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Maximizing the Instructional Impact of Videoconferencing

October 5, 2012 | Telepresence Options
The spread of cheap and powerful videoconferencing tools had led to widespread adoption of the technology in an effort to lower costs and put resources to better use. But Education Consultant and Executive Director of Academic Programs and Faculty at Daymar Colleges Group Ruth Reynard argues that it can improve teaching and learning as well.

By Ruth Reynard,

As videoconferencing technology has improved and become ubiquitous, the financial and technological barriers to using it in the classroom have all but disappeared. Though it's easier and cheaper than ever to use, videoconferencing still presents unique instructional challenges and opportunities.

Foundationally, videocoferencing facilitates the meeting of individuals and participants in real time and in different locations. While this is also possible using various software programs, the inclusion of video increases the sense of  "presence" and bridges well the expectation of physical attendance and physical distance. The technology itself has changed over time and now is Internet-driven, which increases access but at the same time means that there are other challenges that must now be addressed. Early videocoferencing that used actual video connections required expensive technological overhead for both sending and receiving. That is no longer an issue given the accessibility and immediacy of the Internet. What is still evolving is the quality of real time picture and sound connections and group-to-group visual scans. When video cameras were used, the picture capture was manipulated and controlled by a camera technician and then automatically controlled by the meeting host. Now with accessible cameras in commonly used device such as iPads, phones, tablets, and laptops, the visual is immediate but not necessarily extensive. Therefore, the sense of group requires additional technology to make it inclusive, which the newer platforms are offering. The instructional uses of videocoferencing have also evolved over time.

Challenges of Distance

In the earlier days of distance education the potential barriers of location were overcome by mediation technology and resources such as workbooks, audio recordings, video recordings, and telephone connections, among others. Distance itself ceased to be the sole concern of what then became known as online learning given the advent of the Internet. Therefore, distance education discourse began to discuss differences in distance that included time as well as lgeography and mediation included every aspect of the learning environment. Online learning addressed both and began to increase the integration of connection software and both real time and asynchronous connections. Throughout this evolution, videocoferencing developed from a high maintenance technology to the personal, accessible, and Internet-driven technology it is today. The instructional benefits have also evolved from a technology that simply connected students and teachers in different locations with a visual as well as an audio connection, to one that now increases interaction, collaboration, project work, and group activities. It is also an amazing tool for sharing resources and establishing study partnerships internationally. In fact, new conferencing systems such as Teem are changing the use of the word "conference" to "collaboration platform."

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