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

4 Conclusions and future requirements

4.5 Interactivity

There was generally agreement that the level of interactivity was very much enhanced over previous events. This allowed greatly enhanced intersite interaction, both between the site presenters and speakers, and between the audience and the presenters and speakers.

Multi-site activities included a session with the presenter and four speakers all at different sites engaged in a 'round table' discussion amongst themselves and the audience. This discussion would have greatly benefited from increased interaction time, and a clearer understanding of the system (by speakers) to increase interaction between speakers. The reaction of the audience was positive, and the feeling was that this type of session could contribute enormously to the perception of 'one' event.

There is a requirement in distributed interactive events such as ABC '96 to extend presentations beyond what has become standard in conference presentations; possibilities for producing multimedia presentations should be explored further.

Both participants and speakers may have to learn to slightly adjust their behaviour when using this technology for this purpose. For example, rapid interaction at question time is not going to be possible, speakers and participants have to be briefed about this and perhaps be more patient. More time needs to be allocated to question and answer sessions.

This increased interactivity was largely due to the different approach adopted by the organisers, and to the use of the presentation team and real time co-ordinator or producer (i.e. the importation of broadcast standards into the whole event). The use of a continuity presenter, located at the main site, was a new innovation which helped to control the on-screen activities, as well as a means to cover any technical failures.

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