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The advice presented here is based on experience gained in using the Welshnet service at the University of Wales since 1990. It is designed to take users beyond the BT Quick Reference Guide (which covers technical procedures for operating the equipment) to include suggestions for using the medium effectively. Although related to a particular video-conference system, there is general applicability to other systems, including the use of the video facilities available via SuperJanet.

The Welshnet system is available as a self operated 'turnkey system', with bookings made through a local booking co- ordinator. A degree of self-reliance and self-help is required to operate it, but generally the system is easy to use.

Many users have welcomed the savings in time and travel and have seen this as justification for setting up a video- conference meeting or tutorial, rather than make personal trips to remote sites. In practice people travel between remote locations for a variety of reasons, only some of which can be accomplished by videoconferencing. Trips are very often used to build individual and group relationships, for example. It is necessary therefore to identify, encourage and support good practice in the use of video-conferencing.

It is hoped that these guidelines will help new users and others to decide when and where it is appropriate to use videoconferencing for a given need, and how best to manage and facilitate the interaction.


Experienced users stress the importance of sitting in on a session before taking part in a conference for the first time and when involved with a conference making time to meet face to face with other participants at some stage. It is a good idea therefore to schedule video-conferencing meetings with colleagues at other sites to review possible uses, and experiment with the technology.

Characteristics of the medium to note are:-

As a consequence of these characteristics the medium can introduce barriers.

Looking at a video screen for example is more tiring for participants and facilitators alike, rather than looking at a live presenter. This might suggest, for instance, it is desirable to design more breaks and different activities into a video session than you would for a regular meeting.


The most successful meetings and sessions are led by an experienced video-conference chairperson or facilitator. The role might be:- As a minimum facilitators should be involved in a detailed dry-runs of a session so that all concerned understand their roles and activities.

Dry Runs, Practice, Rehearsal, and Direction

Planning needs to be rigorous, the flow of visual aids and exercises through the medium needs to be practised and smooth. Develop contingency plans for things going wrong - technologies always seems to fail when you can cope least. The Chair/Facilitator needs to be coached and ready with activities if there is disruption in the video connection. Fortunately disruptions are usually temporary.

There is very little you can do in conventional classroom setting that cannot be done via a videoconference providing you adjust to the demands of the technology. The medium is not as forgiving as an ordinary face to face session so allow for little flaws in your design, preparation, presentation. Almost everything you know about how to create a successful learning experience or run a meeting directly applies to videoconferencing.

Conduct Introductory Training Sessions

Introductory sessions could follow and expand upon initial demonstrations. The purpose is to give people the feel for the way an actual video-conference works, to provide them with a hands-on experience and to start introducing prospective users from remote sites to each other. Ideally groups should be small - five or 10 people at each site - so that everyone gets a chance to experiment, the training sessions should let them do that as well.

A training programme could be offered in three parts:-

Provide Continuing Support

It will be necessary make provision to answer questions and provide guidance on an ongoing basis, especially while everyone is learning to communicate via video-conferencing. There may be a case for setting up a formal video- conferencing help-desk. The goal is to support new users at the early stage, ensuring that their first experiences with video-conferencing are as successful as possible.


Video-conferencing requires different strategies and practices, particularly when used for teaching. Video- conferencing does not lend itself for example to workshops in which small groups of people are challenged to change their behaviours . This sort of teaching usually requires close interaction and feedback between a facilitator. There are some answers to this problem, and it is possible to end up with a learning event that is more powerful and effective than if you were forced to travel to the remote site to run the session.

A standard course could for example be run over a longer period giving participants a greater chance to practice new skills between sessions. Introductory meetings can be held ahead of time to let participants get to know each other and to work on any barriers that may exist.

As a general rule the standard good practice for the design and delivery of classroom teaching applies to videoconferencing. However many rules must be followed more rigorously, and a few new ones must be added. The instructional design process, for example usually needs to be more exact. Impromptu take up of a discussion on a flip chart or a white board is more difficult if you do not have an appropriate camera pre-set. Tutors have less flexibility in expanding the number of participants or changing the room set-up if everyone is to be included in the picture.

Separating Learning Objectives

Lectures and presentations that introduce facts, concepts and background information lend themselves well to direct adaptation in the videoconference medium. Skills development requires practice and related face to face sessions for reinforcement; such feedback is best done off-line. If significant changes are required of participants they will need the opportunity to challenge assumptions. This suggests a locally led discussion. Long workshops can be redesigned into several shorter modules. Take advantage of the opportunities to travel instantaneously via the confernec itself.

