My Brief Encounter with Video Conferencing

After very brief introductions to the technologies of video conferencing (with adobe connect and google+ hangouts) I am still yet to be fully convinced. Clearly the benefits are there for all to see. The opportunity to have conversations with people from all over the country (or even world) allows us to branch out to a global audience, rather than being restricted to our relatively local geography. However, the Google hangout which I took part in was meant to have 7 people involved, and only 3 people were present. This was done as part of a course where ICT is the central theme – this would suggest that those involved would be more committed and able to make the technology work. If less than 50% attendance for this meeting is a guideline, then it does not bode well for possible attendance in other groups.

I have students who would class themselves as definite technophobes, who would withdraw from the idea of a video call, and much prefer the face to face environment. Any failure of the technology (or understanding of the technology) is likely to diminish their confidence in this method of communication.

However, the discussion in the hangout was very useful – the small number of participants made it very easy to communicate. I worry about the ability to communicate with 7 people as there is a slight delay in the audio which often left more than one person talking at the same time (and a similar number of awkward silences)

The application of new technology is often impressive to the learner, but I am unsure as to whether it would actually improve the quality of my teaching. Knipe and Lee (2002, p 302) suggest that studies around video conferencing ‘seem to concentrate more on the practical advantages that the medium has, rather than focusing on the quality of teaching and learning’

My introduction to Adobe Connect was slightly different in that I was just an audience member while the technology was demonstrated by Gail Hall and her team. Again, the possibilities are vast, with proof that with the correct equipment it is possible to demonstrate science experiments and even perfom assessments based on the experiments.

But again, there are clear barriers to communication with the small lag in audio and the multiple windows with each individual participant. Again, it led to uncomfortable pauses followed by several people talking at the same time. Admittedly, this was mainly due to the audience who have little experience with the technology. Gail was able to overcome this problem quite easily, but, this is largely due to being very experienced with the technology. This again brings me to a concern in that it takes time to get the confidence to use the technology effectively, and with new cohorts of students constantly flowing through the system, will it be a case of managing students use of technology rather than their development of their ophthalmic skills and knowledge.

Coventry (no date, Online) also sees a similar issue ‘The technologies used to deliver video conferences currently have a dramatic effect on the quality of the communication achievable’

I see such technology as an excellent way to provide tutorial support. It can be done in the home at times to suit the student, and I feel that the technology is very manageable in a small group setting (one to one support may be ideally suited to this method)

Clearly, I have barely scratched the surface with this type of ICT, but at this moment in time feel that it is something I will offer as an additional service to the students to underpin learning rather than as a principal means of student communication.

References 

Coventry, A. (No date). Video Conferencing in Higher Education. [Online.] Available: http://www.vnseameo.org/bblam/forum/ICT/vc%20in%20higher%20education.pdf [Accessed 4th April 2014].

Knipe, D. and Lee, M. (2002) The quality of teaching and Learning via videoconferencing. British Journal of Educational Technology. 33:3, p301-311

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3 comments

  1. Overcoming the technical hurdles is a huge problem but It’ll improve. I was watching my 3 year old grandson spell out three letter words on his Dad’s smartphone using a CBBies program.I was gobsmacked. I’m confident he will have the skills to cope with what ever version of the Web there is when he’s a student. For us, its more difficult but I feel we have a duty to try even if its to find that something is pants.

    1. I think you are right. It may well be an ‘age thing’. I always thought of myself as pretty good with computers, but it seemed to take me an age just to get a microphone to work. It might just be that now I have turned 40, my digital knowhow has immediately disappeared.

  2. A good post on the issues and possibilities of video conferencing. ProfessorArcticBlonde, you are right that future students will be able to cope. And I think they will be more patient with the idiosyncracies.

    Dean, I would not worry about your age. I think good, low cost and accessible video conferencing is still in it’s infancy. It seems to work well one-to-one (tutorials etc) but for larger groups…

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