their homework due to being able to connect up with their friends through Skype and work together.

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2. University group project work

As a student myself, I am very familiar with group projects and the aches and pains that go along with them. More often than not, you're put into groups with people you don't know very well and who have part time jobs, live miles apart, who don't want to spend extra money on commuting (especially for uni work!) and who may have varying levels of interest. It can truly be a nightmare trying to get everyone to meet up together. Skype group video calls can eliminate these issues and enable students to collaborate, fitting studying into their lives, as opposed to students fitting their lives around university work.

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3. Parent meetings

I can vaguely recall from my time at school that it was really tough for both parents to attend parent meetings, with hectic and unpredictable work schedules often toppling into their personal time. How many parents would benefit from being able to stay at the office and connect into their school parent meeting through Skype group video call? I can think of plenty who would jump at the opportunity.

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4. Staff out-of-office

I think Skype group video call could be really valued by the staff at schools, colleges and universities. There would no longer be the concern that if several members of staff were off for various reasons, from being ill to school trips or personal needs, they would miss out on important information. Equally, if a lecturer were teaching in other cities or even overseas, such as my Business lecturers at Edinburgh Napier University who often go on fleeting trips to Hong Kong to lecture at universities, they could still dial into staff and team meetings no problem (with the only slight drawback being a necessary change of wardrobe from pyjamas back to day wear)!

5. HE Students off campus

Finally, if for some reason a university student cannot make their tutorial, perhaps due to an interview for an industrial placement in another city, or because they are feeling under the weather (of course not at all due to activities from the night before), Skype Group Video Calls would provide them with an option to still listen into tutorial discussions and take part in the conversation.

 

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So there we have it, a few ideas for how you can get your students and colleagues working and collaborating in a more mobile manner, thanks to Skype Group Video Calls. If you want to find out more, click on the video link below.