Videoconferencing Lectures: A Guide to the Equipment and Operations

Before Your Lecturevideoconference control room

The videoconference will already be live when you arrive to the room for your lecture; you’ll see (on the screens) and hear students in the room at the far site, and they’ll be able to see and hear you on the screens in their room. Your presentation will be loaded and ready to go on the screens.

There may or may not be a technician in the lecture room, but the rooms are monitored closely and a technician can help you remotely if you require assistance, or come into the room as necessary. If you have not lectured before in these rooms, a technician will come into the room to help with the microphones and answer any questions you may have. There is not usually enough time between lectures to provide a complete training session, so please arrange for this before you arrive for your first lecture.

Each lecture will be monitored from control rooms in both Discovery Commons (St. George) Mississauga, and the monitoring technicians will be on top of any issue that arises. 

teaching station

About The Lectern

What is it? It's the standard lectern found across all of the large lecture rooms at U of T, with a few differences.

While the lectern is the same, the interface (the touch screen) on the lectern is a bit different from all the others on campus.

Your presentation for any videoconferenced lectures will already be loaded, displayed and ready to go.

You won’t be signing in; technicians will have done that already.

Unfamiliar with some of the terminology? See the Glossary of Lecture Videoconferencing Terms

About the Lecturer Mics

What are they? They are the tools that allow your voice to be heard at the connected site in the other city (Toronto or Mississauga), and to be amplified throughout the room in which you are teaching.

You’ll have the choice of using a wireless lapel mic, which allows you walk around as you lecture, and the fixed lectern mic (this will already be on). If you’re using the lapel mic, position it on your clothing about 4” (10cm) below  your chin and ensure there is nothing rubbing against it or on top of it (eg: a jacket collar or scarf).  You'll need to turn the lapel mic on; a technician will help if necessary. 

Important: if you use only the lectern mic and not the lapel mic, you must stay at the lectern when you speak, or students at the connected site will not be able to hear you.

About Getting Help

What are they? They are the methods you can use to communicate to technicians that you require support.help button

If you need assisstance, speak into one of the microphones and address the technician, or use the lectern Help intercom.

When in a videoconferenced lecture, the Help intercom connects to the videoconference control room at your site.

When not in a videoconferenced lecture, the Help intercom connects to general AV classroom support, which manages the AV in all of the campus classrooms.

Want to learn more? Book a hands-on training session. Email medlectures@utoronto.ca

About the SMART MonitorSMART podium monitor with annotation

What is it? It is the main interface for you to interact with the PC, including your Powerpoint (to advance slides, open a website, etc).

This is situated to the side of the lectern.

  • It is very intuitive to use.
  • You can use a mouse on the lectern or use the pen on the monitor.
  • You can access the internet from here and display anything that’s on the PC.
  • It allows annotation.

Using the actual blackboard is discouraged during a videoconference because the cameras won’t successfully display the blackboard to the other site. The SMART monitor is the substitute. You can annotate your Powerpoints, websites, images, or draw or write on blank screens. The pen is held in a clip at the back of the unit, near the top. To use the pen, reach over the unit and unclip it; use it to tap one of the colours on the on-screen menu and write on the screen.

About the Touch PanelLectern with touch panel callout

What is it? It is a touch-panel interface to control the equipment in the room, and is situated in the lectern.

The interface is similar to the standard interface of the other rooms on campus, but this one controls several other pieces of equipment, including the videoconference connection.

Everything on the touch panel is replicated at both control rooms (in Mississauga and in the MSB) and will be controlled from there during a videoconferenced lecture.

You may see that there is some activity on this interface that you are not controlling; do not respond to pop-up boxes that appear—technicians will do this from the control room.

You likely will never need to use this interface if you don’t want to.

About the Lecturer Cameras

What are they? They are the cameras that allow students at the connected site and students at the back of the large lecture room to see the lecturer.

There are two cameras facing you at the lectern:

camera in the lecture room
  • One will be framed in a shot to include you and the lectern and not much else around you
  • The other is framed in a wider shot of the front of the room

The closer shot will be used most of the time; howver, if you are someone who likes to wander around the front of the room while lecturing, the wider shot will be used and may also be moved to follow you if necessary. There is a limit to how much area it can cover, however, and it cannot follow you if you go up the aisles into the student seating area.

Important: To remain visible to students at the far site (those not in the room with you), please stay at the lowest level and don't go to extreme sides of the room.

About the Student Cameras

What are they? They are the cameras that allow students at the connected site to see the students in the room.

There are three cameras facing the students in each room.

  • One will be showing a wide shot, and this is the default that will be seen most of the time. In Mississaga, the students see the wide shot of the students in the connected MSB room, and in the MSB, the students see the wide of the students in the connected Mississauga room. 
  • The two other cameras are used for closer shots of the students. When a student’s mic goes live, the camera will go to a preset shot that includes that student and one or two of his/her immediate neighbours. When student mics are queued, while one camera of these close-up cameras is on the student who is speaking, the second camera is busy moving to the preset of the next student in the queue.

About the Projector Screens

What are they? They are three large screens for the students in the room.screens in the lecture room

When you are facing the students in the lecture room, the screens behind you will display the following:

  • Your content (such as Powerpoint or document camera) will always be in the centre
  • At both sites, the far site will always be displayed on the right
  • The lecturer will always be displayed on the left

When a student is speaking (i.e., when their mic is live), that student will be shown in a close shot on the right monitor at the far site.

