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4. Study 2 : Current Training Resources

4.1. Objective

The aim of this study was to evaluate current training resources available for video conferencing, with respect to the specific needs of the education community. In particular, the shortcomings of current training resources were identified.

4.2. Background

Training resources need to have good content and good delivery style. Although most contain excellent information, often the delivery style of training material prevents knowledge from being easily learned. This study aims to first evaluate current training resources, and secondly to propose a new resource with the content of those reviewed but designed with a more user centred approach.

4.3. Method

Only four video conferencing training resources were identified (fig. 3). Users of distance education systems were contacted via email and Internet newsgroups to obtain references for the resources they use. These contacts yielded no resource materials : in itself evidence of a possible lack of training material. The reviewed documents were therefore obtained mainly through the advice or recommendation of domain experts. Manuals were assessed on both their strengths and weaknesses in two areas, firstly, on content, and secondly, on delivery. The content of the training resources was assessed where possible using the same criteria as those used in the literature survey. The delivery style of the training resources was critically appraised with respect to the user centred design techniques discussed by Carrol in his "Minimal Manual" work. Five human factors issues were appraised: task orientation, error recognition and recovery, access to information, efficient and succinct information delivery, and detailed examples (Carrol, J., 1988).

4.4. Scope

The scope of this part of the investigation was limited by the amount of training resources found in this area. Video conferencing was often addressed as a small chapter within more general distance education manuals.
Fig 3. List of training resources surveyed.

Author                   Title                              Publisher

Burge, E. & Roberts, J. Classrooms with a Difference        Distance Learning Office
                                                            Field Services and Research
                                                             O I S E, Toronto University, 
Edinburgh University    The SuperJANET Video Network        Edinburgh University 
Computing Services      Users Guide                         Computing Services, (1994)
Goldstein, J. &         Video Conferencing Secrets          Navitar, Inc., Rochester NY.,
Goldstein, J.                                                (1993)
Meredith, S.            Video Conferencing in Education     University of New England, 
                        and Business: A Manual for Users    (1993) 
                        and Studio Managers

4.5. Results

The study reported two sets of results for the resources assessed. Each was handled separately and the results are summarised below and in figures 4 & 5. More detailed reports on the four manuals can be found in Annexe 2.

4.5.1. Content

Figure 4: Content of Training resources

Key :  ***** Excellent Reading  **** 3-4 points covered 
          *  Not relevant         ** 1-2 points covered 

Author          Initial   Hardware   Coping     Presentation  Dialogue/    Education
                 Room     Software  with media      Skills     Social       Related
                Setup      Setup                              Interaction   Issues
Burge, E. *** *** ** *** ** * Edinburgh U. ** ** * * * * Goldstein, J * * * *** * * Meredith, S. *** *** *** **** *** * Average 2.25 2.25 1.75 2.75 1.75 1
The manuals mainly covered physical aspects of coping with the technology. Much has been learned from the broadcasting industry which can be applied to setting up the physical properties of a video conferencing room. Three of the manuals highlighted the skills needed for giving good video presentations. Information on how to keep dialogue and interaction flow going between local and remote sites was well covered in one manual. Further information was provided on how to co-ordinate the different personalities which can arise in two way, free form discussion. No information was found detailing specific education related pedagogical issues.

4.5.2. Delivery

Figure 5: Delivery styles of Training Resources

Key :  ***** Excellent Reading  **** 3-4 points covered 
           *  Not relevant        ** 1-2 points covered 
Author         Task         Error       Succinct       Example    Access to 
              Oriented   Recognition   Information   Scenarios   Information 
Burge, E. ** ** *** * *** Edinburgh U. * * * * * Goldstein, J * * *** * **** Meredith, S. *** * * ** *** Average 1.75 1.25 2.0 1.25 2.75
Of the four resources reviewed, one had a good delivery technique, with excellent access to information and resources. Unfortunately, this manual only covered the skills needed for presentations within video conferencing, and was therefore of limited relevant content although excellent delivery (Goldstein & Goldstein). Generally, the four resources showed little user centred design or efficient structure of information. A summary of user entred design issues for the four manuals is shown in fig.5. Further discussion on the implications of these results is detailed below (Section 4.6.2).

4.6. Discussion: Resource materials - User Centred Design

A training resource which contains highly relevant information is only useful if the user can gain access to this information quickly and easily. A dictionary, for example, is a comprehensive source of words, but a poor resource for finding synonyms. Good training resources need a method of delivery which is oriented towards actual user tasks.

Most of the training resources reviewed in Study 2 allowed users to access information quickly, through well designed structure and good references. For Example, the contents page of the Meredith resource is well structured and allows the user easy access to "Techniques for a successful interaction". However, once at this section, the delivery method is little more than a large amount of text with few headings : this is certainly not conducive to efficient information exchange or retrieval. Few instances of succinct, efficient information were found.

Error recognition and recovery is vital in good user training because most users only consult resources to solve individual errors or problems. This detailing of common faults or their symptoms, was found in only one training resource.

Examples of interactions or tasks were generally detailed as case studies. These case studies were usually academic research papers, and therefore were not easy to read and could contain a large amount of irrelevant information. Examples must be clear and relevant to users (not to academics). This must stem from concentrating examples on real tasks that users might perform.

Some of the resource material reviewed above contain highly relevant, useful information. However, overall the structure of the material does not lend itself to easy extraction of information. As shown above, the one manual which was written effectively contained information in only a very limited domain (Goldstein & Goldstein). Therefore, there clearly is a need for training resources which allow users to find information quickly and effectively, with little deviation from their desired path of action. This need can be addressed by a user centred approach to the design of training resources. Material must be designed in a manner which is logical to the user and their tasks, not to the domain expert or technician.

4.7. Pedagogical Issues: Avoiding a technology driven scenario

From the above research initiatives, it is clear that there is a lack of training resources which address the pedagogical issues involved in educational video conferencing. The specific areas within education, where video conferencing techniques can be used most effectively, need to be addressed. Typically, the classroom applications of video conferencing are very different from business based video conferencing scenarios. The education sector can use products in ways which can be outside their original intended use. Current manuals do not make any clear indications of what guidelines to apply in each specific situation. For example, guidelines for presentations ( where dialogue is usually from one to many) may not necessarily be relevant for collaborative, student led discussion, where many people are engaging in dialogue between both sites. Teachers need to know how to use video conferencing effectively within the many classroom situations which can arise, from student lead discussion groups to one on one teacher-pupil initiatives. Little research into these pedagogical issues has been forthcoming in current literature. Perhaps more pertinent to the users of this technology, these issues are also not addressed in current training resources. Current resources, although useful in some areas, do not seem to cover this aspect of video conferencing.

This is symptomatic of any new technology. To begin with, the leading force is always a cost benefit analysis. Then, as the technology begins to establish itself, research and training initiatives move towards promoting how the technology can replace original techniques. This is technology driven situation can lead to an unwillingness on the part of the user to "confront" the technology. At this stage, there must be a concerted effort on the part of designers and mangers of the technology to adjust to the users. This somewhat radical approach needs to take place so that the technology is successfully integrated into the working environment, being seen as a tool and not as a hindrance which needs extra effort or knowledge to use. This user centred approach should increase the use of the technology, without conflicting with user's resistance to change.

From a research and training needs viewpoint, it is therefore imperative that further study must be done to give teachers and learners a definitive guide to using video conferencing in practical scenarios.

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