International Videoconferencing: A Reaction to Burke et Al

Article excerpt

In this issue of the American Journal of Health Education, Burke et al. (1) provide a case review of an international videoconference between a U.S. and a German university. As a person who has been involved in many videoconferencing situations, as well as more than 10 travel/study courses to Germany (through cooperation with Dr. Robert J. McDermott, University of South Florida; Dr. Sandra Vamos, Simon Fraser University, British Columbia, Canada; Dr. Klaus Klein, University of Cologne, Cologne, Germany; Dr. Robert M. Weiler, University of Florida, and others, I have discovered and embraced the benefits of linking concepts of public health education between two or more remote sites. In this reaction brief, I will try to provide further insight about the benefits of distance learning and videoconferencing.

The authors highlighted the benefits and opportunities of international videoconferencing as well as the relevant limitations. Videoconferencing is an interactive tool that incorporates audio, video, computing, and communications technologies to allow people in different locations to collaborate face-to-face, in real time, and share all types of information including data, documents, sound and picture. In essence, videoconferencing removes the barrier of distance that separates us. A videoconference allows one to take part in live video/audio presentations and discussions, etc. between two or more settings in nearby or remote places around the world. I have taught videoconferencing classes at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale to different locations and gotten to know both the benefits and challenges.

Live videoconferences have lots of advantages over other multimedia resources, such as video recordings or television presentations, but the main benefit is that they are interactive, allowing participants to talk face-to-face with someone else in "real time," but in a different location. (2) This situation is great for gaining high levels of engagement from students without the expense and inconvenience of travel.

The benefits of videoconferencing are numerous. Videoconferencing saves travel time and money. It urges participants to reach decisions that may not come as easily in a face-to-face meeting. And it gives participants the chance to see others' body language, facial expressions and other nonverbal cues which are important factors in such activities as sales or board meetings. Videoconference meetings are most successful when the participants have met before, and when they meet on a regular basis. It also can be used to deploy employee training in a lecture format that is both creative and interactive for greater learning and retention. Also, because attendees must see the speaker, they will stay focused on the speaker's presentation.

Telecommuters benefit from videoconferencing because they are able to live where they want and still get their job done through computer and videoconferencing. When videoconferencing is used in the classroom, remote students are able to interact with each other and the instructor, or with guest speakers, and the conferencing technology can transport the students to virtual field trips and connect them with other videoconferencing participants at other locations. Videoconferencing is accepting of students' various learning styles and conferencing presentations hold students' interest through video clips, graphics and animations of hard-to-access locations like nuclear power plants, laboratories or volcanic islands. For greater interaction, electronic whiteboards can be used while host PCs share documents and scan photos.

Videoconferencing plays the role of helping participants communicate fully with remote participants and it gives access to participants who are limited by their physical location. This technology connects groups with their ideas, and it is beneficial for a company's bottom line, or a university's education goals. (3)

Videoconferencing is an exciting technology for education. …