How is videoconferencing used in distance learning?

The first thing you need to do is define “Distance Learning.”  The definition can be different in a variety of circumstances.  For example in schools it could mean linking several classrooms together through video conferencing.  In this case one instructor is teaching three classes located in three different places simultaneously from one location in real time.  For a business it may be one-on-one training through a video conferencing mobile application on a computer or mobile device.  video (4)

In any event if you have a “Distance Learning” challenge you need to ask yourself the following five questions to determine the best solution and see if video conferencing is part of that solution.  First question – Are you teaching one-to-one or one-to-many?  Second question – Are participants in a classroom or are they in their office or home by themselves? Third question – If participants are by themselves, do you need to train all at one time or one-to-one?  Fourth question – What visual input are you using; computer, video, document camera? Fifth question – What is your budget, and is it replacing travel expenses including the trainer’s time?

Video conferencing can certainly be a solution for “Distance learning” no matter how you answer the above questions.  Also, keep in mind you can do this without purchasing any equipment other than web cams and microphones by using a hosted service.  Additionally you can combine using a hosted service with low cost video conferencing equipment in your classroom or conference room.  A dedicated video conferencing CODEC with pan tilt zoom camera can run as little at $2,500.00.   It’s very simple to connect these CODECS to a hosted service for interactive distance learning or to stream to thousands simultaneously. Most hosting services also offer recording for those participants who missed the training session.

Like all technology video conferencing is consistently changing.  The good news is that it’s changing for the better.  Systems and services are getting better and less costly.  Even though these changes are good older systems that connect on the International Telecommunication Union standards, (ITU), still work with today’s distance learning technologies.  One relatively new ITU standard is H.239, sends two video streams simultaneously to all participants.  This means participants see the instructor and the visual presentation material at the same time, just like in your classroom.  This standard accommodates the “Distance Learning” aspects of video conferencing.

If training is an issue in your company, chances are video conferencing can certainly address any “Distance Learning” challenges.