Role of Video Conferencing in Higher Education

Dec 22, 2014 by

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The modern day university campus is replete with technology, from Wi-Fi everywhere to computer labs and keycard door security. Of course, department you visit, you may find more technology than in others, the computer science and creative media areas of a campus will likely be chock full of computers and other more high tech gadgetry along with the engineering and hard science departments, but if you were to visit a History or English building, you probably won’t see nearly as much tech, besides the professors personal computers. Even though different departments need varying levels of technology, everyone and every department can make use of video conferencing to enhance communication within the department, between departments, and with sources outside of the university itself.

Bringing the Classroom to the Student

One of the greatest uses for video conferencing in any university is expanding the reach of the classroom and professors. The conventional means of giving lectures in a large auditorium to hundreds of students is still used by a large number of institutions, and it isn’t likely to be disbanded anytime soon, but there are inherent disadvantages to that kind of teaching. With so many students, a professor doesn’t have the means, and in most cases the will, to actively try and interact with each student on a personal level, so the class is very impersonal and set on a specific schedule and teaching course. If a student can’t keep up, they either have to take the initiative to get in contact with the professor outside of class or fall behind. With video conferencing, the whole lecture can take on a more personal feel for the students participating from home as they aren’t sitting in some row hundreds of feet away from the professor. And, if the system and class allows, the students can directly ask questions and get answers from the professor.

Additionally, video conferencing can provide many more students the opportunity to attend classes and lectures they normally wouldn’t be able to. A perfect example of this sort of system in action, as reported by AV Network, is the virtual auditorium system that Indiana University has implemented. Using this virtual auditorium system and video conferencing, the university has provided over 135,000 students, faculty, and staff the ability to join in and participate in over 175 different live courses.

The Student’s Perspective

When discussing universities and how they teach, it’s not too common for the students and what they think about things to come up in the conversation. Sure, every college and university has some form of student government, but it’s still not always the students that are thought about first. Well, when it comes to video conferencing, students and their perspectives on the technology have been brought into the conversation. Learn Dash reports that an August, 2013 survey conducted through Google Consumer Surveys asked students what their thoughts about video conferencing in higher education were. Some of the more popular answers included:

  • “Helps me feel more connected”

  • “Provides access to resources and information”

  • “Enables me to be more productive”

  • “I can be present when I couldn’t otherwise”

The final reason, being present when they couldn’t otherwise, is one of the best reasons behind the push for more institutions adopting video conferencing services like Blue Jeans Higher Education. Sometimes emergencies or other issues come up that don’t allow a student to attend class, but if they can still tune into the lecture via some form of video conferencing service, then they can still keep up-to-date on the curriculum.

Guest Lectures and Experts

If you’ve spent any serious amount of time on a campus, you’re probably aware of how much guest speakers and visiting experts are a part of campus life. ULoop states that those visiting experts and guest speakers are integral to the intellectual life of the campus and the students living there. The reason behind this is that students are able to become better informed about particular subjects when they can receive a wider range of perspectives and information, thereby allowing them to make more informed decisions. But bringing guests to campus isn’t cheap, and in many cases, there is a lot of demand for those speakers, so it’s not always possible to have them travel to a particular campus to speak. Video conferencing services like Blue Jeans or Skype can be used to ease the financial burden on the university and the burden on expert’s time while still allowing them to speak to students on campus.

Into the Future

Whether it’s through fostering collaboration between different schools, like the students at the Rochester Institute of Technology presenting their work to Welsh audiences, as discussed by University Business, or it’s increasing internal teamwork amongst different departments, video conferencing is definitely a method of communication that will lead education into the future. The world and humanity is constantly changing, so education cannot remain stagnant and immobile. Institutions around the world need to work to adopt the technology to not only improve the reach of their own classrooms, but to help foster a world where global collaboration is the norm.

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