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Instructor courses : Guidelines for Visual Communication and Collaboration

The term "Visual Communication" covers several aspects within education. At the most advanced level we refer to two-way audio-visual communication in realtime (videoconferenses), perhaps with a third important resource, i.e. data sharing. At the other end of the scale, i.e. at the less complex part, we have ordinary classroom teaching with access to modern digital sources, such as Internet web sites, streaming videos etc., where different learning material is visualized on different screens or digital whiteboards.

Visual communication plays an important role in "Blended Learning", which is a kind of multi-platform "teaching arena" being used in for instance in so-called Activity Based Learning in the Mecca project. Blended learning may cover ordinary classroom teaching where students meet physically, collaborational laboratory work, e-learning services located in a Learning Management System (LMS), like Moodle which is used in this project, virtual classrooms, and, finally, courses and councelling delivered on videoconferences.

In the Mecca project we offer three different approaches for delivering train-the-trainer courses:

* Onsite training in small groups (6 - 12 persons)
* Realtime distance training (by use of videoconference)
* Self-paced online training (e-learning)

Learning by doing in onsite training yields the best quality and output, due to the high degree of interaction and hands-on practicing. Videoconferencing based training might be used as a cheaper and more flexible alternative, though it introduces certain limitations for offering hands-on practice training in an efficent way.

e-learning courses targeting videoconferencing may be valuable due to easy and flexible access. However, as most organisations and end-users don't have access to a variety of state-of-the-art equipment, this alternative should be supplied with access to relevant equipment to practise on.

To be able to give flexible training, we have developed five web-based courses covering the most relevant aspects on visual communication. The e-learning materials have been created in order to point out important topics and basic components of videoconferencing as an educational tool that help improve the pedagogical methodologies. However, it is impossible to replace hands-on practice with just e-learning. In order avoid this obstacle, a number of instructional videos have been produced to help visualizing the teaching process as well as technical challenges. The courses consist of text documents and a number of instruction videos. All materials are presented in English. It is recommended that the user has got access to a videoconferencing system and necessary peripherals, where all components are installed and set up properly. The videoconferencing equipment should be able to connect to an ISDN or IP network.

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