Enhancing Your Online Course with Skype for Business (Lync)

Microsoft’s Skype for Business, also known as Lync, is a communication tool that allows faculty, staff, and students to hold virtual meetings from various sites and locations via a computer. Users can participate via instant message, video, or phone as well as share a desktop with one another.

Skype for Business (Lync) can be used to:

  1. Conduct student/faculty conferences
  2. Deliver or participate in presentations
  3. Record presentations/meetings
  4. Feature a guest speaker
  5. Conduct polls
  6. Connect more personally with students
Using Skype for Business (Lync) as a communication tool has many benefits. These benefits include but are not limited to:

  1. Less travel time and cost of travel
  2. Participation of users located at a great distance
  3. Document sharing
  4. Increased meeting opportunities

Microsoft’s Skype for Business (Lync) webpage

Skype for Business (Lync) Features

  1. Use Audio in a meeting
  2. Use Video in a meeting
  3. Send an Instant Message
  4. Upload PowerPoint slides
  5. Share desktop, programs or monitor
  6. Use of an Interactive Whiteboard
  7. Set up a Poll
  8. Transfer a File
  9. Set up a Q&A Session
  10. Record and Playback
  11. Use the Mobile Application

Best Practices for Successful Skype for Business (Lync) Online Meeting

Skype for Business (Lync)  is a helpful virtual communication tool that offers a great opportunity to meet with your students. There are a number of important items to keep in mind when conducting a virtual meeting.

Accommodations for Online Courses

Note: When conducting a meeting for a fully online (W) course, accommodations must be made for students who are unable to attend live.

Here are best practice guidelines that any web conference moderator will find useful.

  1. Consider scheduling session during a time when technical help is available.
  2. Find a location with a reliable internet connection. For best results, ensure you are wired directly into a network, using wi-fi is not recommended.
  3. To avoid audio feedback loops, we recommend you use a headset, rather than your computer’s built in mic and speakers.
  4. Connectivity needs to be tested prior to the session utilizing all the equipment that will be used during the session. This is the time to upload and test any documents or presentation slides.
  5. Test the “record” option if planning to record the session; playback to make certain it is working properly.
  6. Have a participant or colleague join the test session as a participant to ensure the session is functioning as anticipated.
  7. Attention needs to be paid to lighting, backdrop, and background noise in the location where you will be presenting.
  8. Dress in professional, solid colored clothing. Consider your background when choosing the color of your attire. Ensure there is a clear contrast between the two.
  9. Prepare an agenda and send in advance to ensure all participants will understand the purpose and expected results of the session. Preliminary information may also be sent at this time.
  10. Have a backup plan, should any technical issues occur during the session.

Accommodations

Note: if you have a student who requires accommodation, consult with the Student Accessibility Services as soon as possible.

  1. Log in to the session early (15-30 mins.) to ensure an optimal session experience. This will allow you to run Audio Wizard and review any files.
  2. Set status to “In Meeting” or “Do not disturb”. This will help keep the time free from outside distractions.
  3. Hit “Record,” if planning to archive the meeting.
  4. Start on time with an ice breaker activity to get the dialogue moving and put everyone at ease. Participation needs to be encouraged from the beginning of the meeting and facilitated frequently by asking specific questions rather than open-ended questions.
  5. Go over the agenda for the session and the objectives.
  6. Remember to speak clearly and at pace that may be understood by all attendees. Keep in mind that there may be a delay on the viewer’s side. Participants may need extra time to respond as they may need to unmute, type in the chat, etc.
  7. Consider using a helper who can monitor the chat and manage questions/comments.
  8. End on time, allowing a few minutes for session wrap-up, summary, and next steps.
  9. Thank participants for attending.

  1. Follow up with meeting notes, reiterate the key points discussed, and outline next steps.
  2. Solicit feedback from attendees to identify what is or isn’t working and collect suggestions for future virtual meetings.
  3. Post or send out a link to the recorded session for those who were not able to attend the live session. Extract any links and documents from the session and post them for download/viewing alongside the recording.

