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2.Lecture Theatre 2 2.1 Planning
2.2 Implementation
2.3 Video conferencing.
2.4 Training

3.Users' View
4.New Teaching Rooms
5.Lessons Learnt

Case Studies

An integrated approach to technology within Lecture Room Services

2 Lecture Theatre 2

Section from TALiSMAN video-conference training material.


A 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

  • Contacting participants and keeping them informed before the event
  • preparing the environment for participants
  • Introducing the conference
  • Co-ordinating the interactive portions
  • Closing the conference
  • Ensuring that follow-up is done
What you will not have to do is to arrange equipment and make sure that it works. Video-conferencing (particularly multipoint video conferencing) requires that it is both a supported and a managed activity. This is true not only of the support infrastructure provided for the use of students with disabilities, but also of the Scottish MAN Video Conferencing Network (SMVCN). You do not need specialist skills to facilitate a video-conference, but preparation is essential.

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:
  • Multipoint conference controllers (Either at the host site for the MCU involved or at Edinburgh Regional Computing Centre (ERCC) in the case of the SMVCN)
  • The local site co-ordinator
  • Facilitator(s)
  • Participants
The conference controller will accept bookings for the multi-point switching component of the conference. The facilitator should ensure that the location and equipment at each site is also booked. In the case of conferences on the Scottish Man Video-Conferencing Network, the second step is not necessary as all studios on the network are dedicated conferencing studios and are booked along side the conference connection.

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.
  • Television monitors/Screens (or display window on desktop systems)
  • Link to transmit/receive signals
  • Camera(s) to relay live action images
  • Video-Recorder to feed in video-tapes
  • Visualiser for feeding in objects and documents


  1. 83Desk top systems may not have the capability to feed in external sources such as VCR or visualiser.
  2. The use of VCR's with ISDN-2 (2x64kbps) systems is rarely successful due to bandwidth constraints.
Optional facilities may also be provided:
  • Telephone backup
  • Equipment for recording the conference
  • Fax machine(s) for incoming questions etc.
  • Electronic Mail
  • Data and application sharing facilities (built into many, particularly desktop, systems)
In every case, if you know you will require a facility, don't assume - ask!

The Video-conferencing environment

The 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.

Print Materials

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.

Workshop seating

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.

Presentation seating.

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.


In all learning situations a positive atmosphere is important. When working with adults in particular it helps to remember:
  • They wish to control their own learning
  • They bring a wide range of previous experience, knowledge, skills and interests to any learning situation.
  • They need to integrate present learning with this past experience.
  • They will resist learning situations that they believe to be attacks on their competence
Adults are more concerned with meeting their own objectives for learning rather than those set by others. They will learn, retain and use what they find relevant to their needs.

Facilitator Checklist

The 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.

  • Synchronise diaries of participating sites, ensuring that video-conferencing facilities are available on the chosen day and time. You should know how long the conference will last and have a number of alternative starting dates and times.
  • If you are planning a multipoint conference, book the multipoint control unit through its operators.
  • In the case of a conference on the SMVCN, book the conference through your local SMVCN booking contact.
  • It data sharing is to be used, make sure that all sites are aware of the fact and that they have the correct software properly configured.
  • Arrange flip-charts, markers etc.
  • Ensure that telephone, fax and/or computer connections are in place.
  • Copy printed material for participants. Send this well in advance if possible.
  • Study the agenda to plan the timing for welcome and introduction.
  • Plan activities and discussion sessions.
The day before the video-conference.
  • Confirm all details with the sites involved.
  • Test the conference connections if possible. This is particularly important if you are communicating with a new site or if the conference is a multipoint.
The day of the video-conference.
  • Make sure the video-conferencing sites are marked by clear signposts.
  • Recheck equipment.
  • Ensure the data sharing facilities are operational.
  • Ensure flip chart and markers present.
  • Introduce all participants at both local and remote sites.
  • Welcome guests and hand out any remaining printed materials.
  • If participants' contributions are to be assessed, make clear how this will be effected.
  • Assist with call, faxes and computer messages.
  • At the conclusion of the conference, thank participants for their involvement, summarise the main conclusions resulting from the conference and detail any follow on activity.
After the video-conference.
  • Access the video-conferencing process.
  • Evaluate feedback from participants.

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