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2. Introduction

2.1. Objectives

This document describes an investigation to identify training needs and appropriate designs for training resources for educational based video conferencing. It aims to provide a guide to training and support for teachers and learners involved with video conferencing. This was done by identifying user needs from current research literature, critically reviewing current training resources and by the production of a new training resource based upon meeting these first two objectives.

2.2. Background

As with many technologies which have been the domain of the expert, Video Conferencing, by way of the desktop computer, is becoming accessible to many in the general "user" population. One consequence of this is a need for better training and support, as non- technical PC users have to assume the role of presenter, cameraman, sound technician, and studio manager.

In a business environment, video conferencing can be applied easily to distance based meetings. The cost/benefit and protocols for this use of the technology are clear and easily defended. A characteristic of education is the varied pedagogical approaches of teachers. In an educational environment, video conferencing may be used for teacher led distance education initiatives ( similar to the typical business scenario). However, many other scenarios may occur, from "one on one" teacher/student dialogue, to "many on many" student led discussions. This creates new and previously unforeseen problems which are unique to the teaching domain, and in many cases go beyond the designers original remit for the technology.

These education specific characteristics of video conferencing equate to a set of skills and knowledge which have not been necessary before. New expertise must be presented in a rational, untechnical manner to avoid the technology driven situation, which past experience shows to be less than useful (Bates, AW. 1991, Kling, R. 1983). If video conferencing is to enhance education, then it must be used appropriately and within context. It is necessary not only to examine the areas where video conferencing can be used effectively, but also to highlight its inefficient uses where found.

2.3. Method

Based on expert contacts and existing literature, a list of current literature was drawn up to include both research material and training resources. Three separate areas for research were identified and approached independently. The first study concerns current research projects, both published and available electronically. The second looks at training materials published and to what extent they address the needs of the educational sector. Finally, based on principles of user centred design, and using the results from the above research, a new, prototype training resource was designed.

2.4. Scope

All three studies focus on the needs of the current educational video conferencing domain. However, some of the findings can be related to the general field of video conferencing, and therefore it is of use in other application areas of this technology.

Video conferencing using current ISDN technology is addressed. This study concentrates on single, point to point, local and remote services, rather than multi-point systems. This document does not cover broadband, broadcast quality teleconferencing, satellite communication, or analogue Plain Old Telephone Systems (POTS) telephone transmissions.

In typical education scenarios, there may be no support staff (studio managers, technicians) present during conferencing, and that users may have little or no technical experience. Typical scenarios include desktop conferencing between two sites where each site may have one or more active participants, where both sites are actively involved in dialogue or discussions.

The reviews undertaken are in no way exhaustive. They were performed to a strict time limit and therefore the authors had to be selective with source material. The conclusions made, however, do point towards areas for future research and training to address.

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