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

5. Recommendations

From the detailed evaluation described in this report, and the conclusions in Section 4, recommendations on the use of distributed interactive videoconferencing in higher education can be drawn.

5.1 Status of the technology

The technology to deliver distributed interactive educational events is now at a stage of development such that its routine application can be considered. The issue of standards needs to be addressed, to avoid widespread interoperability issues. In addition, recommendations on appropriate standards for the various technology components would assist and accelerate deployment on a wider scale.

5.2 Primacy of educational goals

Delivering educational value, through the use of this technology can be achieved, and offers huge potential for creative use to serve educational purposes. There are however problems in ensuring that appropriate educational goals can be achieved. As the quote at the beginning of this report states, there needs to be a clear focus on how the technology serves the educational purposes of such activities

5.3 Presentation and production values

Technical issues remain to be resolved so that this technology can be deployed regularly and on a routine basis in support of educational goals, and particularly in order to achieve the presentation and production values participants expect from their long exposure to broadcasting standards. Currently, to achieve clear educational rather than technical goals requires a major focus on presentation and production standards, and an enormous organisational effort both at the technical and educational levels.

5.4 Need for high levels of interactivity

There is a clear need, in order to maximise educational benefit, to maximise the level of interactivity. This must be carefully planned, and executed in a professional manner. Interactivity is the main perceived advantage of distributed videoconferencing over broadcast TV. There are major tradeoffs to be considered, as described above.

Further work is also needed on the most appropriate use of the technology for different types of interaction. For example, how many sites can be used, how many lectures can there be in a session, how much interaction is possible between lecturers and students, students and students, and lecturers and lecturers? How can all this be supported with the current technology? Some type of matrix highlighting what can be achieved and with what level of technology would be of immense value in understanding what is feasible through routine deployment of videoconferencing technology.

5.5 Use of broadcast values

The integration of computing and telecommunications technologies is not sufficient in itself. To achieve educational objectives, there is an a priori requirement to integrate the technology domain with the educational domain. The use of broadcast standards for presentation and production values currently offers the best approach.

5.6 Organisational requirements

There needs to be further work to investigate the organisational requirements of higher education establishments in order to support similar types of events. These events need to be co-ordinated and managed in order to take account of all of the multi-disciplinary aspects. As indicated in earlier reports, videoconferencing in higher education establishments is currently approached from a number of different organisational sub groups, such as computer services, computer science, audio visual services, distance learning groups and others. There needs to be an advisory team set up to advise on the technical, production, presentation and educational quality aspects of undertaking distributed teaching events.
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