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It is important to consider the methods of teaching adopted in video conferencing situations. It is necessary to consider whether the technology is more suited to a particular teaching strategy. In Australia has tried it with courses as diverse as a traditional lecture course, to Sign Language to a workshop for Chefs.
One study which looked closely at this issue is Kendall & Oaks (1992) They used two way interactive video delivered via microwave. Tutors (n=68) were asked to rate the effectiveness of this system over tradition face to face for each teaching strategy. There were a number of interesting findings.
Paul Rixon says that the students vastly prefer video conferencing to other forms of communication in distance education. They also become more self reliant, they run their own rooms, and this self reliance spills into other parts like negotiating with lecturers and libraries. Results are at least as good as for standard courses. because the students realise that video conferencing gives then access to a wider range of options, they generate considerable peer pressure to keep the group going - this creates a low drop out rate.
- Tutors were most likely to use the video conferencing system for lectures (100 % of tutors used the system where as only 49% of tutors used it for case studies. Over 90% of tutors used it for group discussions and question and answer sessions, 64 % for laboratories or demonstrations and about 50 % for seminars.
- Over two thirds of the tutors thought it was less effective for group discussions and seminars and half for question and answers. For the other teaching situations, most tutors thought it was equally or more effective.
- When asked to rate the amount of curricular adaptations that had to be made, changes were always required. With course syllabus, organization of the course, handouts, assignments and exams they were mainly minor changes. With interaction with students, audio-visual aids, and delivery of content major changes were required.
Asked whether the system affected their ability to perform selected activities in the classroom over half the tutors found it harder to actively involve students, to encourage participation, to give hands on experience. But over half found it equal or easier to respect student opinions, stimulate critical thinking, consciously plan for the event, prepare lessons based on needs of learners, encourage the expression of differing viewpoints and use active interesting audio-visual aids.
- What teachers said they missed most about using the system was loss personal interaction with students at other campuses, 83% said their teaching over whets was more impersonal.
- They also felt that off campus students were more motivated, independent, older higher achievement level but equal in academic confidence.
In another study which asked students rather than tutors, Students at the University of Ulster sessions felt that the VC system lent itself best to lectures and least to free flowing discussions and they would recommend this form of learning to other students(Abbot et al 1993)
Ritchie & Newby (1989) randomly assigned 26 college student to three classroom settings: traditional classroom with instructor,, TV studio with an instructor, studio classroom with no instructor. The students in the studio classroom rated instruction less enjoyable than those who had an instructor in the room with them; they also rated their involvement as significantly lower than the other two groups.
When looking at the pedagogical issues, the research is very contradictory, is the method suitable for all teaching methods, does it facilitate effective communications and learning. Do not confuse technology with pedagogy or students reactions to teaching methods as reactions to technology. Most importantly, do not underestimate the power of the Hawthorne effect when video conferencing is novel to students and staff. The successful projects appear to change their teaching methods as well as use video conferencing. Tutors lecture less and encourage active student participation in course content and presentation. They also encourage independent group work rather than all individual assessments. (Abbot et al 1993) There is a need for evaluation with the same independent group learning without the video conferencing system. Thus improvements or failures in students attitudes and learning cannot simply be attributed to the technology. Also when students are asked to do presentations followed by discussions many are not good at this, talking too much etc. but this is not because of the video conferencing technology. It illustrates a need for such a skill to be taught to students. Although exaggerated in a video conferencing setting as students have to manage the equipment as well as the group and the discussion. Many are petrified. There is still a lot to understand about technologically mediated communication, its interaction with teaching methods and student attitude to active learning.
Virtual Environments Visualisation