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Evaluation of the Suitability of
Distributed Interactive Videoconferencing for use in Higher Education
3.4 Lectures/ presenters experiences
3.4.4 Interface issues
A standard point and click mouse interface was used for the control of slides. At the Brussels site the mouse and mouse mat rested on the podium at waist height and a PC showing the local site view was mounted on a table to the side of the podium, allowing speakers to control the interface. One of the speakers noted that it was difficult to see the local monitor due to this positioning to one side. He found it difficult to look at the camera, and to keep an eye on the content of his slides, so he did most of the talk from memory. As a consequence of this local set-up it was also quite difficult to control the mouse since it was on a sloping surface; some of the speakers noted that every time they let go of the mouse it slipped down the screen, so that it wasn't possible to keep it 'hovering' over the next page icon. This local site set-up was not however recommended by the organising committee who had recommended that presenters were seated behind a table facing the participants with a local monitor and mouse to the side.
The control icons on screen were quite small, and with the added difficulty of hand shake, controlling the interface proved to be a little awkward for some speakers. One speaker wasn't sure whether or not the cursor acted as a telepointer, viewable to the remote sites. One speaker wanted to draw a line on a slide but wasn't sure know how to do this.
A particular difficulty experienced by speakers during the Summer School, as a side effect of technical/ network problems, was the need to reduce their presentation time at short notice (either directly before, or during the presentation). The requirement was to skip pre-prepared and ordered slides- something that would be relatively straight forward with manual OHP sheets, however the Isabelle interface only allowed the facility to show one slide at a time, and unless the speaker knew the exact order and numbers of slides, the flow of the presentation was interrupted.
3.4.5 Best things
Speakers were asked,
"What were the best things about giving your presentation in this manner (compared to a traditional conference)?"
'Distribution' was clearly the most favoured aspect of the Summer School:
- "Distribution gave strong sense of community"
- "Communicating to all over Europe- distributed nature of event"
- "Nice challenge being involved in 14 countries- marvellous."
- "Reaching many sites without getting on an aeroplane."
3.4.6 Worst things
Speakers were also asked,
"What were the worst things about giving your presentation in this manner (compared to a traditional conference)?"
- "Not having done presentations in this format before, not having been involved in the Summer School organisation, unsure what context (I) was asked to speak in."
- "Breaks in audio link, needs to be improved especially for question time."
- "Someone can 'pop-up' from any site and you're not quite sure where they are- needs clearer labelling."
- "Not enough question time. A question was put to another speaker that he answered, and I wanted to expand on- no opportunity to do this. If there is a panel, I would like to see this as a proper panel discussion, therefore I would like to see more interaction between speakers. It actually came across as 3 separate speakers. All 3 panel members should have the opportunity to jump in and comment at any point."
- "Disjointed technology and interruptions."
An increase in the stability of the technical aspects- networks, applications and organisation would inevitably help overcome some problems. Also a clearer policy during question time, e.g. preventing delays (that were not a direct result of the speakers presentation), 'eating up' question time.
Speakers were asked about problems of a technical nature that they may have experienced during their presentation. The general feeling was that they had expected higher quality links and a more stable infrastructure.
- "Had to strain to hear audio at some points"
- "Audio was very quiet."
- "Quality of network was fair at best. Complete inattention to synchrony between audio and video made the use of the video nearly worthless. Audio quality varied greatly, from very poor to excellent. Constraints were obvious: inability to view multiple sites simultaneously."
- "Expected that after 4 years that the technology should be more stable. Surprised at the low bandwidth being used."
3.4.8 Timing issues
One speaker commented that he would have liked an on-screen clock, on his local monitor only, to indicate how many minutes he had left until the end of his presentation. In some sessions there was added time pressure on speakers due to preceding technical problems and they had the additional pressure of shortening planned presentations. Some presenters kept looking at their watches to keep track of the time remaining which was a bit distracting to the audience. One speaker compared the different pressures of the distributed Summer School to a traditional event:
"Normally rely on chair to be sensible with timings of each slot, but here we have very fixed slots with not much flexibility, procedures need to be built up."
Virtual Environments Visualisation