Tips to Managing Your Video Conferencing Security

The concept of video conferencing dates back to the 19th century when inventors explored ways to transmit video signals over long distances. We’ve come a long way since then! 

The proliferation of smartphones sparked the development of video conferencing by making it possible to conduct a video call from virtually anywhere with an internet connection. Recently, the pandemic significantly accelerated the adoption and reliance of video conferencing solutions which led to a surge in usage and is now a common tool for organizations to communicate and connect across vast distances.  

However, with the growth of video conferencing technology comes some risks. This blog aims to help you understand the security risks and the best practices on how to mitigate them.


Understanding the Security Risks to Your Video Conferencing Software

First, it is important to understand the risks that come with using video conferencing software which can come in many guises. 

  1. Unauthorized access 
  2. Weak security (authentication / passwords)
  3. Software vulnerability 
  4. Malware & phishing
  5. Privacy
  6. Data breach
  7. Social engineering attacks 
  8. Third-party risks 

These risks can have detrimental effects on individuals and organizations with consequences as:

  • Unauthorized access to sensitive information – A serious consequence of a security breach is the unauthorized access to information which could include confidential business information, personally identifiable details (PII), financial information, and intellectual property. This can lead to identity theft, fraud and compromised sensitive data.
  • Privacy violations – If personal information or conversations are breached without consent it can lead to reputational damage and legal implications.
  • Disruption – A security breach with unauthorized users accessing content and information to cause disruption or technical problems can greatly impact productivity.
  • Damage to reputation – Whether it’s an organization or an individual, the trust is broken if sensitive data is compromised in a security breach. Stakeholders, customers or employees lose confidence in the organizations’ ability to protect secure information and damage reputations.

What Does Encryption Mean for Video Conferencing

Encryption with video conferencing is important as it makes the audio, video and data used during a video conference unintelligible to unauthorized individuals. When using video conferencing the data is encrypted and can only be decrypted by authorized recipients. 

This ensures that data can remain confidential to maintain the integrity of data exchanged and enables privacy protection. Securely transmitting data with encryption prevents potential attackers from accessing and using it.

End-to-end encryption is a stronger form of encryption and this is where it’s encrypted on the sender’s device, remains encrypted during transmission and then is decrypted only on the recipient’s device. This ensures that even the service provider or any intermediaries cannot access the content. 

Not all video conferencing solutions provide end-to-end encryption and some only encrypt data during transmission. If you are choosing a video conferencing solution this should be top of mind as a fundamental security feature. 


Potential Data Privacy Risks for Video Conferencing

Individuals and organizations need to be aware of the data privacy risks when using video conferencing. These include:

  • Unauthorized access to meetings – weak security or authentication can lead to unwanted visitors during meetings which is not only disruptive but also breaches sensitive information.
  • Data interception – without high-level encryption, there is the possibility of confidential data and PII being intercepted.
  • Recording and storage – a nice feature of video conferencing is to offer recording but be aware if recordings are not securely stored there is a risk of an unauthorized person accessing the content leading to privacy violations. 
  • Metadata – inadequate protection of this can lead to the video conferencing platform collecting data including participant names, IP addresses which in the wrong hands can lead to malicious behavior.
  • Third-party sharing – there are risks that data shared with third parties could be compromised without proper consent or knowledge.
  • Data retention – video conferencing platforms may retain participant data and recordings for a determined time. It is important to understand these timeframes and ensure data is purged once no longer needed.
  • International data transfer – there may be different policies and ways of processing data in different jurisdictions and international data transfer may carry different and additional risks if safeguards are not put in place.

The best way to mitigate some of these risks is to use a platform that offers strong security measures, data encryption and data protection.


How to Secure Your Video Conferencing Platform

Below you will find some tips and guidance on how you can secure your video conferencing platform:

  • To start, select a reputable service provider or solution and ensure that it prioritizes security with a good track record of addressing issues and vulnerabilities.
  • Look for a solution that provides end-to-end encryption to ensure any communication between your attendees cannot be intercepted by unauthorized users.
  • Use strong passwords and unique meeting IDs. Avoid using any default passwords or setup credentials and make sure any details are shared securely with invited participants.
  • Enable waiting rooms. This helps the host see who is waiting to join a session and they can verify the participants’ identity before giving them access.
  • Ensure the software used is the most current version and any security updates have been made. Also, encourage invited participants to download the latest version before joining a meeting. 
  • Use the lock feature if available to secure your meeting. Once everyone has joined, lock the meeting to ensure no unauthorized participants join.
  • Control any sharing permissions during a meeting. Restrict privileges to those participants who need them otherwise, it can be disruptive and a security risk.
  • Be conscious when recording sessions that participants are aware a meeting is being recorded, and have given their consent. Make sure to store any recordings securely and limit access.
  • Use virtual background with caution. Although pretty and engaging avoid using personal or sensitive images to prevent confidential information from unknowingly being shared.
  • Use a secure network. This sounds obvious but when using a video conferencing solution you connect to a trusted network. Where possible also use a private wifi network to join as public wifi can be less secure. 
  • Disable any unnecessary features or integrations that might pose a security risk.
  • Protect against any unauthorized access by using two-factor authentication where possible to add an extra layer of security.

These measures and staying updated on the latest security recommendations can help protect and secure your video conferencing sessions. It is also important to regularly review the privacy and security policies of your chosen solution to ensure they align with your requirements.


X2O Media Security Features

X2O Media understands the importance of security and confidentiality to process our customers’ data. To show our ongoing commitment to safeguarding data we have completed the Service Organization Control (SOC) 2 Type II audit examination of X2O Platform. The X2O Platform is the platform that is the foundation for our digital signage solutions and our immersive learning and training environment, X2O OneRoom. 

The SOC 2 accreditation gives our customers the assurance that all critical system requirements are in place and data is secure the the implementation of standardized controls including security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality and privacy. 

For more information about X2O Platform and the security measures please contact us.


4 Strategies to Improve Remote Learner Engagement

Article published by Training Industry on August 26, 2022

Learning and development (L&D) is incredibly important to today’s workforce. The millennial generation prizes growth and development as their top priorities in a job position, much more so than prior generations. Employers also want a workforce that is constantly upskilling and reskilling in their fields so that the organization can learn and adapt to its changing environment.