Video-conferencing is a fatiguing medium ; a good rule is to allow for sessions to be 1 hour maximum. For the 'special' guest lecture it might be possible to allow for more than one hour, but plan to break up sessions. As a rule of thumb allow more time for everything because of extra pauses due to transmission delays 5-10 % longer might be typical compared to a conventional classroom.

Design in some opportunity for the facilitators at other sites to take the limelight - the medium does inhibit participation. Remain conscious of the need to draw out participants and encourage interaction especially at remote sites.




Have all participants introduce themselves, maybe through an introductory ice-breaking session, Introductions are critical in this environment to help alleviate its inherently less intimate and less personal nature.

If there are large numbers of participants at both delivery and receiving sites, avoid focusing on one group or the other. A common tendency is to present just to the video monitor and not to the participants - try to avoid this. Support your other facilitators by introducing them, describing their role and thanking them at the conclusion of the meeting.

Project your voice and speak clearly; keep language free of jargon and needless complex words. All participants need to be able to hear and understand easily.

Keep physical movements to a minimum. Excessive movements of the camera will cause distortion of the video image. Remember the transmission delay and allow extended pauses for others to comment. Discourage side conversations that limit discussion and cause distractions. Don't shuffle papers or tap objects near the microphone

Go well prepared for a meeting. Be prepared to speak up because if you do not, you will not get the point across. People need a certain level of confidence to take part in a meeting. Keep to a well defined agenda. A video-network meeting is not essentially different from a face-to-face meeting, but remember only 'one' person at each centre is chosen to handle the controls.

Voice activated switching means vocal interjections are necessary to catch the chair's eye! Video conferencing is more intense and demanding than meetings on a face-to-face basis.

Ensure you understand how the system works, especially that any sound you make puts you on screen i.e.. the system is noise activated. Beware of coughing, shuffling papers etc.; remember its sound activated. Look at your own image to avoid split screens. 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.

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. Each site should develop courses to initiate new techniques which are required in this medium.

Experience suggests that sessions work well where those involved know each other. When this is not the case; it is important that all those taking part introduce themselves in rather more formal terms so as to facilitate subsequent dealings. Make a preliminary visit to the video room before your first real session. To make full use of the facilities remember to prepare the lecture or meeting with more detail than normal.


Regardless of which type of AV you use always send a hard copy to the receiving sites prior to the session. Fax or mail/email copies of everything you have prepared ahead of time. Videos are always clearer if they have accompanying notes. Graphics such as charts are better than text. Tables etc. are difficult to read at remote sites because of the distortion in the video signals. Use handouts together with your own verbal description. Prepare overhead slides as normal, but each visual should be limited to one idea or point; use large letters (36-point fonts) and limit yourself to 5-8 lines per transparency

The Document Camera (Display Stand)

Their is consistency between what is seen at all sites. It is easy to photocopy and mail documents to each site. The Welshent studios are equipped to send pictures of documents, objects, OHP, or 35mm slides. OHP and documents can be written on during presentation.
Poorly constructed visuals will detract from the presentation - the image may not be very clear at remote sites. It is only possible to see the current image transmitted and other participants cannot be seen at same
Establish camera presets (Zoom /Focus) before a meeting starts. Send hard copy to remote sites before the session starts. Use a suitable pointers (e.g. pencil) to identify a points. Remember to keep physical movements to a minimum to avoid distortion and distraction.
Delivery to large local audiences, and smaller remote audiences, when content of visual is a valuable focal point. Remember the visual can be treated as a 'working' document- you might wish to write on it during a session.

Using the Auxiliary Camera

Flip Charts/White Board

Useful for spontaneous exposition. Takes little preparation or experience to use.
Hand-written images may not be clear or legible. Usually requires more physical movement - producing distortion. Difficult to provide hard copy for remote sites.
Use a black pen to ensure legibility; establish appropriate camera presets (Zoom/Focus) before meeting. Verbally check legibility with other sites.
Suitable where:
Groups are small and informal. Meeting involves free-flow discussion, and visuals need to be created during the meeting.

Video Player-Recorder/PC Graphics

Image sent will be clearer than OHP, and can be written to interactively if a PC. The video recorder can present lengthy moving image clips, derived from a variety of sources.
When in use it is not possible to see participants at the sending site at the same time (graphic will appear on one monitor and your own image on the other). It is difficult for remote participants to participate in discussion. Rapidly moving images will be distorted.
Actively facilitate participation at remote sites by allowing pauses and asking questions. Keep physical movements to a minimum to avoid distortion.
When visual is an information resource, and participants do not need to see people and documents at the same time.

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