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Conferencing Featured Article

May 27, 2014

Virtual Learning, Interactive Videoconferencing: Now that's Music to My Ears!


By Daniel Brecht
Contributing Writer

Today's schools offer virtual, connected classrooms that use video conferencing and multimedia teaching strategies to further learning opportunities. Online learning platforms for Web conferencing or video conferencing enable all staff and students to have anywhere, anytime access to material; dedicated portals allow communication and offer an engaging way to learn and take coursework in a technologically rich environment that enhances course instruction.


Every year, more students are engaging in online/virtual learning and distance education to complete programs without attending conventional classroom-based courses. Students, through two-way communications media such as video-conferencing, can co-create their own learning experience in a face-to-face environment; learners and teachers are all in the same place at the same time despite geographical distance or time constraints.

The inclusion of video conferencing to extend educational opportunities and reach new groups of students supports increased interactions, and active participation by students and instructors; virtual learning through interactive videoconferencing, then, can systematically strengthen instructor-student and student-student relationships. Technology provides opportunities for both real-time (synchronous) and time-delayed (asynchronous) collaboration among students and between students and instructors (via a video link-up). The video-conferencing equipment provides the essential face-to-face interaction.

Web-based distance learning (WBDL) and computer-supported collaborative learning (CSCL) are now an important part of the offer of any educational institution. Through WBDL and the use of CSCL, that includes face-to-face (F2F) collaboration, today’s classrooms’ learning environment is changing to facilitate communication across borders. More schools are becoming interested in collaborative video conference projects, which “are quickly replacing blackboards and chalk, as teachers and students now engage in virtual education,” reported newsday.co.tt post.

WBDL has been expanding education arenas rapidly (since the mass usage of Internet technology began in the late 1990's) to serve so many more students. WBDL permits interactive videoconferencing, in addition to use of voice conferences, chats, instant messaging and whiteboards, and is making distance learning a possibility for those who conventionally would otherwise be left out. Technology in support of education is now being increasingly used in many countries, not just the United States.

In Trinidad and Tobago, the Ministry of Education, in conjunction with the Organization of American States, hosted a two-day workshop on ‘Technology Driven Learning Environments’ and video conferencing technology. This second Virtual Educa International Symposium, concluded on May 20 and attracted scores of primary and secondary school students, placed emphasis on video for learning. In fact, a Polycom (News - Alert) presentation—titled Video for Learning: How Are We Changing the Way We Teach?—highlighted the revolutionized way in which educators teach and students learn. The demonstration showed how video can simply be used by learners to communicate with their educators.

Video conferencing, which was one of the technologies showcased at the second Virtual Educa Caribbean Symposium 2014 (an initiative aimed at transforming education and developing methods of encouraging ICT innovation) is being used in today’s classrooms to bridge the gap between students and educators. It provides an opportunity for the education system to equip teachers with the necessary skills to infuse ICT into the curriculum and enable students to achieve their educational goals.

Polycom, a global provider of voice communication solutions via high definition quality video and a key speaker at the Virtual Educa this year highlighted video conferencing as a way for students to be able to interact with their teachers anywhere at anytime. Polycom’s Global Director for Education, Marci Powell, who joined the discussion from the U.S., said that video conferencing, enables “students to use various devices and software to collaborate, work on projects, participate in problem-based learning, at a remote site or while travelling.”

Learners can also use the technology to communicate and engage in learning activities with other schools or classrooms via CAPspace, a social networking tool for educational videoconferencing. In recent time, the CAPspace video conference portal has brought together participants from Trinidad, Tobago and Canada to highlight a software application called Pete the Pan Stick, which is an interactive educational software package that teaches people how to play the steelpan, explains the newsday.co.tt post. Through lessons via video conferencing, students learned the history of the pan and listed to music from popular arrangers too.

Lecturers at the Manhattan School of Music (MSM) have, already for some time, used a distance learning program that is connecting musicians across continents; the program spans from primary and secondary to post graduate level and across many international partnerships. MSM says that its interactive videoconference technology enhances MSM students' curriculum in music education and is a great medium where musical training and performance remain relevant in the 21th century, and thereafter.




Edited by Maurice Nagle

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