In this increasingly digital workforce, L&D has never been more challenging. It is difficult for instructors to create genuine bonds, relationships and engagement in hybrid and virtual training rooms. The nature of these environments in many organizations today is disengaging due to the need to adapt better to hybrid and virtual participation.

We cannot put the genie back in the bottle, so the question is instead, how can L&D leaders create virtual environments that bring back the humanity of face-to-face communication?

Understanding the Problem: Trust and Productivity

Employee engagement is the buzzword, but another and more human-centered way to think of the same issue is trust. We all know what trust feels like, and we can tell when we are in a group or an atmosphere of trust or distrust. That sense in your gut has a direct result on productivity.

We are motivated by people, specifically people whom we trust. A number of influential studies have shown repeatedly how companies with high-trust cultures outperform low-trust companies. Engagement is a large piece of the formula: “Compared with people at low-trust companies, people at high-trust companies report: 74% less stress, 106% more energy at work, 50% higher productivity, 13% fewer sick days, 76% more engagement, 29% more satisfaction with their lives, 40% less burnout.”

It stands to reason that any group or class operates under similar subtextual rules. Just as with workplaces, we have all been in atmospheres where we felt connected and those where we were distracted. In groups with high trust, participants experience better outcomes, feeling more connected with their jobs and in control of their careers. The goal is to use technology that is designed to bring trust and engagement back into hybrid and virtual training.

Solutions to Drive Engagement in Virtual and Hybrid Meetings

Great leaders have empathy for the people they work with, but it’s hard to show empathy in a meaningful way with a communications tool where feedback is limited. Communications platforms need to recreate the human experience as much as possible. Here are four ways to improve engagement in a virtual environment:

1. Provide opportunities for feedback.
To bring our best to any activity, we need a sense of challenge and immediate feedback regarding how we are doing. Great instructors can gauge the room to receive instant feedback on their performance, helping adjust to their audience and increase engagement over time.

In a virtual classroom, it’s difficult to “read” the audience. Even if you enforce webcams, it is still difficult to read faces that are one-tenth life-size. Those same faces are constantly shifting locations on the screen. Using communications platforms and processes that allow instructors to gauge level of interest and engagement can help to create an environment that enables connection between instructors and learners.

2. Incorporate frictionless collaboration methods.
Think about the last great presentation you saw. The group leader was most likely not tethered to their laptop, stuck at the desk, merely driving a presentation. They walked around the room, free to talk and engage people. They walked up to the whiteboard and annotated on it without thinking about the tools. Likewise, virtual collaboration tools should allow instructors and learners to be at ease, brainstorm, discuss and collaborate frictionlessly. Ultimately, these tools should add value to the program and stimulate collaboration in a seamless way.

The goal is to use technology that is designed to bring trust and engagement back into hybrid and virtual training.

3. Use plug and play tools.
When it comes to effective engagement, communication tools should enhance, not interfere, with this exchange. To achieve that frictionless collaboration, the tools we use need to be simple and intuitive.

However, there is a drawback to simple. For example, when selecting a whiteboard tool, you should consider an instructor’s level of knowledge, not just the tools to deliver the presentation when deciding. Oftentimes, the best tools do not require upfront learning to function effectively in a digital learning environment. These tools can include calling a poll that’s contextual to a brainstorming discussion, or simply starting a breakout group based on advantages or disadvantages of an idea with just a click. Consider the tools’ impact on the session’s success for both instructors and learning.

4. Make meetings equitable.
In today’s hybrid training sessions and meetings, it often seems that the pendulum has swung in favor of virtual members. When virtual participants speak, they have dedicated video and audio. Their voice and image come in loud and clear for everyone.

However, in the classroom, instead of a dedicated camera, participants are one person at a table, and it can be difficult to hear them depending on microphone location. It’s not ideal for anyone, especially instructors.

Meeting equity means people in the room and remote participants have the same ability to interact, be present and have their presence known. Both must have the same opportunity to be heard and seen by others, raise hands and ask questions, reply to a poll, be part of a mix mode group in breakouts, chat, access the same content, as well as participate in ideations and discussion.

To achieve meeting equity, both in-person and remote participants must share the same learning experience. This critical concept is fundamental to providing instructors and all participants with an engaging environment.

Making Hybrid More Human

Now, more than ever, leaders are focused on navigating the territory of hybrid work and searching for ways to create a positive, productive workplace and sense of belonging for employees. This means taking steps to ensure that everyone has a similar meeting experience with equal opportunities to contribute and make an impact regardless of where they are joining their meeting from.

We need to accept that hybrid training delivery is more complicated than its fully in person or virtual delivery counterparts. It requires more thought, more planning and better tools to be able to create an environment that’s equitable both for virtual and face-to-face participants.

Current virtual communication is lacking the humanity of face-to-face conversations. Standard videoconferencing tools allow you to communicate virtually, but they don’t come close to the full range of human experiences that face-to-face interactions provide. Learning leaders must focus on emulating the human experience in a virtual environment to foster trust and drive better outcomes for both the learners and organization.

When it comes to effective engagement, communication tools should enhance, not interfere, with this exchange.

View this article and more at Training Industry.

Overcoming Employee Hybrid Learning Challenges

Organizations have been transitioning to hybrid working now for several years, trying to reap the benefits it brings with a more engaged and productive workforce.

63% of high-growth companies have already adopted a “productive anywhere” workforce model where they are optimizing the resources to ensure a healthy and productive workforce regardless of physical location.

However, there are challenges that need to be overcome to be able to provide effective workplace environments, as well as support the “productive anywhere” initiatives to ensure employees working both from an office and remotely are performing and fulfilling their objectives.

For learning and development (L&D) teams, these workplace challenges can seem overwhelming, and understanding on how to approach and overcome them is becoming a top priority.

