In recent months the interest in videoconferencing has grown dramatically because of the terrorist attacks on America. Businesses and business travelers have embraced this form of distributed multimedia as a means of avoiding air travel. It is also a popular technology with educational institutions. The advent of videoconferencing has allowed people in different parts of the world access to quality education.
This discussion will investigate how videoconferencing works including the components, proper protocol and bandwidth that are needed to deploy the technology. We will then discuss the uses of videoconferencing in business. There will be an investigation of the advantages and disadvantages of using the technology in the business environment.
Our research will subsequently focus on the educational uses of videoconferencing. We will discuss why videoconferencing is used in the academic environment and the challenges that educators face in incorporating the technology into their teaching strategies.
Encarta defines videoconferencing as "the holding of a meeting in which participants are in different places, connected by audio and video links" (Encarta). The technology was invented in the mid-80's and has grown in popularity since 1997.
There are six components that are essential to the success of videoconferencing. These components include; a Computer which can be either a PC or Macintosh, an Internet Camera that is connected to the Computer, an Internet Connection that is no less than 56k (the higher the speed the better the quality of the conference), a Headset (which allows for better audio than a microphone, a Sound Card, and a Videoconferencing Software Program. (Video Conferencing: Easy as 1,2,3)
There is a standard protocol for videoconferencing, which is H.323 Protocol. This protocol is an International Telecommunications Union standard that provides specifications for equipment, computers, and services for multimedia communication over networks. H.323 is the standard protocol for various types of audiovisual conferencing. The data that is transmitted across the network can be videoconferencing or audio conferencing data. Depending on the application that you are using you should be able to dial into someone else's IP address. This can be done with Microsoft NetMeeting, CuSee Me, Intel Video Phone, and others. It is vitally important that the software application uses H.323 protocol. (H.323 Protocol: Conferencing for One and All)
The level of bandwidth is very important to the success of a videoconference meeting.
The amount of bandwidth that is transmitted affects many aspects of online communication and conferencing such as web telephony, file sharing, videoconferencing, and webcams. Bandwidth primarily means a measure of data transfer speeds or as a measure of space available for data to occupy. (Better Bandwidth Means Cooler Conferencing)
Uses of Videoconferencing
Business Uses of Videoconferencing
According to a report entitled "The Business Case For Videoconferencing" written by Wainhouse research "One of the major roles of videoconferencing is that of a substitute for business travel." (Davis, Weinstein)
The report goes on to state that most companies that incorporate videoconferencing into their business strategies experience cost savings and a quick return on their investment.
The research from the report explains that there are four groups that can or do benefit from videoconferencing in the business environment. The first of which is the large multinational corporation, which uses videoconferencing systems, but only in a small percentage of their conference rooms. The second group is the enterprise that investigates videoconferencing but decides the technology offers them only small benefits. Next there is the government agency that has used both room and desktop conferencing widely and expects everybody to be able to operate the equipment themselves. Finally there is the financial institution that has uses the system but needs to understand how to make videoconferencing more effective. (Davis, Weinstein)
Advantages of videoconferencing in the Business Environment
The report list several advantages associated with the use of video conferencing including the following:
Reduction in travel costs
Provides an intermediate step between a phone call and a face-to-face visit.
Involves multiple sites at the same time
Responds to communication needs
Provides a focused, precise, and concise communications tool
Provides easy access to training
Projects a current image for the business or organization
Sets the business or organization apart from the competition
Allows meetings to be video taped and archived with ease
Speeds up decision making and the time it takes to bring a service or product to market
Provides for the transmission of written, graphic, or computer-generated material (Davis, Weinstein)
Disadvantages of videoconferencing in the Business Environment
Along with the advantages of videoconferencing there are several disadvantages that the report list. These disadvantages include:
The lower cost associated with Audio conferencing
Inexperience with equipment
Lack of research available to businesses about the technology
Benefits from travel avoidance are minimal at best
Lack ownership of the videoconferencing task within the organization makes problems and the rewards difficult to decipher
The purchase of the system requires a significant investment (Davis, Weinstein)
Educational Uses of Video Conferencing
In the academic environment videoconferencing is often used as a distance education technique.
Videoconferencing often used to teach individuals in both urban and remote rural locations. There are several factors that influence the use of videoconferencing in an academic environment. Factors such as technology used, physical factors such as lighting and sound, as well as teaching strategies. It is widely accepted that presenting a successful module via videoconferencing requires a modified approach to teaching and learning [TDDG1999]. (Greunen, Wesson)
Challenges that Educators face when using videoconferencing
It is often assumed that, since you are still in "real-time" with the students, your face-to-face skills will be enough. Excellent face-to-face presentation skills are necessary, but the lecturer must go beyond these skills and incorporate new skills. Some suggested strategies to improve the learning experience, are:
Set expectations and establish protocols. To combat this an instructor must make expectations known before the module. Educators can also aid students in understanding the differences between broadcast television and two-way compressed videos. They must also explain the difference in audio/visual quality along with protocols. (Greunen, Wesson)
Involve students from the beginning. Educators can use icebreakers to communicate with students and to allow them to feel at ease.
Use visual aids. The use of visual aids can also help students with their learning experience. This can be done through power point because PC-based and Desktop systems can share the application. Power point can be used to show objects as well as photos and graphics.
Provide supporting materials. Teachers can use handouts to help remote students follow the lecture.
Punctuate lectures with small group activities. Educators should assign small group activities with a task that can be discussed later and allow students to take a break in between chapters or subjects.
Reduce distractions. It is also important the instructors reduce distractions as much as possible. This can be accomplished by posting a still image during a class activity.
Encourage dialogue. Finally it can be difficult for students in a videoconference setting to ask questions. Teachers must encourage the asking of questions so that the student can learn.
Recent Problems associated with Videoconferencing
Recently there have been problems associated with the use of video conferencing.
Michelle Delio of Wired News reports that,
Even a relatively unskilled attacker can transform some video-conferencing systems into video-surveillance units, using the devices to snoop, record or publicly broadcast presumably private video conferences. Some of the issues have been addressed in a system upgrade released last week, but many users said they weren't advised they needed to upgrade their ViewStation's operating system and were unaware of the security problems." (Delio)
The article also states that many hackers can easily recover View Station administrator passwords. In addition these hackers can obtain control of the device and record or monitor videoconferences. Eric Goldberg, general manager of Navastream, which provides communication security services. believes that there are definitely serious problems with the security associated with videoconferencing. Ken Pfeil, who is the senior security consultant at Avaya, which builds and manages corporate communications networks, validates his fears saying, "A hacker could very easily take administrative control over the entire conferencing system. One would need only a Web browser to point and click their way into the system." (Delio)
Our investigation has thoroughly examined the technology known as videoconferencing. We have found that videoconferencing is defined as a meeting composed of individuals who are in different places communicating via audio and video links. We also established that there are several factors that must exist for a videoconference to take place. These factors included a webcam, a computer and a soundcard. In addition we concluded that the clarity and quality of a videoconference is dependent upon the bandwidth and the speed of the Internet connection.
As our discussion continued we found that there were two primary uses of videoconferencing. These uses included business and educational institutions. We found that the primary reason why businesses use videoconferencing is to eliminate the need foe unnecessary business travel. We also found that there are several advantages and disadvantages to…