EDU 807

WebEx: A Safe Option for Moving to Online Synchronous Lectures

In the current state of education which is scrambling to move face-to-face classrooms to an online format, more specifically within higher educator, faculty are now more than ever looking for the best video conferencing software to use. While the knee-jerk reaction may be to adopt Zoom, recent legal issues related to privacy have shown that this particular application may not be the safest for students and educators alike. As recently as April 5th 2020, New York City has banned this product from being used in school because of these security concerns.

So what is a better alternative to the ever-popular Zoom? Cisco’s conferencing platform, WebEx. This software package offers a robust application that is more secure than Zoom. WebEx offers different pricing packages for users depending on needs. WebEx is primarily an enterprise based application so it would more than likely need to be adopted by your institution. For small to medium sized teams/institutions, the cost is $13.50/mo per host, and for larger scale enterprises it goes up to $26.95/mo per host. While this cost is slightly higher than Zoom’s, the increased security safety is well worth the investment. WebEx, aside for being a web and video conferencing software offers a host of other features:

  • Webinars
  • Conferencing
  • Breakout Rooms
  • Chat and Brainstorming Tools
  • Application/File Sharing
  • Multimedia Content Sharing
  • Call Sharing
  • Screen-sharing & Annotation
  • Recording
  • Mobile Phone App

In my own practice, as an administrator working in a medical school, we have transitioned our face-to-face case-based learning sessions to WebEx sessions. In the face-to-face classes, students are sent to their own small group rooms to work with their peers on reading and answering questions related to a medical case study related to that week’s content. Several faculty members walk through the rooms to check-in on students to ensure they understand the case and that productive conversation is occurring. Now that students are no longer allowed on campus, an alternative had to be found. Using the WebEx Training feature, the faculty can schedule a session, create a series of breakout rooms and pre-assign students to those rooms. Once students join the WebEx session, they are automatically placed in their groups. Faculty can then give instructions to the class and push students to their specific breakout rooms within WebEx. Faculty then have the ability to move from breakout room to breakout room to observe the students as they work together. Each breakout room allows students to share their screens and work on a shared digital whiteboard, as they would normally use a whiteboard in their face-to-face small group rooms.

This system can also be used for traditional style lectures where all students are located in the same space. WebEx features a chat box where students may respond to each other using text or to send private messages to peers or faculty. The ability to chat is a feature that faculty can turn-off or edit if they believe it could become a distraction. Status emoticons such as a raised hand can be used to signal to faculty that a student is needing assistance similar to a raised hand in a classroom.

If you or faculty you know are considering using WebEx, they have created an entire webpage about how to transition to fully online teaching using their product during this pandemic that can be accessed here: This website includes virtual lesson plans, guides to prep students, how to facilitate group projects online, and best practices for contacting students at home.

While WebEx may not be as streamlined and as economical as Zoom, when it comes to video conferencing, you get what you pay for and WebEx is the premium choice.


EDU 807, Tech Review

Tech Review – “Screencast-o-matic”: Screen-capturing @ It’s Simplest

Regardless of learning environments (online or face-to-face) there will always be times where both students and faculty may need to use a screen-capturing tool to create some form of video. These videos can consist of class presentations by students, tutorials on how to navigate course materials, or faculty lectures. In Van Anh Nguyen (2017) article “Benefits of Screencasting for Teachers and Students” he argues that students benefit greatly from the use of screen-casts because it..

  • allows students to have access to information 24/7
  • allows student to learn by watching examples (for tutorials)
  • allows students to learn at their own pace
  • improves students’ attention and retention by using more than text-based instruction

Screencast-o-matic is a free screen recording software that allows users to create recordings of their computer screens while also incorporating audio and video of the presenter using a webcam (optional). Users can launch the free recorder directly from the website OR download the recorder to use on their desktop offline. Users can select to record a specific open window on a desk top of an entire screen/monitor. Recorded videos can be uploaded to the Screencast-o-matic website, YouTube, or any form of online storage. For users that chose to pay for the premium service ($20.00 a year), they can also include closed captioning, edit the video to remove sections of the recording, and have unlimited storage on the website.

