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

4 Conclusions and future requirements

4.6 Sessions and speakers

The standard of the lectures was excellent. The Summer School covered the full scope of the convergence of computing and telecommunications in some detail. The speakers were very knowledgeable and co-operated with the new presentation mode.

It was noticeable, however, than many of the speakers were insufficiently aware of the real impact of the distribution elements. Only in a few cases were speakers prepared to depart from the standard conference presentation mode. For example, in one session, the speaker and one of the presenters began by engaging in what initially seemed to be casual conversation while seated in the audience. The participants reacted particularly well when presenters and speakers used the distributed nature of the event to the full.

The lecture content was supported through the presentation team by having a knowledgeable expert introduce and comment on the important elements in the speakers presentations at the beginning and end of each session. This was achieved through an explanatory dialogue with the continuity presenter. As a result, participants were better prepared for each session, and the key points were underlined for them at the end. There was much favourable comment on this aspect.

It is much harder for speakers to see whether or not the distributed audience are attentive, and whether they have understood what the presenter is presenting, in this particular set-up. This was the primary reason for basing speakers only at the main sites, in order that they may get some feedback from the local audience. The issue of involving both local audience and remote sites however has not been fully resolved.

4.7 Slides

The distributed white board worked extremely well in general, although some of the interface aspects could be improved from the speakers point of view. Most speakers found it a little difficult to move forward or backward through their material at will, which was necessary at certain points during the Summer School, e.g. when time pressures led to reduced session time. One speaker integrated video clips with his slides, and this worked extremely well and was well received by the participants.

Some of the speakers were more expert in slide preparation than others. Most of the time, the speaker was seen in a small window top right of the screen. This sometimes partially covered the slide material.

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