Hybrid learning challenges for Learning and Development teams

  1. Stakeholder support
    Stakeholder support goes beyond getting buy-in from other areas of the business to support you in delivering learning and development strategies. Hybrid learning has evolved, and L&D teams must ensure their business has the systems and capabilities in place to deliver hybrid learning programs at scale — something which was nice to have is now a necessity. The challenge is to provide business with plans to justify return on investment, and the investment to support ongoing development of those hybrid learning programmes. Successful hybrid learning needs upfront support to bring the systems online combined with continuous support to evangelize the use and growth of the program.
  2. Coordination
    Hosting a hybrid training session has added complexities over delivering an exclusively online or in-person session. Hybrid is hard as you juggle both sets of participants and coordination requires double the effort to make sure everyone has the same communication and expectations before a session.
  3. Creativity
    Most employees find organized creativity off-putting and, from a business perspective, it isn’t a productive use of time. Having people join a hybrid session and take part in a collective creative ideation session can work. But, to get the creative juices flowing and think outside of the box, consider the opportunity to kick around ideas as part of smaller groups, break-out sessions or even giving individuals time to think.
  4. Engagement levels
    The larger the session, the harder it is to manage engagement with all participants. For instance, facilitators can find it hard to engage with people who join remotely and have their cameras off. The training and course materials that once worked for in-person sessions does not keep remote learners engaged. Adapting a hybrid learning environment often will make people feel more engaged during a session and more likely to turn on their cameras.
  5. Learner progress
    Another challenge with hybrid learning is tracking learner progress and understanding if individuals have grasped the course outcomes and objectives of a session. Within a hybrid session, tracking remote learners’ progress becomes complex and relies on real-time assessment, but with the right technology polls and analytics data can be used to monitor engagement and participation levels.
  6. Human connection
    For most L&D professionals human connection is crucial to overcome for successful hybrid learning. Hybrid learning makes it significantly difficult to establish and maintain a human connection with learners, which in turn impacts engagement. How do you create the balance between those physically in front of you and those virtually in the room? Vital non-verbal cues help create engagement and drive participation levels in a session, but it’s a struggle for facilitators to manage the balance and pick up on those cues within a hybrid session.
  7. Course materials
    Long gone are the days where you can provide physical handouts to a team. Adapting course materials and course design to work in both a digital and hybrid space is a shift. It requires more time and effort to blend the pedagogy with the technology. Technology needs to enable your in-room learners to have their own individual experience of the session in the same fashion as the remote participant and be able to make their own unique notes.
  8. Technical issues
    Technical issues can take many different forms, and with hybrid learning this opportunity for something to go awry is doubled — you have both people in the room and those joining remotely, and any tech issues disrupt the learning and teaching. Hybrid learning creates a connection between virtual and in-room participants is great progress, but what happens when the technology fails? For hybrid learning to be effective it needs to work seamlessly.

A guide to overcoming hybrid learning challenges

Equality is paramount for hybrid learning. Everyone who joins a hybrid learning session needs to have an equal learning experience, whether they’re in the room or remote. How do you overcome the fundamental challenges to provide a productive learning environment and deliver a consistent learning experience?

A seat in the room
Whether it’s a physical chair or a virtual seat, each learner needs a dedicated place in the room to be given the best opportunity to participate and engage during a session. This makes it easy for everyone to see and speak to each other and it is important for the host that everyone has a consistent place in the room. Similar to an in-room attendee, the virtual participant’s screen should not move around. But rather, have a dedicated position so they can be addressed directly and called upon when needed to reinforce their understanding and humanize the learning experience. Training solutions where people move around based on who spoke last rarely consider this feature and don’t provide the same level of engagement and learning consistency.

Consistency is key
Learners — irrelevant of their location — should be given the same tasks and course materials for a session, be able to make their own individual notes and collaborate with their peers as needed. Functionality to record a session or access content after a session has finished is also valuable to ensure inclusivity. This is ideal for those who need to catch up or spend additional time on a specific area or task.

Cameras on
In a group setting connecting and communicating with eye contact helps to build trust and emotional connection. You can pick out non verbal cues such as a smile, a disagreeable face or an inquisitive pose. For hybrid learning it’s not about recreating the interactions as in person, rather it’s about creating other meaningful moments in the session that engage with everyone in the room, whether that’s virtual or physical.

A great example of how this doesn’t work is with a gallery view, where in most circumstances people turn their cameras off to avoid people seeing them when they’re not talking. Using technology in the right way can help with this – for example only showing the last four speakers helps reduce the tension so, while everyone has their cameras on they aren’t visible in a gallery view to everyone and allows facilitators and participants to see each other.

Learning spaces
Having a room that is set up in a way that works for both in-room and remote learners is vital to the success of your session and learning. You might need to move things around to create the optimal learning space, and consider moving screens with remote learners so they are behind the in-room learners. This will help the host see everyone participating in the session, and pick up on the critical non verbal cues.

Focus time
Communication of the session expectations is important for success, and all learners should be encouraged to be present and feel as though they’re in the room. Those joining remotely should be asked to close other browsers and software for their undivided attention. Those in the room should have their phones away and be ready to learn. To make this easier, interact with people as they enter the session, whether that’s in-room or virtual.

The technology in a hybrid learning environment should enable the host to know if a remote learner is being attentive. This way if someone is not paying attention they can draw them back into the conversation, just like they would with someone in the room.

Use breakout groups
Breakout sessions are a valuable way to allow participants to chat and exchange points of views and opinions in a more comfortable and intimate space. These sessions also require a defined learning objective. They are impactful if used correctly and can generate more ideas and contributions as people have the time and environment to speak freely. Creating breakout groups with hybrid participants can be complicated, and difficult to achieve, but is key to running a seamless session. The right technology can help bridge this gap by ensuring participants can communicate and collaborate together, and by giving the facilitator the opportunity to see each group’s work and share it back to the wider group.

Preparation is key
Tech issues will always be unpredictable but there are certain things that can be done to mitigate issues. This includes recommending that remote learners have a strong internet connection and checking the technology in the physical room works as expected. A good idea is to do a dry-run before each session to alleviate any issues and get comfortable with the technology. It helps to think of hybrid sessions as live broadcast environments like a tv show with a live audience. You wouldn’t just turn up and present, you would rehearse and be prepared. This doesn’t mean the technology needs to be complicated, but preparation is key to the success of your hybrid sessions.



