Setting up Parents’ Evenings with video calls

avatar Author - Lucy Walshaw

Edulink One now integrates with leading cloud communications company Twilio to provide schools the option of conducting parents evenings remotely via video conference.

Important Information

If you would like to use this functionality you will have to sign up for an account from Twilio and enable/configure the functionality in the settings.

The functionality does not work with Internet Explorer or out of date versions of other browsers. So please urge participants to upgrade browsers and the Edulink One app before the event.

We also recommend the IT support team add an exception to the school’s firewall/filter for *.twilio.com and check devices at https://networktest.twilio.com/?region=ie1

How much does it cost?

For the video functionality Twilio charge based on usage of their TURN server. They currently provide 25GB free a month and usage after this is charged at a rate of $0.4 per GB.

The TURN server is used if a participant’s device can not be used for peer to peer connection either directly or via a STUN server due to how it is configured networking wise. (If you want to understand this further here is a link to a more detailed explanation https://bloggeek.me/webrtc-turn/.) This means we can’t tell you how much it will cost…

Video Call Parents Evenings

To try and give you an idea (a very rough one), we ran a test with 24 customers acting as parents on a range of devices and 8 Overnet Data employees acted as teachers for a test event which lasted 30mins (110 appointments lasting 2mins each) which used 2GB on Twilio’s TURN server.

We have also had a volunteer school customer run a live parents’ evening using this functionality. This event involved 17 teachers, the parents of 64 learners (who had a limit of 3 bookings) and lasted for 3 hours (186 appointments lasting 10mins each) which used 37.8GB on Twilio’s TURN server. Without the 25GB free usage, that would have cost around £11.37.

There is no additional fee for the new Edulink One functionality, just the cost of the Twilio server usage for video calls.

Here’s what our test school had to say:

After our test event involving 186 appointments of 10 minutes each, I could not have been happier with the results. All appointments went to time and our staff found it simple to use. The only issues we had were due to school equipment and nothing to do with Edulink One interface or Twillio video conferencing. All the feedback from both staff and parents was extremely positive and most have expressed that this is the way to go even after we get back to normal!

I would definitely recommend using this system for parents evenings video calls, it is easy to setup and we have already organised our next parents’ evening.

Duncan Owen, The Sandon School, Essex

Setting up Twilio

Setup an account on Twilio, To do this you will be required to provide an email address and phone number (for 2 form factor authentication).

Once on the dashboard screen, copy the account’s SID (you will need this for the Edulink one settings).

Click settings on the left hand side navigation and click on the API Keys link then the Create new API Key button.

Give the key a name of your choice, and leave the key type as standard.

Click the “create API Key” button.

Copy the key’s SID and secret and save somewhere as you will need this information to enter into the Edulink One settings.

Once you have set up the API Keys you also need to set up the video room type. To do this click on the All products & services button on the left navigation.

Click on the Programmable Video link.

Click on the RoomsSettings sub navigation, change the room type to Go.

Click the acknowledge change checkbox then Save.

Before you use Twilio for a live event, we recommend adding additional credit to your account and even consider configuring auto top-up options for the account.

You go to billing, upgrade now and then enter your payment details. Setting the auto top-up ensures you won’t run out of money mid-event. Top ups are a minimum of £20 and can be set to top up when the balance drops to £10.

This completes the Twilio side of the setup. Now you need to enter the Edulink One settings.

Edulink One Settings

To enable the functionality, go to the Edulink One settings and click on the Parent Event tab and click on the Enable video setting this will then show 3 additional settings.

Enter your Twilio account SID, API key SID and Secret and click save.

These are all the settings entered. You can now create an event as you would usually on Edulink One – see adding an event section.

Adding an Event

Once you have saved the settings, create the event in the same way you would a normal parents’ evening on Edulink One.

On the create event screen you will see an additional tick box below where you add the students called video conference.

Tick this option to enable the video functionality for this event. Fill in the additional fields just as you would for any other parents’ evening event.

What to do on the day 

Once you have set up the event and all the bookings have been made, participants will see a start appointments button when clicking on the event.

After clicking on the start appointments button the meeting screen will appear. The remote video box will remain blank until it’s time to connect, but you will be able to see your picture in the local video box.

You can turn your video and sound on and off if needed with the controls.

The event will start automatically then auto navigate between the appointments without the need for user input.

When the countdown gets to 30 seconds the time will turn red and as a warning at 15 seconds the border of the remote video box starts to flash red.

Attendance is automatically recorded and does not need to be done manually by the teacher for this type of event.

Once all of the appointments have taken place a There are no appointments message is displayed and the window can be closed.

 Our test school shared some tips

Top tips:
1. Reboot your PC before logging on to Edulink One
2. Make sure there are no Windows Updates downloading or waiting for installation
3. Log in and start appointments 10 minutes early, this will identify most of the issues you might get on the device you are using.

Duncan Owen, The Sandon School, Essex

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some of the FAQs we have already been asked:

Can you have more than one parent (on different devices) join the meeting (3 people join the meeting)?

No, the functionality is for 2 participants for each meeting. If a second parent would like to join in then they will either have to have a separate appointment with the teacher or both parents will physically need to be in the same location on one device.

Can the teacher share their screen?

No, this is not currently a feature.

Can you extend the length of a session if you are still talking?

No, the sessions are fixed length (set when you create the event).

Can you add a break between the appointments for the teachers?

You can achieve this by setting an interval on the event when you create the event (an interval is a set period of time between all slots which can’t be booked).

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