Video conferencing technology has a strong foothold in the business world, but it is still relatively new in the world of education. Just five years ago, video conferencing and tele-education in schools was rare, but it is now safe to say that the technology has successfully passed its testing phase in the educational market. As of 2009, it was estimated that nearly 30,000 video conferencing systems were in use in U.S. schools. However, the number of systems in use varies dramatically by state. States and school districts that have yet to adopt the technology either refuse to study the issue or fail to see how the benefits are outweighed by the cost.
Video Conferencing for Tele-Education
The primary benefit of video conferencing in schools is the same as the primary benefit of using the technology for business: it allows participants to interact with people and places without having to travel. In education, video conferencing has the additional benefit of opening up a variety of learning and tele-education possibilities. Tele-education comes in several forms, and a single video conferencing system can be used for all of them. A few examples of how tele-education can be used are as follows:
• Students can attend classes not available at their schools.
• Students who are unable to attend traditional classes may attend virtual classes.
• Remote teachers can collaborate with local teachers on special projects.
• Students can meet with remote tutors for private sessions.
Although tele-education is an important benefit of video conferencing in schools, other uses of the technology are also possible. Following are some of the creative ways schools have found for the use of video conferencing:
Virtual Field Trips
Field trips can eat away at a school district’s budget very quickly. Through video conferencing technology, educational or exotic locations can be brought directly into the classroom at very little expense. Many museums, wildlife sanctuaries and other educational organizations are already equipped with video conferencing tools, so it becomes merely a matter of scheduling a date and time for a live, interactive presentation.
Video conferencing offers a unique opportunity for schools to collaborate with one another both inside and outside the district. Multi-school collaborations are not limited by distance, so they can even be carried out internationally. This use of video conferencing technology opens students to new cultures and new ideas that are not represented or explored in their own school. It can also allow schools to take part in competitive programs or contests, such as debates, spelling bees and academic quizzes.
A final way video conferencing can be used in schools is to offer students special services. Vocational information can be provided by specialists to help students choose a direction for their life after school. Communication may also take place with college advisors for admissions counseling. In addition, library and research skills may be examined, or help may be obtained from distant libraries.
Video conferencing is a technology that has made a great impact on the business world, and it is set to make an equal impact in the world of education. By making the world just a little smaller, students are exposed to new opportunities and educational possibilities.