A Hybrid Learning Software Helps Solve for Learning and Development Team Challenges

X2O OneRoom provides hybrid learning environments that give remote users an equal seat in the room with their own unique perspective and audio stream along with an intuitive UI for an immersive learning experience.

With an integrated whiteboard and content repository learners can contribute and annotate on assets together or individually. OneRoom includes content sharing capabilities that visually bring to life training for learners, whether that’s using external devices or using smart annotations that can be revisited in subsequent sessions are powerful and increase engagement. All session content should be accessible to everyone, regardless of where they are.

OneRoom enables you to deliver engaging sessions using interactive tools such as polls and breakout groups including creating smaller breakout groups with a blend of in-room and remote participants.With the support of the analytics dashboard instructors can also track learner engagement and see how learners have contributed.

At X2O Media we work and support you and your team to conceptualize and create the hybrid learning experience that is right for your organization. Talk to a representative about solving your hybrid learning challenges, or download our Engaging Hybrid Whitepaper which shares some of the best practices L&D Managers have learnt as they adapt to hybrid learning.

5 Ways to Drive Engagement in Your Next Hybrid Training Session

In 2019, if you had polled businesses on whether they would use hybrid training, you would have received a chorus of noes. Three years later, in 2022, learning and development departments are singing a different tune.

A recent report uncovered that almost half of businesses (44%) intend to rely on hybrid training consistently from now on. Almost the same percentage (42%) plan to upgrade or purchase learning technology as a result of the pandemic (Brandon Hall Group, “The Hybrid Learning Revolution | Webinar”).

These findings suggest that there is a gap between where companies are and where they want to be with virtual employee engagement. The transition from in-person, Instructor Led Training (ILT) to virtual ILT (vILT) is not simple, and hybrid training adds a full range of unique challenges. However, the benefit of employee engagement tools has proven to be holding strong.

Here are 5 recommendations to help your business meet and exceed the challenges.

1. Think Outside the Room

Technology tools can help learning and development teams enhance experiences with capabilities such as repositories for shared digital files, digital white boards and collaboration software tools. These features make many elements of teaching easier than they would be in an exclusively physical setting. Hybrid is exciting because it can open up participation to employees from anywhere in the world. Additionally, it is also exciting because of these shared tools and communications, which can further drive productivity and engagement. There’s a reason that “The Hybrid Learning Revolution” report showed intent toward sustained usage and investment in hybrid training and learning — it’s important for effective employee engagement in physical and virtual classrooms alike. It is important to consider what hybrid training can add, not only what it can replace.

2. Facilitate Digital Tools with Dedicated Session Coordinators

Hybrid training courses benefit from a session coordinator who can help with the digital execution of the session; this is particularly true when technology is new to users and instructors.

The need to dive into administrative tasks related to technology can divert instructors from the purpose of hybrid training. Even the best instructors will need to take extra time away from facilitating so that they can turn up the volume, or help Elsa with granting her web browser access to her microphone. This role can be appointed informally, provided that the tools chosen are intuitive and nontechnical to use. Instructors can choose participants to help out if that is appropriate. The hybrid learning experience will run as seamlessly as an in-person session, while also delivering on added features of the hybrid training environment.

3. Educate Instructors on Digital Tools That Support Collaboration

Every topic is different, but Learning & Development teams should look at cloud tools that support many different types of collaboration, increasing productivity dramatically. Everything from collaborative word processing to virtual whiteboards and real-time communication and collaboration tools can lower the divide between in-room and virtual participants. Every teaching style is unique, and the technology is capable of supporting and even enhancing virtual learning. Instructors might be unaware of cloud tools that would be ideal for any class modality, so be sure to discuss the options available through your business’ tech stack.

4. Extra Resources for Hybrid Training

This piece of advice is more for the sanity of your Learning & Development department than your learners. Many L&D departments are accustomed to organizing ILT sessions through a motley of tools. These might be capable of supporting a hybrid mode, but at the very least the process and structure of administrative tools and processes will need to be shaped around hybrid capabilities. Take a deep dive with your IT department and develop a new blueprint. A solid, experienced technology partner can help guide L&D and IT through this discussion.

5. Hybrid-Native Communications Technology

Currently about one in every three businesses plan on implementing new communications hardware to support hybrid upskilling. But, we believe this number will continue to grow as more businesses face hybrid training and learning head-on. There are certain facets to hybrid communication that traditionally tend to discourage collaboration. The lack of eye contact, the lack of spatial awareness, seeing yourself on camera — these are critical differences that, without the right technology, make communications a bit more challenging and prone to “Zoom Fatigue.” There are communications technologies out there that address these difficulties, like X2O Media’s OneRoom. These comprehensive solutions can be more costly to implement, but they are an investment in the best quality hybrid training experience possible, making an appreciable difference in the quality of every session.

Where Does Zoom Fall Short For Education? Deep Learning

In the past years, higher education institutions have merged traditional and virtual classrooms, a process that has been met with challenges and successes.

Traditional web conferencing has played an integral role during this transitional period. While instructors have acknowledged the platform’s failings, platforms like Zoom and Teams are not going away anytime soon.

Still, more instructors are choosing to offer their courses pass-fail as it is simply more difficult to teach on web conferencing platforms like Zoom, Teams and Google Meet. Students cannot be expected to maintain the same level of retention, motivation and ability to learn on a deep level.

These platforms limit learning in several ways.

__“….having to engage in a “constant gaze” makes us uncomfortable — and tired. In person, we are able to use our peripheral vision to glance out the window or look at others in the room. On a video call, because we are all sitting in different homes, if we turn to look out the window, we worry it might seem like we’re not paying attention.” __         — Harvard Business Review, “How to Combat Zoom Fatigue”

But where exactly does traditional web conferencing fall short in terms of demonstrable outcomes?

Dynamic tasks — like group discussions, collaborative problem solving, and debate — experience significant productivity loss when conducted over a flat communications platform. These deep learning activities have always relied on kinesthetic experiences to give new shape to minds, mentalities, and drive behavioral change.

