2. In late 1994 and early 1995 a survey was conducted amongst users of the University of Wales Video teaching network. The purpose of the survey was to make the knowledge of this experienced community available to the benefit of users of the pilot SuperJanet video network and other emerging video-conferencing facilities in higher education. The survey was intended to examine user attitudes and experiences, to identify particular factors leading to success and failure in video network use, and to provide a guide to good practice.
3. The survey was conducted by means of a substantial questionnaire form sent out in December 1994. Advice on the design of the questionnaire was taken from education research experts, and tested in a number of dry runs. The questionnaire was designed to obtain information on a series of specific points relating to usage for both teaching and committee meetings, user experience of both technical and human factors, and attitudes towards the medium. In addition, there were opportunities built into the questionnaire to elicit freely comments and advice from the respondents on how new users and non-specialists could get the best out of the video medium.
4. The questionnaire was sent out to 200 contacts who had made bookings of the network in the previous 4 years. 93 completed questionnaires were received. The respondents covered university academics and administrators representing most departments of the University of Wales. The profile of the respondents matches that of the general university population, and there was no evidence of bias towards high- technology groups who might be expected to have an inbuilt motivation and ability to use a novel medium.
5. Whilst most users of the network are now very confident in using the system, there was widespread agreement that training in the use of the system and in the booking procedures was very important. The booking system itself was felt to be good; this probably reflects the existence of official site contacts which makes booking a 'one-stop' exercise.
6. Teaching use accounted for about one quarter (23%) of the responses, whilst committee and meeting use (77%) comprised the remainder. Some 10% of respondents said that their sessions were held entirely in Welsh and a further 10% partly in Welsh. The collective experience represented by the responses was some 600 studio sessions and 1200 studio hours in 1994.
7. Under teaching and learning use, 16 subject areas were represented among the 21 responses. The majority of sessions were at post-graduate level, and a typical session involved 6 to 25 students at a time. The most popular forms of teaching sessions were lectures (57%), seminars (48%), and student feedback sessions (10%). Sessions were mostly of short duration, usually 1 hour.
8. A high proportion (87%) indicated that the network made it possible to run courses which could not otherwise take place. This included both the very specialised courses to more limited numbers of students, and some broader programme of seminars to post-graduate students.
9. Many of the teaching sessions made use of the complementary media, particularly the document camera (48%) and OHPs (33%), although the remaining AV facilities were also regularly used.
10. In teaching and learning use a large majority (82%) agreed that non-video sessions were important also (although some courses did not manage this). It was also regarded as important to let the students take the first 2-3 sessions to get used to the medium and for 'ice-breaking'. Certain features of session organisation were also regarded as important, for example the distribution of notes and problems in advance.
11. In committee use there was widespread agreement that meetings need more formal structuring than face-to-face meetings, if they are to succeed. A firm chair (or meeting facilitator) is required (84%) to make sure that all sites are drawn into the meeting. Formal introductions and close to each session are also felt to be important (75-83%). There was general agreement that video meetings lack a personal feel and that face-to-face meetings are also needed (76%).
12. Under committee and meeting use very little use was made of the available AV devices. The document camera was occasionally used.
13. In committee use the overwhelming motivation was in the savings in time (88%) and travel (84%) achieved. These were felt to outweigh any drawbacks of the medium. It was also felt that the video network made it easier for ad-hoc meetings to be called at short notice. This again reflects the time saving compared with travelling across Wales, where video network sites span a maximum distance of about 300 Km and typical travelling times between sites is 2-3 hours by car.
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