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Evaluation of the Suitability of Distributed Interactive Videoconferencing for use in Higher Education

1 Introduction

The following report describes an evaluation of an international distributed Summer School which was held 9-12 July 1996. The evaluation aimed to assess the suitability of this type of distributed videoconferencing for educational purposes, and to evaluate the impact of improving the quality of presentation, of production and of management of such an event. It is intended that feedback will be provided into future ABC and other similar distributed interactive educational events.

The fourth Advanced BroadBand Communications Summer School, ABC '96, was an international distributed event where an interactive tele-education application was used to distribute lectures, discussions, panel sessions etc. Physically disparate sites were connected into a single lecture room. It was organised by Project NICE (AC110), sponsored by the ACTS programme of the European Commission. The Summer School was the fourth consecutive "International Distributed Summer School on Advanced Broadband Communications". The theme was the convergence of Information Technology and Telecommunications.

The event was held over four days, simultaneously at 18 geographically separated sites, of which five of these were identified as being 'main sites', at Aveiro, Berlin, Brussels, Madrid and Naples. The characteristics of a main site were that they had speakers, presenters and participants on site, including all relevant supporting facilities for full interaction during the Summer School, including a back up ISDN network. A further 13 (secondary) sites involved in the Summer School had varying degrees of support facilities, however most of them could support full interaction (Refer to Appendix 1 for a description of the sites involved).

An experimental network was used to support the Summer School which consisted of: ATM terrestrial trans-European links, provided by the ACTS project, JAMES, also satellite links and gateways to narrowband networks such as the Internet. The network supporting the ISABEL application was provided by the University Politecnico of Madrid.

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