Retention almost doubles when we provide an environment that facilitates discussion as opposed to demonstration.

Kinesthetic experiences rely on give-and-take interactions that are afforded in traditional classrooms, where eye movements and non-verbal cues — including individual facial expressions, gestures, and personal attention — are naturally present.

Traditional web conferencing solutions cannot easily replicate these more natural, kinesthetic behaviors, which explains why they are ineffective.

Higher education institutions are able to accommodate the kinesthetic challenge with two interventions.

Organize class sessions with specific intent to communicate material audio-visually or kinesthetically
Invest in a sophisticated virtual or hybrid classroom platform specifically designed to create an immersive and interactive experience for both in-room and remote students wherever they are located.

Read about how OneRoom technology offers a better approach to learning to support student success with an interactive, hybrid learning experience for both in-room and remote students wherever they are located.

Preparing For The Transition To Hybrid Education

Global drivers are placing higher education at a critical juncture. Moving forward, universities must decide how they will deliver education services. The pandemic has not been the only driver of change; demographic changes, rising costs, evolving consumer expectations and rapidly changing technology all play important roles in bringing this decision to a head. More and more educational institutions are undergoing digital transformations to adapt to hybrid education models.

Faculty, leadership, students and parents are all trying to envision what education will look like over the next four years.

This article will examine how higher education organizations can prepare for the transition to hybrid education, cover the benefits of a hybrid education model and break down what to consider as we transform. We’ll answer key questions, such as:

  • What are the components of hybrid learning education?
  • How does higher education make the transition?
  • What are the benefits, tools, and other factors to consider?

What exactly is hybrid education?

Hybrid education is simply defined as an education approach that combines online education interaction/materials with traditional place-based classroom methods. Hybrid learning means having students part time at home and part time in class.

When the global pandemic impacted educational institutions, classes were initially held entirely online – for both students and teachers. The hybrid education model shifts away from the entirely online approach to a combination of in-person classes and virtual classes.

Features of hybrid learning

Hybrid learning is typically comprised of distinct features that include:

Time (synchronous) – Synchronous learning is defined as a scheduled class held in real-time with a group of students and a teacher. The students can be in attendance remotely or in a classroom. Higher education may use online video conferencing technology to engage with students in real-time.

Space – This refers to the hybrid learning space; for example, a student setting up a hybrid learning space at home or a teacher dedicating an in-person class room space. Hybrid learning in the classroom is dependent on what technology is deployed such as interactive video hardware, display, software, assistive technology, and whiteboards.

Interaction – Hybrid learning interaction is based on how the student and teacher will interact – online, in-person, and a combination of both. It’s critical that higher education organizations deploy technology that will drive engagement with students; for example, deploying immersive virtual classrooms to enhance remote student learning.

Get more insights on how X2O Media and Emory University partnered to deploy innovative collaborative interactive technology.

Resources – Resources refer to components that make hybrid learning possible. This includes Wi-Fi/Internet connection, computers, Audiovisual hardware and the software that drives hybrid learning. Educational collaboration tools, such as conferencing software, Learning Management Systems are Resources, as well.

Responsibility – This includes self-learning, digital interactive tools, tracking of attendance or class work, etc. Responsibility is also placed on the teachers who may need to present, record, upload, monitor, and track students and lessons.

Overall, these are just a sampling of hybrid learning that may have some similar features of traditional in-person learning. However, by its nature hybrid learning is a combination of using digital technologies with in-person education.

Benefits of a hybrid education model

Students have high expectations of technology because of the technology they use every day — from social applications like Instagram and Tik Tok, to iOS and Android messaging. These platforms allow them to build a customized communications interface, and they bring that experience (and all the expectations it creates) with them into education.

Digital transformation can help higher education organizations meet students where they are, not only reducing friction but also increasing retention of material, satisfaction, and results.

Benefits of adopting a hybrid education model include:

  • Self-efficacy – Students can learn in class at their own time and pace, depending on the class/teacher lesson plan. In the comfort of their own home or at another convenient location, students can go online to engage with all the class resources. This is particularly beneficial to students who may have busy schedules.
  • Synchronous and asynchronous learning – Some students may be able to attend class in-person, while others may need to rely on purely online learning. The hybrid learning approach may choose to have a combination of synchronous learning (real-time) and asynchronous learning – where some of the class materials are online, available as a recording.
  • Real-time engagement and feedback – The global pandemic increased the use of video conferencing in higher education. However, traditional video conferencing tools were not intended to be used by educators or students. In the educational use case, video conferencing tools are more effective when they can support more dynamic discussions and active participation by all participants. This often leads to the acquisition of purpose-built tools.
  • Hybrid learning – depending on the technology deployed – can deliver more effective use of video, collaboration, and ultimately engagement.
  • Performance and tracking – Hybrid learning technology can help with tracking the attendance, performance, and feedback of students. The digital technology deployed can help obviate the need for manual tracking and analysis. Overall, measuring the metrics that matter can help instructors while improving the hybrid learning experience for students.

Key considerations for hybrid learning technology

When approaching the transition to hybrid, higher education is familiar with elements, such as IT hardware and software. But there are missing pieces of the puzzle that complete the hybrid picture: The audio/video (AV) components and infrastructure.

Considerations include:

  • Hybrid Learning Software – Some higher education institutions may try to use standard video conferencing software, combine various disparate solutions, or even try to create their own. Higher education organizations should avoid these approaches and deploy software that is specifically designed for the needs of hybrid education.
  • Computer hardware – Higher education must determine if the computers used (for students and teachers) are the organization’s or that of the students and staff.
  • Audio/video — Additional cameras, microphones, displays and speakers to accommodate a larger hybrid audience.
  • Wi-Fi availability – Do all the students and teachers have reliable, high-speed Wi-Fi to access resources? Some areas may lack adequate Hi-Fi or Internet connection so that must be taken into consideration if there is an option to attend class in-person rather than solely be online.
  • Network Infrastructure — Wi-Fi can also be bottlenecked by an outmoded Internet connection. Campuses might need to reconsider their network as we approach the widespread use of real-time video feeds.

