Video Conferencing Technology Enhancing Classrooms

Laptop computers, smartphones, and mp3 players – these are just a few technologies that students use in the classroom that can certainly distract them from their studies. But even though students’ use of technology can interfere with their ability to pay attention to lectures, it can also be used by instructors to enhance the classroom experience like never before.

Video conferencing uses telecommunication technologies to allow multiple locations to interact through video and audio at the same time. Because of this technology, students don’t have to leave the lecture hall, or even get on a plane for that matter, to interact with people from anywhere in the world. Gone are the days of waiting for a guest speaker’s schedule to open up long enough for them to travel to a university. Videoconferencing is a time-saving tool that professors can use to provide students with the opportunity to listen to and interact with educational experts sooner rather than later.

As professors become the classroom coordinators and give guest experts the opportunity to lead a lecture or discussion, students are given supplemental learning opportunities that can only enhance their educational experience. Another student perk? Unlike recorded lectures or educational videos, the real-time aspect of video conferencing encourages interactivity. Students are not only able to learn from those they might not have the chance to otherwise, but they have the opportunity to ask questions and discuss material with experts.

Leading in the video conferencing trend is Duke University, which recently integrated a new kind of video conferencing into the classroom, making it the first university in the world to use this type of technology. In February, the Duke University Fuqua School of Business began holding classes in a new lecture hall which utilizes custom Cisco TelePresence virtual learning environment. The lecture hall is equipped with three 103-inch plasma displays used to view guest experts and lecturers, while six 1080-pixel cameras provide guests with both panoramic and lifesize views of the classroom. Two document cameras allow professors to share class materials from their podium, as well as view remote classrooms from the podium by looking at any of the three student displays. To encourage interactivity and class discussion, there are 66 microphones that allow students to talk to the entire classroom at the push of a button.

In this past, this type of realistic communication was not possible, but with technological advances like high-definition video, high-quality audio, and high-speed Internet, physical distance is no longer a barrier in higher education. No matter which side of the camera people are on, Cisco TelePresence combines technology in a way that enables body language and tone of voice to come across the screen so realistically that is very similar to being in the same room. With technology like this, there is no limit to the educational possibilities that video conferencing can bring to classrooms.

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