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An integrated approach to technology within Lecture Room Services
2 Lecture Theatre 2
Section from TALiSMAN video-conference training material.
IntroductionA video-conference is a meeting of people, who are remote, by means of video, data and audio transmission. It is a mixture of Television, Telephone and Computer technologies.
Video-conferences can follow a strict schedule, as with a television programme, or they can be free flowing and interactive. Participants of the conference can communicate by telephone, fax, data-sharing or e-mail. In these ways, participants can submit questions or comments to the main conference site and receive feedback during the on-air conference.
This section assumes that in your video-conference you will be playing a role which is a mixture of facilitator (one who catalyses an outcome) and presenter (one who orchestrates presentations). As a facilitator, you will also need to devise a structure for your video-conference that works. To help in this stage, terminology from broadcast television will help you see your conference in terms of ideas and concepts, production and follow-up.
The role of the facilitator.The facilitator is the person who requires the video-conference, has a vision for the conference, and who designs the activity of the conference so that the results as are required. Facilitation is critical to the success of any video-conference. As facilitator of a video-conference you will be responsible for:
Arranging the event
The facilitator must take the responsibility for the production and distribution of any required materials. The facilitator should be sufficiently familiar with the operation of the equipment at a site to operate it without constant technical backup. The facilitator may be expected to provide flip-charts, writing instruments, refreshments and directional signs to the site of the conference.
Essentially, the facilitator is the link between material and participants. The success or failure of a video-conference depends a great deal on how well the facilitator performs the above duties.
Who is involved in a video conference?A typical multi-site video-conference involves:
The local-site co-ordinator, in liaison with the conference facilitator, is responsible for arranging with the conference controller the dates and times for the video-conference. The local site co-ordinator is usually the person at each site who manages the video-conferencing facilities. In the case of an ISDN connected conference. The Local site co-ordinator will be able to provide the technical specifications and other conference details required by the conference controller. In the case of the SMVCN, the local site co-ordinator's tasks include registering the site with ERCC, seeing to the technical requirements of the conference, the room set-up and the furniture arrangement.
Where can the conference be held?The video-conference facility may be in a meeting room, a lecture room or in the case of desktop systems, in an office or in someone's home. As far as the SMVCN is concerned, it is just a matter of checking with the local co-ordinator as to the location(s) and type(s) of rooms(s) on offer. At many institutions, there are two internal sites for video-conferencing; usually a meeting room and a lecture room. There may also be a separate ISDN connected site or ISDN may be integrated with the SMVCN facility. It is usually worthwhile to visit these sites and to become familiar with the equipment and its operation.
Lecture rooms at some institutions can be connected directly to video-conferencing equipment but it should be noted that in these cases, where the room has not been specifically designed to host video-conferences, both the facilities on offer and the results can be variable.
What equipment is needed?The equipment required to operate a video-conference will vary widely depending on the nature of the facility (e.g. Dedicated VC studio or Desktop solution). However, there is a basic set of requirements as outlined below.
The Video-conferencing environmentThe environment in which a video-conference is held is of crucial importance to it's success (or otherwise). Close attention should be paid to a number of areas but particularly the following:
Video (screens) and Audio (loudspeakers)
Ensure, before the start of the conference, that you are receiving both video and audio. Make sure that everyone has a good view of the incoming picture and can clearly hear the sound. Try to ensure that you don't have too many people crowded round a single undersized screen.
Lighting should be arranged so that there is sufficient light on the participants for both note-taking and for the camera to obtain a good quality image. In particular, avoid light directly above, or shining directly on to the monitors. If a visualiser is being used, make sure that the correct lighting is used (top or bottom light depending on material), and that there is not any glare from either the visualiser's own lights or from the room overhead lights.
Have all print materials ready to distribute to participants, or place the materials on the desks beforehand. Keep spare copies to hand, and if possible, send material to participants in advance.
If your conference is organised as a workshop, where the main presentation is combined with 0n-site local activities, you might want to use a workshop style layout of furniture. This is a good way to incorporate interactive activities, where appropriate. You will divide participants into groups seated around tables but check with the local site co-ordinator to ensure that this layout is compatible with the positioning of microphones, lights, cameras etc.
If your conference is organised as a presentation, lecture, interview, or panel discussion, you might prefer to lay the room out in classroom style. Use seats in rows with writing surfaces. Sometimes desks can be moved into small groups to encourage interaction and to give more writing surface. However, again check with the local co-ordinator to ensure that the layout is compatible with the technical services in the room.
Lecture Theatre Seating
Theatre style arrangement focuses attention onto the screen and tends to inhibit local group interaction. It can be used if the objective is to persuade the viewer, or to inspire the viewer to action. This arrangement seats participants in rows. Writing surfaces may often be limited and a conference involving extensive written activities may be problematic. It is possible to arrange people in such away that they can work with each other in groups of two or more. For example, try putting the handouts only on certain chairs so that people gravitate to the "grouped" seats. There might be areas at the sides of the room for people to get up and form small groups.
Interactive work using a lecture theatre setting can be very difficult to achieve successfully. There are usually problems with both lighting and voice pickup. In a lecture theatre context, it will usually be necessary to use video projection as the main display. However, most video projectors require a considerable degree of dim-out to attain a satisfactory picture quality and this presents considerable difficulty in achieving a high enough light level for television cameras to pick up the audience. Similarly, unless you are very fortunate, there will not be a microphone at every seat in the lecture theatre. There are ways round this problem such as the use of fixed interaction positions, roving hand held radio -microphones and so on. If there is likely to be a requirement for this kind of interactive facility, it is vital to discuss these requirements with the local site co-ordinator well before the video-conference.
ParticipantsIn all learning situations a positive atmosphere is important. When working with adults in particular it helps to remember:
Facilitator ChecklistThe following comprises a number of actions which facilitators will find useful before, during and after the conference. The list is a series of suggested actions and is not in any way either exhaustive or compulsory. However, it should provide facilitators with a structure around which to plan the execution of their video-conference.
Several weeks before the video-conference.
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