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 for meetings.

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 groups.

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 high.

Dial-Up Networks

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 increase.

Meet-Me Conferencing

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 machines.

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 $225,000.

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 Television

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 two-way video.

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 1983):10-13.

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 1983):276-277.

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.

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