Questions to ask software vendors:

  • Does the software have robust features that accommodate 100+ participants?
  • Is the software easy to deploy, adopt, and manage?
  • Is the solution designed to replace face-to-face learning, or to integrate with it?
  • What is the process for support, and how long does it take to resolve issues on average?
  • Is the vendor actively developing new features?
  • Is the software tested and proven, or is it more of a proof of concept?
  • Are there multiple camera views, virtual room settings, online interactivity, etc?
  • What hardware is required?
  • Are there minimum technical requirements for participants? For networks?
  • What kind of setup is necessary for end-users? For staff?

Partnering with the right hybrid learning platform provider

Taking steps to transform your higher education organization to hybrid learning doesn’t have to be complex and challenging if you plan strategically. It is critical you partner with a hybrid learning technology provider with the expertise and experience of working with education organizations. Partnering with a solution that is specifically designed for hybrid education needs will transform and optimize your school for an enhanced student learning experience.

Learn more about X2O OneRoom.

Fulfilling The Need To Reskill And Upskill

The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated digital transformation and the importance of Learning and Development in all organizations. The prevalence of remote workers, as well as the digital aptitude of employees, has delivered new needs and opportunities for digital learning solutions. Not only are virtual platforms more necessary to unite employees across distance, they are also more commonly used and understood. These changes have enabled employers to experiment with new communication technologies and processes to support a wider variety of course modalities than ever before.

The experimentation phase is not over. According to a People Management survey, more than 50% of the Learning & Development of organizations worldwide have implemented digital solutions as temporary patches rather than long-term strategic transformations. This wait-and-see approach has resulted in solutions that are “good enough,” or that “show promise” but which either produce lackluster results, or make other sacrifices in productivity, learning and security while a better solution is identified.

L&D leaders understand that these initial tools must give way, at some point, to more specific solutions designed for class sessions, collaboration and deep learning. For one, there is more pressure on organizations to adapt, reskill, and upskill their workforces. According to LinkedIn’s 2022 Workplace Learning Report, the skills reported within occupations changed by 25% in 2021, a rate of change that, if continued, will rise to 40% in only three years. That will mean that the skills required for an occupation will only last for between 2 and 3 years, moving forward.

Even if the rate of change tops out at 25%, a 4-year skills cycle would still imply the need to prioritize L&D. That is exactly what many businesses are doing. Most L&D leaders agree that their job function is becoming more strategic. They are receiving more promotions, and demand has risen faster than other positions in HR. In mid-2021, LinkedIn reported almost double (94%) the demand for L&D specialists than in the year prior (LinkedIn, 2022).

But with added rewards comes equal responsibility. There is a new trend amongst more exacting corporate executives who demand a clear learning ROI from L&Ds before they allocate budgets. These requests mandate not only that proper metrics be established, more importantly, they require valuable learning to occur in the first place.

The short-term solutions that were “good-enough” during the pandemic will not work under these new strategic demands.

Here are a few considerations for requesting and evaluating long-term tools that will replace what your organization currently has in place.

L&D Solutions: Core capabilities to drive sustained skills development

‘Combining the latest learning methods with the right technology provides organizations an exceptional opportunity to improve their strategic capabilities. With the right tools, organizations can prepare themselves for the future way of working.’    — David Wilson, CEO of Fosway Group

We all know that learning technology must improve, but what does that look like? What capabilities does your organization’s next generation learning tools support?

Individual Learning Journeys

Employees rank “Opportunities to Learn and Grow” as the #1 Top Driver of a Great Work Culture (LinkedIn, 2022). That response has risen 8 places in the last three years, from #9 to #1.

In a disruptive world with custom technology and cross-functional skills, individual learning journeys are the best way to ensure your L&D program can address employees’ skilling needs. Transforming your learning programs to include individual learning journeys is a true game changer. This method not only secures a successful adoption and retention by the employees but also largely prevents employee’s turnover. This one organizational capability not only drives satisfaction and productivity, it also saves the cost of searching and acquiring new employees.

Blended Learning

The use of blended learning and blended delivery is tightly related to individual learning journeys, but it also comes from the rise of remote work and a distributed workforce. Blended learning makes use of synchronous and asynchronous, formal, and informal content and learning events from e-Learning, social, peer-to-peer and on-the job learning. L&D leaders that can support blended learning will have a much easier time deploying individualized learning journeys, as well as supporting the current workforce.

Hybrid Courses that Support Deep Learning

Delivering accessible educational content is important, but as many L&D leaders are discovering, comprehension is critical. Actual learning is the cornerstone of the organizational strategies outlined above, and without comprehension, employees do not feel empowered, and the organization does not adapt and re-skill in any meaningful way.

As a final note, both of the capabilities above will probably rely upon hybrid and virtual learning to succeed. Without the convenience of hybrid, individual learning journeys are impractical, and blended learning is a crutch, as opposed to a tool.

The temporary online conferencing solutions that many corporations still use are considered temporary precisely because they fail the comprehension test.

During a live session, comprehension is high thanks to:

  • Level of attentiveness and engagement
  • One-on-one interactivity and breakout group discussions
  • Being able to hear and see the trainer, the content and other speakers clearly
  • Accessing the content before and after the session

These aspects of live courses reinforce the material through repetition and play. Unfortunately, many of the online conferencing tools that corporations use today do not replicate these critical elements, having an adverse effect on interactivity, immersion, and ultimately learning and retention. That is why many of these tools are considered temporary.

Businesses need to deploy long-term hybrid and virtual learning solutions that are better at supporting nonverbal cues, collaboration and immersive learning. The ability to facilitate deep learning across hybrid and virtual environments is a necessity for any organization that wants to retain and engage a productive workforce. What many L&D functions have now is “shallow hybrid.” What they need is technology to create a “deep hybrid” environment for successful and engaging learning. That technology will become critical to attaining better learning outcomes and driving organizational agility and adaptiveness.

5 Steps To Creating A Collaboration Room

As the workforce evolves and becomes more hybrid, the need for better tools to facilitate effective collaboration becomes even more important. To enable productive collaboration in a hybrid working environment, companies need to provide their employees with access to collaboration rooms.

