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

3 Results

3.5 Participation and Interaction

In general the time allowed for questions was adequate for the number of questions participants requested to ask. However at the end of some sessions there was a relatively low level of interaction because there wasn't enough time left in the session to ask more than one question. Ideally, for a distributed Summer School such as this there needed to be more time for question and answer sessions. After some of the interesting and popular sessions several sites indicated an intention to ask a question, but the presenter did not have enough time to adequately allow all of the sites to participate in the question and answer sessions.

Video of the questioner did not appear on screen after they had asked their question, the 'focus' went back to speaker and presenter, whilst the speaker was answering the question. Consequently the audience received no feedback on whether or not the question was being answered, i.e. the audience (or speaker) could not watch for facial expressions, to see if he was satisfied with the answer.

In addition, during the question and answer sessions, the presenter didn't go back to the questioner after his question had been answered. In conventional conferences the questioner is often asked if his question has been adequately answered. In some cases they were asked and this worked well, although it took up more time, and gave less opportunity for other sites to ask questions. There is clearly a trade-off; distribution adds participants exponentially, but this in turn reduces a given individual's allocation of time for direct participation.

In some cases the questioner and speaker together on screen didn't make eye contact with camera (speaker was looking at local monitor and questioner looking at his paper in front of him/ elsewhere). This reduced the likely level of involvement felt by remote sites.

There was no clapping after sessions (even where the speaker was local) at the Brussels main site. Clapping only occurred during entertaining moments, e.g. after Mexican Wave, and when presenters requested that participants clap a speaker. At the Madrid site some of the local speakers were clapped. This is an interesting social issue that warrants further research.

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