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The following conclusions are a summary drawn from the large number of individual comments made by users (Appendix 1) and concern aspects of training, successes and failures, limitations in use, and future developments.

6.1 Training & Structure of Meetings

The role of the chair or conference co-ordinator is considered vital to a successful conference meeting. In particular a chair sympathetic to how the network functions is essential - it is necessary in order to 'draw out' members in all centres. This also seems to depends on the size of a committee - 3 is very informal, 10 needs more formality to work effectively. The system can also be effective for more informal discussions for which no agenda is necessary. For a more formal meeting a Chairman, Agenda and Minute Secretary are considered vital.

6.2 Good Points

Generally users feel that the video conference does not have the flow and momentum of face-to-face meetings - although this is seen as a positive benefit where groups are undisciplined. Also it is considered good for quick informal meetings at short notice to find out what other people are thinking. The video conference produces well structured tightly run meetings; little time is wasted. People say what they have to say without going on at length. It is less useful for formal meetings involving negotiations, as it is considered much less easy to pick up on non-verbal clues from the other participants. The framework of the conference seems to imposes a beneficial structure on a meeting, and encourages participants to prepare before hand. It is considered extremely useful for research discussions and seminars, and allows for more frequent meetings than would otherwise be possible. It is also considered particular good for one-to-one discussions. It should enable University- wide meetings to be called at short notice. It is considered very efficient on time - with no real disadvantages compared with face-to-face meetings, and the next best thing to a personal meeting. The savings in travel time is really appreciated, and it is considered very useful and expedient in dealing with fairly routine matters or non controversial issues. Many users felt that more training should be given before the first session on the network i.e. planning, preparation, camera presentation, more knowledge of the equipment, etc.

6.3 Activities Facilitated by Videoconferencing

There have been a number of notably successes indicated by the survey. It has led to the setting up of an all-Wales specialist group in Electron Microscopy; a long series of seminars in Mathematical Physics and Physical Mathematics; liaison/tutor support with students on clinical placements in Mid and South Wales. Audiences large enough to put on specialised talks, and to make it worth while to get in outside speakers have been made possible. Travel expenses involved would have prevented Post-Graduate students from attending regular 'live' seminars across 3 campuses for a number of courses. Historical modules taught over the video-link were planned from the start as part of an inter- collegiate scheme. The careers service at Aberystwyth is linked into the SW regional training group of ACCAS. This involves institutions west of Oxford and south of a line from Oxford to Aberystwyth. At Post-Graduate level particularly, the network is considered to help towards making courses more efficient. The facilities make it possible to mount a course which would otherwise be impossible on economic grounds. The Physics Departments across Wales are planning to greatly extend their teaching on the network, especially in post graduate and final year Physics courses. It is also considered very important for extending Welsh medium provision. Overwhelming support is expressed for the saving of staff time in travel, for the spreading of expertise, and drawing expertise together. The experience at post-graduate level is that one can introduce students to a much wider range of topics than would be possible locally. This allows students access to the whole range of specialist teaching in the University. Most users would recommend the system to a colleague as a viable means to facilitate events and courses which would not take place otherwise. The main benefits are perceived to be convenience and cost rather than quality.

6.4 Bad Points Noted

Videoconference meetings are not considered good for more open meetings where the purpose is to spark off and develop ideas. Lack of visible body language is a difficult problem especially for the 'non-speakers', largely because they are not seen. A major limitation is that it is impossible to judge in the absence of body language, the reaction of others to what is being said. It is difficult to judge the appropriate moment to intervene, and difficult to access the impact of proceedings on persons who are not visible on screen. It is felt to only work really successfully when the participants know each other beforehand. The system is not at present suitable where detailed documents need to be consulted or edited jointly. This presents particular problems for some subject areas such as mathematics where the limitation of having only one writing screen for writing is a constraint. It is not possible for example to see the writing and the speaker's face at the same time. The service is considered efficient, but can give poor images and sound quality. The time delay makes conversation awkward, and even with zoom documents on screen remain difficult to read. There are particular problems noted where a video network meetings is held with no technician present to support the meeting. Some users were concerned about the level of discussion indicating that this can remain at a superficial level. As a result, little work of a high quality is achieved, convincing some people that there is no substitute for a face-to -face meeting if any real depth of thought is to be achieved.

