Video conferencing is not a new technology. Rather the technology
has been available for the past 15 years. In the early stages
of its deployment the technology was used for meetings of
individuals located in diverse geographical points. Typical
examples of such meetings included intra company communications
for corporations with sites in various cities or countries.
The videoconferencing systems used were typically large and
required special setup of a room with related equipment, including
decoders and televisions.
The limitations of the technology were mostly relevant to insufficient
networking bandwidth, which resulted in loss of accuracy for
image and / or sound. The latter made the technology large
usable, with a large part of the communication being lost.
The result was that professionals would resort to more traditional
methods of communication, such as conference calls using regular
However, over the last 5 years networking bandwidth limitations
have to a large extent been eliminated due to optical and
broadband networks. This means that loss of quality on image
and sound transmission has been reduced to acceptable rates,
allowing communications to be carried out comfortably in business
settings where the content of the discussion is important
and possibly urgent and the facilitating communication technology,
i.e. videoconferencing, is seen as just that, i.e. a facilitator
of important communications.
Bandwidth limitations are expected to be further reduced over the next
5 years since most European countries already have broadband networks
or are in the process of installing them nation wide.
These advances in networking technology make a mature communications
medium, such as videoconferencing, more relevant than ever.
Organizations can now use videoconferencing to synchronously
communicate, thus making asynchronous communications, for
example web-based communication platforms including forums
and chat rooms a complementary solution rather than the only
available alternative as used to be the case.
Furthermore, new tools are now available for videoconferencing in smaller
scale. In particular, inexpensive desktop systems including
web cameras and microphones can be used by individuals to
connect to video conferences. This is a departure from the
familiar video conferencing room with heavy equipment and
allows video conferencing to even take place from home.
The above imply that the applications of videoconferencing increase as
well to include other areas, in addition to business meetings among corporations
who have the economic means to purchase expensive equipment and network
connections. Academic applications are a very good example of using video
conferencing in new settings for the benefit of end users.
In academic situations, video conferencing can be used in
distance teaching settings to in-crease the level of synchronous
communication between instructors and students by simu-lating
face to face discussions. However, the use of video conferencing
in such settings does not enjoy the expected level of market
penetration. The reason for that oxymoron lies in the fact
that most individuals are not familiar with the technology
and need to be trained on its capabilities and its use. Most
importantly, in the case of academic applications, instructors
need to be trained on pedagogical aspects of deploying such
technology in educational settings, for example how to engage
students located at a distance, how to make students feel
that he/she is talking directly to them by successfully using
the camera, how to overcome technological failures during
a teaching session, etc.