What Are Collaboration Rooms And Why Are They Important?

Collaboration rooms are hybrid spaces where employees can come together to work on projects, share files and communicate effectively.

Effectiveness of these collaboration rooms is critical. Without these rooms, employees can find themselves struggling to navigate the new way of working and producing less than they otherwise could with the right tools. Workplaces that do not provide the right tools also tend to see employees adapting their own solutions, bringing their own applications and devices, and applying brand standards inconsistently across their efforts, both internally and externally. This not only reduces efficiency but also erodes brand reputation, morale and engagement.

That said, acknowledging that a change must be does not mean the change will be successful or optimal. Building a collaboration room is not as easy as throwing a laptop or a wall screen into each conference room and calling it a day. Choosing the right technology, from hardware to software, is critical for employees to actually use the room and get the most benefits from the investment.

The Need for Productive Hybrid Spaces

In a study by Frost & Sullivan, 98% of employees believe future meetings will include remote participants. A lot of people need effective hybrid environments.

Businesses are also listening, adapting to better meet the communications needs of their workforce. According to Knight & Franklin, 55% of businesses surveyed believe they will increase the proportion of collaborative space in their offices over the next three years. (Knight & Franklin). Considering the cost in both the money and time that these collaborative projects entail, the fact that MOST businesses express willingness to pursue these tools says a lot.

Collaboration Rooms Are a Cross-Functional Investment with Multiple KPIs

Fundamentally, any project must start with a data-centric motivation that can be verified and analyzed. Start by understanding why collaboration rooms are important to your organization.

Are you looking to improve team productivity? Drive innovation? Retain employees? Enhance customer satisfaction? Once you’ve identified the key performance indicators (KPIs) that are most important to your organization, you can begin to track the impact of your collaboration room. For example, if one of your KPIs is team productivity, you can track metrics — the number of meetings held in the collaboration room, the average length of meetings, and the applications that were used during the session.

There are many ways to gauge effectiveness. The difficulty is choosing metrics that are both meaningful and measurable. Here are five activities that help guide the right design and goals for your project.

5 Steps to Creating a Collaboration Room

1. Understand the ambition
The most important part of the process is to determine the purpose of the collaborative space you are looking to create, and to understand how the space will be used — not just by the key stakeholders on the project but the end users and employees or visitors who will be using it. Work through and define the scenarios of how the space will be used. What are the applications and outputs of those circumstances? Create some personas and use cases to understand what you are trying to achieve.

2. One size doesn’t fit all
Each collaboration room and workspace is unique, depending on people and the physical space of the room/s. You can’t replicate spaces that might work for other organizations. The physical space is an important factor in choosing the right environments, as is lighting and accessibility. It’s worth taking time on this step to ensure all the key considerations have been documented and discussed to ensure the best possible use of the space.

3. Pictures speak a thousand words
Animation is a powerful way to bring an idea or design into the physical world. By using imagery, drawings and other artistic techniques we can visualize what our workspace will look like before it’s even built, which helps us identify any nuances that may need adjusting to create atmospheres that will make the tools easy to use.

4. Money, money, money
It all comes back to money and the budget and investment needed to support these projects, whether it’s a small huddle space or a larger meeting room. The return on investment is crucial and stakeholders need to make an informed decision about the investment of their money. It’s important to develop a solid business case in association with your technology partners to understand the cost benefit of the collaboration space and to maximize the opportunity.

5. Life after Installation
Congratulations! The collaboration space was installed to specifications! Even better, it works. Now the hard work really starts. To maximize ROI, we need to establish ways of working and supporting stakeholders, so that everyone gets the most from this new way of working. Some people are advocates for change; others never want anything to change. Facilitating that learning process is absolutely critical. To do that, track KPIs and usage, and keep talking about how to use new tools.

At X2O Media we partner with you and your team and work together to fully conceptualize the collaboration room experience that you are looking for. From there, we will guide you through the design phase, site inspection, installation and user training to ensure that you get the best out of your new collaboration space.

The Metaverse: Challenges And Opportunities For Training

Article published by Training Industry on December 2, 2022

The metaverse, a virtual shared space comprised of virtually enhanced physical and digital reality, has opened many opportunities for learning and development (L&D) to discover innovative ways to leverage digital learning solutions within the greater virtual ecosystem. As the metaverse continues to dominate the news cycles, we need to pay close attention to how it impacts and challenges employee learning and collaboration.*

But why does the metaverse matter? As a product manager of a hybrid live collaboration and training solution, I am keen and curious to understand the benefits and challenges of training in the metaverse and if it can be embraced to elevate hybrid meeting and training. After extensive technology reviews and discussions with gurus, I have reached the conclusion that the metaverse in its current technology state is a smokescreen.

It may sound like I am resistant to change, but let’s dive into the three biggest challenges for hybrid training in the metaverse ecosystem so that you can decide for yourself whether the metaverse will open up new opportunities for your programs.

Main Limitations of the Metaverse

Limitations in Virtual Training and Collaboration

An expensive 3D headset and reliable internet are a must-have to partake in an immersive metaverse experience, which makes accessibility an issue. Additionally, a study found that the headsets can induce stress, anxiety, nausea and eye strain. The same study found that virtual headsets are also creating fatigue and reducing productivity — except in some very limited industrial applications. So, the use of this device should be limited in time and used only for specific use cases where the benefit is clearly understood. Furthermore, when working in person, the headset serves as a barrier to the important human connection between colleagues who are working or studying together.

Limitations in Learning

Examining a typical instructor-led classroom where all learners are participating in-person, the key differentiating attribute for an in-person, instructor-led course is the human connection. During such a course, the instructor can interact directly with participants in many ways through eye-to-eye contact with them or by analyzing their facial expressions to better discern the student’s understanding. They can also leverage their body language to show empathy and emphasize fundamental concepts, adjusting as needed to help them to better absorb the subject matter.

In the metaverse, people are replaced with their avatar. This puts a stop to the natural direct and non-verbal cues mentioned. The art of communication considers that people need context to better communicate. Contextual learning is a crucial input to help learners connect the abstract elements with a concrete example.