6.5 Limitations Affecting Teaching Use

The limitation to six active participants at any one site is seen as a problem occasionally, and there are some difficulties associated with managing more than 2 sites in a link. Limitation of number of students who can participate at each site was noted as a constraint by a number of users, indicating the need for more studios or lecture rooms equipped with these facilities. The video conference facility in Cardiff is considered rather small particularly as no other major teaching rooms are connected as yet. The contact between tutor and student can sometimes be rather formal and awkward due to time delay and failures of speakers to appear on screen. Contact between students on separate sites can be a limiting and inhibiting factor as there is a need to speak rather loudly. The difficulty expressed in reading documents from screen - placing monitors closer to the participants might help, it was suggested by a number of people. It is difficult to gauge the 'feeling' of the entire group of students, and little has been done to obtain direct feedback from the students during a session. There is a need for a member of staff at each site to ensure questions are asked and encourage feedback. The feeling is that for a less active students, it would be difficult for her or him to participate effectively in the two-way communication in the lecture/seminar.

6.6 Future Use and Promotion

Sharing the resources in the University is considered very important, and for purposes of intercollegiate teaching and meetings the network is valuable. Most users are keen to explore connections to other Universities and make international links, and consider that such facilities should be made available and promoted. The improvement in the use of tutor time in not having to travel long distances and time saving is considered one of the greatest benefits.

6.7 Advice to Users

Participants in this survey provided useful insights into local usage and offered valuable guidance on how to avoid some of the negative factors associated with video meetings. It is of particular importance is that the local experience in Wales is largely based on non-technical users who now represent the majority of current users. There is a strong view that training before using the system is essential. Planning and preparation of material before the meeting is important. A whole new range of personal skills have to be learnt i.e. talking to the camera, producing handouts, editing video tape, slide presentations. It is felt that each site should develop courses to initiate new techniques which is required in this medium. Experience seems to suggests that sessions work well where those involved know each other. When this is not the case it is suggested that it is important that all those taking part introduce themselves in rather more formal terms so as to facilitate any subsequent dealings. It is also felt important to make a previous visit to the video room before the first session. To make full use of the facilities it is necessary to prepare the lecture or meeting in more detail than normal. In particular it is useful to provide OHP material as handouts in advance; including discussion periods in each 'lecture' is also important. Students like to see a face, hence breaks between OHP, etc are important. Students also need 2 or 3 sessions before they are used to the medium. Spontaneity can be lacking and interactions over the video may need to be more 'measured' than a normal session. Problems with time lag between sound and vision, and occasional poor quality visual image on screen have to be taken into account. Essentially the system is considered to be practical and easy to use.- It also demands -and gets - an extra level of concentration from the students. Many users requested an 'idiots' guide to the facilities including written guidelines for use of remote control unit. Users agreed that its necessary to forget about the cameras and just get on with the meeting. Just another meeting was a common view, a video-network meeting is not essentially different from a face-to-face meeting. Since the system is sound activated, do not make any sound that is not part of the discussion. Be prepared to speak up because to get a point across. Voice activated switching means vocal interjections are necessary to catch the chairman's eye!. Experienced users all offered the following advice :- Beware of coughing, shuffling papers etc.; remember the sound activation- look at your own image to avoid split screens - and speak up. Adjust the temperature of the room. Relax - Don't think of yourself as being on camera, just behave and talk naturally, but don't wave your arms about or make sudden movements. Speak clearly (not too loud or soft). Don't rustle papers - remember the system is voice/sound switched. Remember to use the mute button if you want to whisper to a colleague. Beware of position of microphones and speak up. Don't rustle papers as this can switch monitor pictures. It is necessary to remember that, initially at least, there is some loss of spontaneity Compensate for some voice clipping during interchanges. Prepared documents should use large type, and be not too wide. Always look-in on a conference first was a common piece of advice.

6.8 Commentary

The risk is that new systems may be seen initially as a technical challenge and not one a of changing the relationships and communication practices among various remote sites. Videoconferencing can remove barriers to communication by improving both its quantity and its quality. Meetings & tutorials etc. can be delivered more effectively rather than the same amount done more cheaply. It is more likely to augment travel, not necessarily replace it. Video-conferencing presents a different kind of challenge because it brings distant learners together with a live tutor, and also with each other. The technology is still in its developing phase as far as most users are concerned, but in the light of rapidly decreasing prices of video- conferencing equipment is becoming more easily available. Developments in the technology available have now made possible the construction of equivalent digital networks (to analogue) and digitally based multimedia systems can now be constructed. This opens up the possibility of multi-service campus networks which can convey an range of multimedia information types on a single network, giving economies of scale, flexibility and ease of management. In this environment, campus-wide distribution of audio and video information becomes a realistic proposition.
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