As an instructor of both online and face-to-face classrooms, I have utilized this program in multiple ways. Teach an on-campus course and there is a snow-day? No fear! You can simply record your lecture at home and post it in your school’s LMS for students to access so that your class does not fall behind on content coverage (example). Teaching an online class and want to ensure students understand your course structure and expectations (or avoid repetitive questions about basic course mechanics)? Record a walk-through tutorial of your course shell in your LMS and go over your syllabus and how to navigate the class and submit materials (example). Want students in your online class to give a presentation but don’t want to force students to meet in a synchronous chat session? Have your students record their presentation through this tool and post a link in the LMS discussion board (example). Screencast-o-matic is an easy to use and efficient way of presenting information in a quick and free way that is accessible to both students and faculty.

EDU 807, Tech Review

Tech Review: “Voxer” – Using Gifs to Build Community

“Rather than see these forms of visual media as leisure-time pleasures, we believe they hold potential to engage students in class and provide another vehicle by which to demonstrate concepts and communicate with each other.” (Reyes, Kaeppl & Bjorngard-Basayne, 2018, para. 1)

In 2018, Faculty Focus published an article titled “Memes and Gifs as Powerful Classroom Tools” where the authors argues that these types of media allowed students to interact with their peers and faculty in a non-threatening (and less awkward) way. Instead of students fumbling for words to express their feelings about specific classroom content they may choose to post a gif or a meme that more succinctly communicates their message (with a dash of humor). This is even more crucial when teaching an online class where engagement and community building are often a struggle. That’s where Voxer comes in!

Voxer is a free mobile application (but can be used on desktops) that allows for team communication in a forma very similar to Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp. The application allows for users to send messages in a variety of formats such as text, text-to-speech, audio clips, videos, photos, and you guessed it  – gifs! While Voxer is primarily marketed to businesses who have project teams, it also works well for small groups and classroom discussions in an online environment. Initial setup is quick and the user-interface is straight-forward and user-friendly that it does not take long to begin using it. Once an individual has downloaded the app and signed-up for an account that are able to search for other users and create chat-groups to begin communicating with one another.

So why should educators care about Voxer and using gifs in their online classroom discussions? In 2015, Rebecca Glazier conducted a study to understand how student rapport can be increased in online classes to increase retention rates. Glazier’s (2016) results strongly suggest that faculty who build rapport with their students have greater success in terms of their students performing well in the online classroom. Glazier comments “students notice a difference when a course is taught with rapport-building measures,” such as implementing a tool like Voxer (Glazier, 2016, pg. 13). By utilizing Voxer, faculty and students are able to engage in a much richer format than just emails and standard discussion boards housed within an LMS. Voxer provides the tools for a more ‘human’ feeling connection that includes real-time responses and expressions of emotions and reactions through the use of emojis, images and gifs. Do you have to utilize the gif and image feature to enjoy and benefit from Voxer? No – but you will be missing out on a really engaging feature that sets the tool a part from traditional LMS discussion boards.

I have experienced Voxer first-hand in my doctoral class and found it to be far more engaging (and dare I say fun!) than other discussion based applications that have been used in my program thus far. While it may cause some initial push-back from students who already use a variety of messaging apps, once they start to use it to discuss course content and engage with their peers – I strongly believe they will forget that they were ever resistant. As an instructor, I believe that I will utilize this in my online classes moving forward, rather than the standard discussion board posting as it seemed to create more meaningful and natural conversation about the topics at hand, rather than students simply mirroring what they read in their articles/textbooks. I can not recommend this tool enough for online discussion with adult learners!




Glazier, R. A. (2016). Building rapport to improve retention and success in online classes. Journal of Political Science Education12(4), 437-456.

Reyes, M., Kaeppel, K., & Bjorngard-Basayne, E. (2018, November 26). Memes and GIFs as Powerful Classroom Tools: Faculty Focus. Retrieved from