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Uses of videoconferencing

According to the survey reported in Chapter 3, the general uses that higher education is currently making of videoconferencing are as follows: It is very important to be clear about what use you (or those using your service) will want to make of videoconferencing. The intended use will determine to a large extent what equipment and what physical environment will be required.

Where possible there should be a real communications need

Research has suggested that videoconferencing is very successful when there is a clear communication need that cannot easily be met using other media (ISSUE Project (1992 a) A Longitudinal Study of the use of Videoconferencing in 11 European Organisations. RACE Deliverable 65/HUS/DS/A/012/B1). Tasks which generally are not likely to be suitable for videoconferencing (although there are documented exceptions)are:

In higher education, at least with the facilities that are currently available, the different possible uses people might make of videoconferencing can be classified into 6 main types. The type of use will determine decisions about equip ment and environment. (If you want to use videoconferencing in ways that fall into more than one type, you may need to use more than one physical configuration.)

Informal personal communication (can be multipoint and can include collaborative working). There will normally be one individual at each site. It would not normally be necessary to arrange the communication in advance. It would be initiated by dial-up or over the SuperJANET network or similar. Communication would normally take place at the participant’s desk.

More formal communication. This would usually have between 1 and 3 people at each end. (It may be multipoint and is less likely to involve collaborative working than the above.) Communication will usually be planned in advance with a fairly formal agenda. The facilities will be in or close to the normal work room.

Formal meeting capability. (May be multipoint and could in some circum stances be used for collaborative work.) This would normally be a dedicated studio situation. There could easily be up to 5 or 6 people at each site.

Multi-cast. Although this may include broadcast to group audiences it can involve broadcast to many individuals at their desks. (They may only be able to receive and not send.)

Formal ‘lecture’/‘demonstration’/‘presentation’ broadcast to a group or number of groups. There may be 1-way or 2-way audio/video or a combination.

Remote access to visual information. This category would include uses which do not necessarily involve personal communication at all, e.g. surveillance and monitoring of remote telescopes.

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