On March 28, 2012, high school students from across the state went on a whirlwind tour of potential colleges throughout the state of Texas. Students learned about the history, mission, demographics, admissions requirements, financial requirements, degree plans, and campus life at colleges all over the Texas. Throughout the event students were allowed to text questions to the various college.
This day long video conference event was offered through a collaborative effort between state colleges, local education service centers, and the Texas Education Telecommunications Network and was free for Texas Schools that receive video services from their ESC.
All total we had 18 colleges present. Two of these colleges presented multiple times, and filled 20 presentation slots throughout the day. Presenters had 15 minutes to tell us about their college and then a 5 minute transition time was provided between each university.
Questions from participants were sent to a TETN office cell phone (we have an unlimited texting plan). Additionally, we allowed participants to send questions to the TETN phone via email by using a carrier specific email address. (I've included these at the bottom of the blog post. You will need to adjust them to fit your carrier specific needs) We had a lot of success with this feedback method. Everyone of our presenting colleges received questions via text. About 95% were delivered via text and only about 5% of the feedback came from the email option. During some presentations, the TETN office was overwhelmed by the sheer number.
One draw back to the text message option was a host of juvenile texts, some requesting the presenters phone #, some asking about the party scene, others wondering whether or not a shirt was required on campus, etc. For the most part, the TETN office simply ignored these texts. Strangely, enough those same students would turn around and ask a legitimate question later.
I want to thank Tommy Bearden from region 14 for suggesting we obtain filler questions for those presentations that did not receive a lot of quality feedback from participants. We only had to resort to this method on a couple of occasions as we waited for questions to come in but having those questions on hand proved invaluable.
The 5 minute transition time and 15 minute presentations definitely made us have to stay on our toes. Rob, our video tech, did a great job of checking in with the next presenter to make sure they were connected and ready to go before their time slot. And regions 2, 5, 6, 9, 10, 11, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, and 20 did a wonderful job of testing with the colleges they recruited for the event. Thank you again service centers for all the time and effort you put in to make this happen. It was suggested that we consider extending presentation and transition times. (TETN would like to hear the your feedback on this)
It also helped that we ran either a recruiting video or powerpoint on a loop during the transition times. This freed us up to do some back end troubleshooting and helped minimize interruptions as new sites joined the conference.
The presenters all did fairly well considering it was the first time video conferencing for many of them. We provided an outline to the presenters, but I definitely think it would be beneficial to identify some best practices for future presenter as they develop their presentations. A few of our presenters simply sat in a room and spoke to camera without any visuals. Some of the presentations were by actual college students. These seemed to get a lot more feedback, when an actual student was presenting text messages started to pour in.
So that's the long and short of it. Please feel free to ask me any questions you might have. Once again thanks to everyone who helped make this possible and don't forget to check out the carrier specific email a text options below. They are great for teachers utilizing mobile devices in the classroom.
Virgin Mobile: email@example.com
U.S. Cellular: firstname.lastname@example.org
Metro PCS: email@example.com