Accommodations for Online Courses

Note: When conducting a meeting for a fully online (W) course, accommodations must be made for students who are unable to attend live.

Examples

While there are many creative uses of the Skype for Business (Lync) tool, below are a few sample use cases you may want to consider.

Instructors may set up a synchronous online conference orientation for students at a distance. In the live meeting, the instructor can discuss the course syllabus, including course objectives, module navigation, and assignments and grading criteria, with the students. Not only are online students able to ask questions and clarify course expectations, this is also a valuable opportunity to meet their instructor and colleagues through their webcam.
For more details on this strategy visit the Set up an online conference for student orientation
page on the Teaching Online Pedagogical Repository.

Skype for Business (Lync) can be used for online office hours with individuals or groups of students. For quick questions or interactions, the instant messaging feature can be used for instant text messages while more in-depth discussions may make use of the audio/video components. For example:

  • Use instant messaging to answer a student’s question about an assignment due date or something in the syllabus
  • Use webcams and microphones for more personal coaching-type conversations
  • Use desktop sharing to review an assignment or demonstrate how to use a specific website or software tool

For more tips and best practices visit the Use Web-Conferencing Tools for Office Hours strategy on the Teaching Online Pedagogical Repository.

There may be circumstances under which students(s) are unable to deliver a presentation in the classroom, and Skype for Business (Lync) may provide an online solution. Students may share their PowerPoint slides, share another application on their desktop, and/or deliver a video presentation using a webcam. These presentations can also be recorded and shared with those unable to participate live. Visit the Teaching Online Pedagogical Repository to see how video self-modeling was used to strengthen reading and speaking fluency.

Guest speakers from the field can bring real world experiences into your class, but they may not always be able to come to campus. Skype for Business (Lync) allows guest speakers to participate from anywhere around the world. In fact, there may be an added benefit to seeing them onsite in a specific environment. Depending on the content and purpose of inviting a guest speaker, different features may be used. For example, the guest speaker may have a more traditional presentation where sharing PowerPoint slides is appropriate, or they may use a webcam to provide context via the background environment or a full site tour. These sessions may also be recorded for students who are unable to attend live or for future classes.

Preparing with a Guest Speaker

Tip: Consider sending your guest speaker some technical guidelines and schedule a test run in advance.

Accommodations for Online Courses

Note: When conducting a meeting for a fully online (W) course, accommodations must be made for students who are unable to attend live.

Getting Help with Skype for Business (Lync)

UCF Computer Services and Telecommunications (CS&T) is your primary contact for the Skype for Business (Lync) program here at UCF, and they have a number of resources available for faculty who decide to use Skype for Business (Lync) within their courses. The section divides these resources into four topic areas: Installing Skype for Business (Lync), Skype for Business (Lync) Training, UCF Resources, and External Resources.

Most faculty should already have Skype for Business (Lync) installed on their UCF issued computer or laptop. If you do not, you should reach out to your department’s IT department to have this software installed.

CS&T has created a self-paced training guide for Skype for Business (Lync). You can access and download this Training Guide online from the CS&T website. This is a self-paced training that you complete on your own. Contact the UCF Service Desk at 407-823-5117 or servicedesk@ucf.edu with any questions you may have about Skype for Business (Lync) Training.

The UCF Service Desk is available to assist you with any Skype for Business (Lync) with any questions or issues you may have. In addition to the UCF Service Desk, CS&T has also created a Help for Faculty/Staff webpage that is available to you 24/7. Located on this web page are a number of Skype for Business (Lync) resources. 

Students requiring assistance may be directed to the UCF Service Desk.

While there are some external resources for Skype for Business (Lync) help, it is recommended that you always contact the UCF Service Desk first. Beyond the UCF Service Desk, Microsoft Office provides a Help Topics for Lync website and a Skype for Business training website. For further discussion within the Microsoft community, go to Introducing Skype for Business (Lync) blog.