Hands On

Online training with Skype and Zoom

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16 Apr 2020

Which are the best tools to bring your chess lessons and training online? This was the theme of a ECU-sponsored webinar by star trainers Jesper Hall and Jop Delemarre. Their insights were picked up by Conrad Schormann.

Jesper Hall
Jesper Hall (Screenshot)

Distance doesn’t matter anymore as chess training and chess teaching go digital. We stay at home, connected to our students, no matter where they are.

But how to do it, what tools to use?

We found some answers in a webinar given by Jesper Hall and Jop Delemarre that was sponsored by the ECU.

Skype and Zoom are by far the most popular when it comes to connecting in order to be able to talk to and see each other. Skype with its screen sharing feature being the tool for one-on-one sessions, Zoom is rather for group sessions.

There are countless other solutions (the best of them to be shown here in the future), but in most coaches’ experiences these two are the easiest to use. In Zoom for example you don’t even need an account in order to take part in a webinar.

“Breakout rooms” is a Zoom feature that fits coaching sessions with large groups especially well. Smaller groups can split up separately, share a screen even in order for example to analyze a position given by the coach. This comes very close to a real classroom experience in which the coach would do the same: have the students work on different tasks in small groups, depending on their level. The coach can even go from group to group, in this case connect to one breakout room or the other in order to give guidance or just see what the pupils are doing.

The breakout room also gives the coach a tool to address technical issues. The coach can solve these separately with the student concerned while the others work on their chess without being interrupted. The more experienced the coach, the less of these issues he will have to deal with: “Set up everything in advance,” suggests Dutch coach Jop Delemarre. Make sure the camera works, the microphone as well, make sure that everyone has accounts for the software or platforms you intend to use. This way a maximum amount of time will be spent making the students better players.

These days there are privacy and data protection issues everywhere, in online chess training as well. In general, students should share their screen as little as possible if at all. That goes especially for chess students who are minors. The other way around has less implications: normally the coach shares their screen. When teaching children, Delemarre likes the parents to be around during the first lesson.

Jop Delemarre
Jop Delemarre (Screenshot)

While Skype is free, Zoom is not. The free version limits online meetings for up to 100 people to 40 minutes. There is a “Pro” solution for 14 euros/month which many people decide to go for – but which may not be the best solution for everyone involved. Trainers who host regular webinars should go for “Zoom Rooms” instead. For 46 euros/month this offers them almost unlimited functionality. The host will have much better control over the group if he goes for this webinar solution instead of a meeting.

Scheduling and setting up a meeting is self-explanatory. Enter a topic, a description, time, duration – done. You may optionally require the participants to register or you can require a password in order for people to take part. There are various other security options.