ERIC Identifier: ED254214
Publication Date: 1983-11-28
Author: Parker, Lorne H.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Information Resources Syracuse NY.
Teleconferencing in Education. ERIC Digest.
Teleconferencing is electronic communication between two or more people at a
distance. Today, teleconferencing may connect multiple locations and can be
divided into three major types: audio, video, and computer. These types can be
combined for an almost endless set of applications.
WHY USE TELECONFERENCING?
College and university users have discovered that teleconferencing enables
them to extend the budget dollar; extend educational opportunities to distant
locations; accommodate a variety of classes, from college credit courses to
continuing education and public service programs; and provide a flexible format
WHAT IS AUDIO TELECONFERENCING?
Audio conferencing is actually telephone conferencing because telephone
technology makes up the network that interconnects the conferees. Although audio
conferencing is not entirely suitable for such tasks as resolving conflicts and
interviewing, the medium's advantages include the following:
--Use of familiar technology--the telephone
--Accessibility (400,000,000 telephones worldwide)
--Ability to set up conferences on short notice
--Comparative low cost
To make audio conferencing more comfortable, speaker phones are available to
permit callers physical flexibility. These work satisfactorily for up to eight
or ten participants. More sophisticated speakers are available for larger
Costs for dial-up conferencing vary; telco or meet-me usually will cost $20
to $40 per location per hour.
The following audio teleconferencing options are available:
Dedicated Conference Networks
A dedicated conference network permanently wires preselected locations
together. To conference, callers need only to pick up the phone at each
location. These systems can be very large. The University of Wisconsin, for
example, uses a network of more than 200 locations throughout the state to
disseminate information and teach classes. Dedicated networks generally have
better sound quality than dial-up networks and are cost-effective when usage is
Dial-up networks use the public switched telephone network. In the telco
operator-assisted mode, the operator calls and connects all participants. This
system works well for a few locations, but difficulties occur when numbers
To overcome these difficulties, several private telephone conferencing
companies have formed to offer a new type of service, "Meet Me" Conferencing, in
which each participant calls the conferencing center from any convenient
location. If everyone is prompt, a large number of locations can be
interconnected for conferences in five minutes or less. The sound quality is
superior to that of telco conferencing and is generally unaffected by numbers of
participants. Telephones anywhere can be connected, in contrast to limited
locations in dedicated networks. Meet-me systems are now available for in-house
installation where usage makes them cost-effective.
Direct Dial Conferencing Systems
Direct Dial Conferencing System is an innovation that makes it possible for
one caller to set up a telephone conference with up to six additional
participants by using a touch tone phone.
WHAT IS AUDIO GRAPHIC TELECONFERENCING?
Blending video and audio conferencing characteristics, "audiographics" refers
to the transmission of print and graphic information over telephone lines to
complement voice communication with visuals. Audiographics systems include a
variety of devices: electronic pens, blackboards, and tablets, as well as
computer systems, slow scan television, microfiche, telewriters, and facsimile
Although not widely used, a potentially useful educational device is the
electronic blackboard. The blackboard converts writing to audible tones which
are transmitted over telephone lines, received at one or more locations, and
displayed upon a television screen. Tariffs vary but cost is about $800 per
month per location for both send and receive capabilities.
WHAT IS VIDEO TELECONFERENCING?
Video teleconferencing combines the audio and visual media to provide
interactive voice communications and television pictures. The images include
anything that can be captured by a television camera. Though full motion video
(such as that transmitted on home television) is the most familiar technology, a
number of options exist, including freeze-frame television, compressed video
systems, and full motion video systems.
Costs vary for these three systems; freeze frame is the least and full motion
video the most expensive. A single full motion video conference of several
hours, linking as many as ten locations, could run between $150,000 and
Although most educational institutions use economical audio teleconferencing,
several pioneer videoconferencing systems (including satellite systems) are
available. Many video systems used in higher education are dedicated networks
used on a local, regional, or statewide basis. Most use one-way video and
two-way audio networks for point-to-multipoint education programming.
Some programs are directed toward health professionals, others to continuing
education courses, university credit courses, and administrative meetings.
Several full motion educational video systems connect as many as 30 locations.
The largest freeze frame video system, operated by the University of Wisconsin
Extension, connects 26 locations.
Freeze-frame, or Slow Scan Television, uses the narrowband telephone system
to transmit data, voice, and still video images. Transmission time may vary from
a few seconds to more than a minute.
Compressed Video Systems
A Compressed Video System also uses a telephone data circuit. It compresses
the video signal to eliminate redundant electronic information with a picture
processor, or codec. The video picture appears instantly but there may be some
jerkiness or blurring of fast movements.
Full Motion Video Systems
A Full Motion Video System uses wideband channels to send video, voice, and
data. Because of the large channel capacity, it transmits a full video picture
with continuous motion instantly, using cable, microwave, or satellites.
The advantage of full motion teleconferencing is high quality and natural
conferencing format. The major disadvantages of full motion video are its high
cost and limitations in linking multiple locations. Unlike the systems that use
telephone channels, wideband video cannot readily link multiple sites for
WHAT IS COMPUTER CONFERENCING?
Computer conferencing permits two or more people to communicate with each
other via computer terminals in a non-real-time mode. It is like "electronic
mail" because the user can put a message into the computer and have it retrieved
and answered later.
But conferencing technology goes further. Specific software programs have
been developed that permit members of a conference to interact with each other
and to access a wide variety of stored information relevant to their objectives.
Computer conferencing adapts to course teaching, student counseling, and
informed information exchange. The University of Michigan is the educational
leader in this field.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Olgren, Christine H., and Lorne H. Parker. TELECONFERENCING STATUS AND TRENDS
FOR ELECTRONIC COMMUNICATION. Madison, WI: Center for Interactive Programs,
University of Wisconsin Extension, 1982.
AUDIO TELECONFERENCING. SAT USERS CONFERENCE. (GUIDE TO USING AND RUNNING
TELECONFERENCES.) Melbourne, Australia: Australian Telecommunications
Commission, 1983. ED 239 592.
Carl, Diana R. "Creating a Duet: Using Video and Video Teleconferencing to
Meet the Needs of the Community." PROGRAMMED LEARNING AND EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY
20 (August 1983):187-189.
Conboy, Ian. TELECONFERENCING IN EDUCATION. EVALUATION OF THE CHARLTON PILOT
PROJECT (OR, HOW THE TEACHERS BLEW UP THE CHARLTON BRIDGE). Victoria, Australia:
Victoria Department of Education, 1982. ED 230 333.
Cross, Thomas B. LEARNING WITHOUT GOING THERE: EDUCATION VIA COMPUTER
TELE/CONFERENCING. 1983. ED 233 655.
Flohr, Jan. "Implementing Teleconference Educational Programming in a
Community College Consortium." COMMUNITY SERVICES CATALYST 13 (Spring
Gilbert, Arlene M. "Reach Out, Reach Out, and Beep Someone: People
Communicate Better via Computer." CASE CURRENTS 9 (March 1983):54-55.
Hagstrom, David A. "Teaching in Alaska." PHI DELTA KAPPAN 65 (December
Jenkins, Thomas M., and David Cushing. "How to Plug into Teleconferencing?
Reach Out and Train Somebody." TRAINING 20 (January 1983):30-33, 39.
McCarty, Henry R. TELECONFERENCING--A COST EFFECTIVE COMUNICATIONS SERVICE.
San Diego, CA: San Diego County Department of Education, 1981. ED 233 712.