At their own site, they will see the wide shot of the far site room with a small PIP (picture-in picture) of themselves. (This is because it’s somewhat disconcerting to see a large close shot of one’s self.)

About the Confidence Monitorsconfidence monitors

What are they? They are 3 monitors facing you that show exactly what's on the large screens that the students see, so you can see what they see without turning around.

They are in a cabinet on the floor in front of you as you're facing the students, and they display:

  • the far site wide-camera view
  • your camera view
  • your powerpoint or other content as students see it

Student Microphonesstudent microphone

What are they? They are the tools that allow a student's voice to be heard at the connected site in the other city (Toronto or Mississauga), and to be amplified throughout the room where they are located.

  • Installed on the student desks, there is one mic for about every two students
  • Students learn how to use these during orientation week or the first class
  • You’ll be able to hear students at both sites through their microphones
  • You have control over the student microphones at both sites

Important: students at both sites need to use the mics at all times when they’re communicating with you, even if you’re able to hear them locally without their mic, in order that students at the far site can hear them

There are different modes for the microphones, and the mode is changed by a technician at the lecturer's request. The default mode is the first listed below, Request to Speak. Let us know in advance if you want another setting for your lecture.

Desription of the student microphone modes :

  • Request to Speak: a student presses their mic button and it has to be accepted by the presenter via the Take Next button at the lectern before the mic goes live.
  • Automatic: one automatically-live student mic with a queue. If a student presses their mic button, the mic goes live immediately; the next person who presses their mic button goes into the queue until the first person finishes. When the first mic is turned off, the next-in-queue mic will go live.
  • Manual: the mic queue is disabled; the presenter selects mics to go live. This is done through the touch panel interface on the lectern.
  • Student Directed: a set number of mics can be open at the same time (usually the max is 6); the first 6 people to push their mic buttons have their mics go live; others will be placed in the queue. As students turn off their mics, the next-in-queue mic will go live. 

At the beginning of your lecture, let students know how you’ll handle questions. You can take them throughout the lecture or just at the end, but letting students know at the beginning will avoid a question queue forming during the lecture if you're not going to answer until the end.

Managing the Mic Queue

What is it? It is the method by which you turn on student microphones, allowing students to be heard by those at both the Toronto and Mississauga sites.

There are several ways of managing the mic queue, depending on which mode is active.Lectern showing Take Next button 

Easiest:

If a student at either site presses their mic button, your primary indicators will be:take next button
  • a red light goes on above the confidence monitors, within the cabinet
  • the Take Next button on the lectern lights up with a flashing blue ring around it. It is located to the right of the intercom panel

To accept a student’s request to speak (that is, to turn on their mic), do the following:

  • firmly press the Take Next button on the lectern (no need to hold it down for any length of time, just press and release)
  • when the blue light around the Take Next button is steady instead of flashing, that is your indicator that the student mic is on. You will also see the camera view of them in the confidence monitor

Notes:

  • Students will know to turn off their own microphones at the end of their question
  • If the microphone flashes again when the first student has turned off their microphone, this indicates that there is another student waiting to ask a question. Press the Take Next button again to turn on the next student's microphone.

Advanced:

Other indicators, that you may wish to use if you are more experienced with the system, are:

  • a queue will begin to form on the left of the touch panel interface on the lectern; microphone locations of students at both sites will appear in the queue.question queue
  • on the student mic map on the touch panel interface, you’ll see the mic image flash a different colour at the correspnding student desks.

To accept a student’s request to speak (that is, to turn on their mic), do any of the following:

  • press the physical Take Next button on the lectern
  • press the green Take Next button on the touchscreen interface
  • touch their mic name in the queue on touchscreen interface (the top of the list is the beginning of the queue, but you can choose any of the mic names). Mic names are in the form of MSB B4: denoting the site (MSB or HSC), the row (A to L), and the mic number across the row (1 to 15)
  • touch their mic image on the mic map on the touchscreen interface
  • to select a student in the other room using the mic map, switch room views by selecting either room icon at the bottom of the mic map.

Student Mic Operation

Students will be given instructions on operating the mics during orientation week or their first videoconferenced class.

Students operate the mics as follows:

button press request placement in queue
button hold remove the mic from queue or turn mic off

The student microphones have a lighted blue ring around their buttons; the light indicator displays as follows:

light solid on mic is on
light solid off mic is off
quick flashing light mic is next in queue
slow flashing light mic is in the queue
double flash mic queue is full (the maximum number of requests in the queue is 12)

Lighting

What is it? It is the lighting control that allow you to turn on and turn off the lights in the videoconference-connected rooms.

There are three lighting modes that can be used for videoconferenced lectures:

  • Video Conference
  • Presentation
  • Low-lite Theater.

These are usually set from the control room, but can also be accessed from the touch panel on the lectern.

Videoconferencing requires a higher light level than would normally be set in a lecture room. The lights can be lowered during the showing of a video (Low-lite Theater) or during the presentation, if there is no interaction with students.

A good way of getting students' attention at the beginning of the lecture is to press Low-lite theater; this will bring the lights down in both rooms. Press Video Conference to raise the lights again. Students know that this signals the begining of the lecture.

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