Interactive Videoconferencing

Interactive videoconferencing (IVC) is a live, two-way, interactive electronic means of communication. Two or more people in different geographic locations can engage in face-to-face audio and visual exchanges using cameras, monitors, and document software.

IVC in its truest sense requires high quality videoconferencing units, such as LifeSize, Tandberg, or Polycom.  Another essential element to successful connections is bandwidth, which is the size of the connection between two locations.  As a result of the Act 183 Grant, Bucks County Schools are now connected to a high speed network and Internet 2, which dramatically helped our ability to utilize high-bandwidth applications like videoconferencing.  Advances in technology over the past few years offer other alternatives to traditional videoconferencing.  Programs like iChat, Google Chat, and  Skype now support videoconferencing between sites that may not have access to high speed networks of expensive videoconferencing equipment.

Neshaminy's schools currently house video conferencing equipment in all of its buildings; high school through elementary. All buildings currently house Polycom units and a recent grant through the Bucks County IU has provided Neshaminy with one Lifesize unit this year and another lifesize unit next year. The grant has also provide seed money for content providers.

LifeSize Equipment Resources (BCIU)  lifesize

Polycom Equipment Resources

Teachers and administrators can use interactive videoconferencing for:
  • Enhancing Instruction (think virtual field trips)
  • Collaboration (either student or professional on the district, national, and international levels)
  • Professional Development
  • Reaching the Community
Getting Organized

Planning an IVC is very similar to planning a field trip or arranging a guest speaker.  It takes long term planning (3-12 weeks, if not longer), coordination of several different schedules, funding approval, equipment and technical testing as well as curricular development and preparation.  Visit the Digital Bridges website for a great explanation of roles and responsibilities.

Click here for additional Getting Started Resoures via BCIU

Finding Content Providers

Finding a quality content provider can be very difficult, simply because there is not a database where everyone is listed.  Content providers also vary on two important levels: price and interactivity.

There are many content providers who advertise free programs while there are other who charge upwards of $400 for a program.  While the

old adage of "you get what you pay for" resonates, there is no way to know the quality unless you read testimonials, recommendations, or other sources of information.  Also, be aware that negotiation is not out of the question.  Many content providers are willing to negotiate price especially individual experts.  It doesn't hurt to ask!

The second situation t
o be aware of is interactivity.  Many content providers will advertise several levels of a videoconferencing: View only, on demand, interactive, group presentations.  Make sure that you understand what will be happening during the videoconferencing in regard to the interactivity for your participants.  It could be very disappointing if your students are simply watching a screen for an hour without interacting.

View BCIU Content Provider Webpage

Benefits to Interactive Video Conferencing:

There are many tangible benefits to e-learning:
  • Offers choices to students when budgets force schools to limit course offerings.
  • Allows for differentiation and individualization of the student's instructional pace.
  • Solves the contradiction of need to be educated but unable to be physically present for homebound students.
  • Enhances technology literacy skills for both educators and students.
  • Encourages student to student and teacher to student interaction; has the potential to increase parent/school communication.
  • Effectively matches certain types of learners to their ideal instructional mode (e.g. asynchronous, mulit-modal, self-paced) due to a flexible delivery system.
  • Allows for personalizing student's instructional plans.
  • Creates a strong relationship between K-12 schools and higher eduction through collaborative cyber initiatives to meet students needs.
  • Benefits at-risk students who may have difficulty within the traditional school setting through the flexibility of being able to take courses outside the classroom.