To be as good as an in-person learning event, digital technologies must recreate the one-on-one interaction between all students the instructor and therefore, reproducing the hyperpresence that encourages the participants to be engaged.

Limitations in Collaborative Meetings

Digital hyperpresence is also highly recommended in collaborative meetings, aimed at inducing a debate discussion or to brainstorm. The technology should recreate an immersive experience for collaborative meeting with fully engaged participants. When the video is off or replaced by a still or animated avatar it is hard to get people to fully pay attention, especially when people are not in the same room.

Other Methods to Engage Participants Effectively

Mature technology already exists that has been developed and deployed, creating a truly immersive learning and collaboration experience. It is a space where participants, regardless of whether they are in-room or remote, are guaranteed to experience learning or collaboration in an equitable, engaging and inclusive manner. When the intrinsic human need to be acknowledged and to connect with others is fulfilled, everyone thrives.

Unlike the metaverse, participants in an immersive solution feel a collective presence as if they are all sitting in the room next to each other whether they are in-room or remote. Yet, they do not feel the screen fatigue which characterizes typical video conferencing solutions. Web conferencing, or collaboration technology provides strategically positioned cameras and speakers that allow for both the in-person and the remote participants along with the presenter to be aware of each other’s verbal and non-verbal communication, creating an experience which is as good as being there.

In the Realm of Virtual Worlds, Augmented Reality Stands Out

Augmented reality (AR) is about adding to the real world instead of replacing it with a totally virtual world. AR enhances both the virtual and real world, while virtual reality (VR) only enhances a fictional reality.

By superimposing sound, video, and graphics onto an existing environment, AR technology increases participant engagement and interest. AR is seen as contributing to a better understanding of the content as well.

Navigating the Metaverse

So, where can the metaverse be leveraged in the learning process? The answer lies in the learning process itself. At the beginning of every learning process the instructor needs to share the content in the most interactive and contextual manner. Then comes the experimentation stage that allows learners to complete the process and reproduce the obtained knowledge.

Consider a traditional class where the course content is made part of lectures, discussions, breakout groups and quizzes. Adding individual gamification experience in a virtual universe is like one of the quizzes. The objective is to stimulate the learner with a full spectrum of kinesthetic approaches for learning success.

Humans have always relied on immersive learning to master skills. By offering learners a higher level of human engagement, a realistic learning experience and the opportunity to practice and apply skills, we see that learning goals are achieved. This is easier than ever to achieve through new technologies that evolve learning experiences to take place in any virtual environment with a high level of realism and human interaction. To embrace a digital approach to learning that is equitable, engaging and inclusive for all means embracing solutions that are designed to heighten and facilitate the key to successful learning: the human experience.

Engage Your Workforce With A Versatile Employee Communication Platform

In an increasingly digital workplace, it is more important than ever for businesses to have effective ways to facilitate communication with their employees, whether they are working in-office or remotely. Integrating an employee communication platform as a central hub for all workplace communication is an ideal and easy for employees to stay connected, engaged and informed.

What is Employee Communication, and Why Is It So Important?

Effective employee communication is crucial for the success of any organization. It involves the exchange of information and ideas among employees to levels of the company that take place through various forms of communication, including verbal, written, and electronic.

Good employee communication is essential for building trust and fostering a positive work culture. When employees feel informed and connected to the goals and mission of the company, they are likely to be more motivated and engaged in their work. This in turn, can lead to increased productivity, morale and job satisfaction.

Effective employee communication is also important for reducing conflict and turnover within the organization. When employees see that their concerns and ideas are being heard and valued, there is a greater sense of belonging and commitment to the company.

Communication is a big part of what makes business so challenging in 2023. The expectations, needs and technology used as infrastructure for employee communications has changed the landscape drastically. These considerations are key for consideration as we analyze any potential communications tool that we may want to introduce to the organization.

  • Diverse communication styles: Employees have different communication styles, preferences and needs. It’s important for employers to be aware of these differences and find ways to communicate effectively with all employees, regardless of their communication style.
  • Hybrid work: With employees in the office and working from home it is essential to foster a culture of productive communication. Employees can feel isolated from the business and disconnected when they work remotely. This may lead to boredom and dissatisfaction, neither of which are particularly good for staff retention
  • Language barriers: If employees speak different languages, employers need to provide translation services or find other ways to ensure that all employees understand important information and communicate effectively with one another.
  • Technology: The use of technology, such as email, messaging and video conferencing, can greatly enhance communication in the workplace. However, employers need to ensure that all employees have access to and are comfortable using these tools.
  • Cultural differences: With culturally diverse employees it is important for employers to be sensitive to and respect these cultural differences. This can include being mindful of language, customs, and communication styles that may differ from their own.
  • Legal considerations: There are laws and regulations that pertain to communication in the workplace which include those related to confidentiality, security and handling of Personal Identifiable Information, as well as harassment and discrimination. Employers need to be aware of these laws and take steps to ensure compliance.

The right process for changing communications technology

The selection process of the right communications technology is a group effort where feedback from managers and employees can help organizations select the right tools. This may involve conducting surveys or focus groups to gather input, or working with a team to identify the best options for the organization. By taking a consultative approach, businesses can ensure that they are using the most effective and appropriate communication tools to support their goals and objectives, while enabling employees to do what they already do, rather than creating unnecessary work or change.

Communications for a hybrid workplace

Hybrid work models are important in today’s workforce. Ultimately, the ability to work in a hybrid environment is beneficial for both the organization and its employees.

X2O Media provides unified visual communication and collaboration solutions for higher education and corporations across the globe. Our award-winning X2O Platform helps businesses engage teams with relevant and consistent workplace communications by delivering broadcast quality multimedia across any channel, to interactive display screens including video walls, laptops, desktops, tablets and smartphones and is scalable to thousands of devices or digital screens.

X2O Platform is designed to integrate with internal or external sources targeting information based on location, departments and users can take this information and data to create channels of dynamic content to share with anyone, anywhere.

Contact Us or talk to a representative about solving your communication challenges and see how the X2O Platform can impact your organization.

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