The convergence of once disparate voice, video, and data telecommunication technologies and the increasing adoption and cost effective availability of high bandwidth network services among educational institutions, businesses, and home users has rapidly altered the landscape of technology-mediated communications (TMC) in instructional settings. In combination with the use of distance learning technologies, such as Web-based chat and threaded discussion boards that facilitate both synchronous and asynchronous collaboration, many instructional environments are increasingly adopting a blended approach to instruction that includes video communications. One of the evolving and dynamic technology tools that schools and institutions are increasingly utilizing or planning for in learning environments is videoconferencing because of its ability to offer media rich interactive learning opportunities (NCES, 2001; USDOE, 2004). The extent to which the adoption of TMCs and the closely related subject of information communication technologies (ICT) has transformed education is an ongoing debate that continues to be the focus of a variety of academic and industry research studies. One subset of both TMC and ICT that continues to substantially alter classroom pedagogical practices and the perceived viability of distance education is two-way interactive video communications also known as interactive videoconferencing (IVC). The use of videoconferencing in education has rapidly grown over the past several decades. As technology rich learning spaces continue to be constructed, videoconferencing has the ability to substantially alter both face-to-face and online learning. Through numerous authentic learning opportunities, social interactions, virtual field trips and experiences, global communications, and increased personalized contact, videoconferencing facilitates diverse instructional strategies in support of multiple learning styles and cognitive development. To fully and effectively utilize this tool, it is essential that educators are continuously trained on and informed of the evolving teaching and learning methods, styles, and strategies enabled through the dynamic advances in videoconferencing and related instructional technologies. With these changing pedagogical practices and the increasing use of blended learning, new ways of measuring interaction and evaluating instruction need to be developed and teachers will need to be trained on its use and best practices. This and the institutional sustainability of these endeavors are critical aspects of this author’s ongoing research as well as that of several others (Caspi & Gorsky, 2005; Cox & Webb, 2004; Kozma, 2003; Lim, Pek, & Chai, 2005; Lou, Bernard & Abrami, 2006).
Key Terms in this Chapter
Internet2: A second-generation network comprised of more than 200 universities working with industry, government, and schools operating at speeds up to 100Gbps, this system provides for advanced network applications and technologies.
Broadband: Telecommunications circuit that typically uses wireless, coaxial, or fiberoptic links to transmit digital voice, video, and data at speeds greater than 1.544 Mbps.
Interactive Video Conferencing (IVC): A form of synchronous two-way video and audio communications in which participants in two (point-to-point) or more (multipoint) physical settings interactively collaborate with each other and instructional content.
Information Communication Technology (ICT): A concept originating out of the United Kingdom, ICT is generally viewed as the study and practice of using technologies in communicating, accessing, and interpreting information.
Internet: Started in 1969 as ARPAnet by the U.S. Department of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, this is now a globally connected publicly accessible network of networks used in standard internet protocol based data communications such as Web access and electronic mail.
Technology-Mediated Communications (TMC): Communications that are controlled and facilitated by technology tools and applications. Examples include, telephone conversations, Internet based text chats and discussions, videoconferencing, and other mediated communications including computer-mediated communication (CMC).
Instructional Systems Design (ISD): Systematic process-based views and models used in developing instructional content, learning strategies, objectives, and media. These processes are founded in learning theory and typically include learner analysis, evaluation, and assessment relevant to both the learner and instructor.