: Faculty of Education and Arts Video Conferencing in a Multi-Campus Tertiary Context: Exploring the strengths and weaknesses Katrina Kavanagh Background • Federation University - Associate Degree of Training and Education. • This is a distance education program. • Subject delivered using video conferencing technology - EDTAS 1001 Improving VET Practice. • The majority of students were employed by organisations which are part of the Dual Sector Partnership. • Students were provided with resources, teleconferences were offered, video conferencing sessions were scheduled. • Aimed at promoting engagement and completion. Learning via video conferencing Lawson, Comber, Gage and Cullum-Hanshaw (2010): • • • • • • Allows one to one communication, one to many or group to group. Offers immediate interaction between learners and teachers. Provides opportunities for in-depth discussion. Some people have found video conferencing effective, others have not. Technical difficulties can severely affect the quality of teaching. Particular learning materials and practices are required. Todhunter and Pedigrew (2008): • • • Engagement and active learning enables students to better retain knowledge. Increased demand for flexible learning, requires educators to use new technology. Staff need to be well supported and be provided with adequate professional development opportunities. Methodology 13 interviews were undertaken: • 3 IT Experts • 2 Institute representatives • 8 Students – 7 student where staff members from DSP partnership organisations, 1 student was located in NSW • A semi structured interview approach was employed. • Participants were asked questions about their experience and perspectives of using video conferencing technology in the education sector. IT Experts • The IT Experts interviewed explained that video conferencing can be effective in the education sector. • Particularly in reaching distance learners. • Connection can be made from a variety of sources. • Interviewees explained that set up costs of video conferencing technology is expensive. • On going maintenance of the equipment can be costly. • Staff require ongoing support from IT departments. • Professional development for staff is also required. • Teaching needs to be adapted to this mode of delivery. • Extensive planning needs to take place. • Teachers need to be committed to being innovative. IT Experts • “A robust and fully featured platform can be cost prohibitive” (IT Expert, 3) • “Staff usually require an IT person to be available or on hand to connect” (IT Expert, 2) • “The teaching style needs to change and adapt for it to be effective, the teacher cannot just stand and deliver they need to keep the ‘end user’ engaged” (IT Expert, 2) • “I feel the biggest barrier would be user acceptance. Adjusting to participating in classes or meetings via video conference means adjusting to talking to a camera or a TV screen, not physically having a person in the room with you” (IT Expert, 1) Institute Representatives • The Institute Representatives interviewed valued the connection between teacher and student. • A sense of belonging is important. • Video conferencing provided their staff with an opportunity to discuss content and clarify assessment tasks. • They expressed that student to student engagement was positive. Institute Representatives • ”The feedback I received from students was that they valued any contact, communication they had with a lecturer and the opportunity to clarify content and or assessment requirements” (Institute Representative, 2) • “I think any opportunity for the students to engage with other learners is useful for the students in helping them build a sense of belonging, an identity as a learner, and developing a learning community” (Institute Representative, 2) • “It’s really important for our guys to identify that there’s someone else here and to be able to find a study buddy” (Institute Representative, 1) Students • The interviewees expressed that connection with the teacher was beneficial. • Participants said that this allowed for better understanding of assessment tasks. • Real time discussion of content was considered useful. • The visual element of video conferencing was considered useful for feeling part of the group. • Connecting with fellow learners was helpful. • Finding time to attend the VC sessions was difficult. Students • “What I found really beneficial about video conferencing was having more connection with the teacher” (Student, 1) • “I found it invaluable sometimes – because I’m a visual person …. You can see the peoples, expressions and faces. Yes, you can get a lot more from a video link than you can over the phone” (Student,2) • “I think that can be the thing that people fear, without having the classroom they lack in motivation, or they lack in connection and discussion” (Student, 4) • “The only reason why I didn’t attend these meetings or those groups was really in all honestly because of my own load at the time” (Student, number 4) Strengths • • • • • • • • • • • Capable of reaching distant learners Connection with teacher Connection with peers Ability to connect with peers at other learning institutions Visual presence Real time connection Multiple connection possibilities Students can connect using a variety of devices In depth discussion possibilities Potential learning community created The ability to record sessions is available Weaknesses • • • • • • • • • • • • • Cost of equipment Ongoing maintenance costs Requires IT support Requires professional development for staff New teaching strategies need to be developed Teachers need to develop suitable resources Staff resistance to using VC technology Equipped rooms need to be available and booked For offsite connection, information regarding the students device is required for connection instructions to be provided Student availability to attend VC sessions Students need to have adequate equipment for offsite connection Students need to have adequate technical knowledge for offsite connection Slow internet speeds can affect a student’s experience So what? • The IT Experts say that video conferencing technology has potential. • The Institute Representatives seem supportive of the use of this technology. • The students say it is beneficial. • Why aren’t we using this technology more frequently in the education sector? (Logistics, cost, staff resistance) Funding acknowledgements Thank you to: • National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) - 2012 Community of Practice (CoP) Scholarship. • The Work-Based Education Research Centre (WERC) group - Victoria University • Australian Vocational Education and Training Research Association (AVETRA) and the Mentor scheme. • Federation University Australia.