A teleconference or teleseminar is the live exchange and mass articulation of information among several persons and machines remote from one another but linked by a telecommunications system. Terms such as audio conferencing, telephone conferencing and phone conferencing are also sometimes used to refer to teleconferencing.
The telecommunications system may support the teleconference by providing one or more of the following: audio, video, and/or data services by one or more means, such as telephone, computer, telegraph, teletypewriter, radio, and television.
Internet teleconferencing includes internet telephone conferencing, videoconferencing, web conferencing, and augmented reality conferencing.
Internet telephony involves conducting a teleconference over the Internet or a Wide Area Network. One key technology in this area is Voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP). Popular software for personal use includes Skype, Google Talk, Windows Live Messenger and Yahoo! Messenger.
Why Use a Teleconference?
Video conferencing increases efficiency and results in a more profitable use of limited resources. It is a very personal medium for human issues where face-to-face communications are necessary. When you can see and hear the person you are talking to on a television monitor, they respond as though you were in the same room together. It is an effective alternative to travel which can easily add up to weeks of non-productive time each year. With videoconferencing, you never have to leave the office. Documents are available, and experts can be on hand. A crisis that might take on major proportions if you are out of town, can be handled because you’re on the job. Videoconferencing maximizes efficiency because it provides a way to meet with several groups in different locations, at the same time.
As the limited resource of funding has decreased, limited resources now include instructors, parking spaces and buildings. Students now include time as a limited resources. Teleconferencing enables institutions to share facilities and instructors which will increase our ability to serve students.
Electronic delivery is more efficient than physically moving people to a site, whether it is a faculty member or administrator.
- Save Time: Content presented by one or many sources is received in many places simultaneously and instantly. Travel is reduced resulting in more productive time. Communication is improved and meetings are more efficient. It adds a competitive edge that face-to-face meetings do not.
- Lower Costs: Costs (travel, meals, lodging) are reduced by keeping employees in the office, speeding up product development cycles, improving performance through frequent meetings with timely information.
- Accessible: Through any origination site in the world. Larger Audiences: More people can attend. The larger the audience, the lower the cost per person.
- Larger Audiences: More people can attend. The larger the audience, the lower cost per person.
- Adaptable: Useful for business, associations, hospitals, and institutions to discuss, inform, train, educate or present.
- Flexible: With a remote receive or transmit truck, a transmit or receive site can be located anywhere.
- Security: Signals can be encrypted (scrambled) when it is necessary. Encryption prevents outside viewers.
- Unity: Provides a shared sense of identity. People feel more a part of the group…more often. Individuals or groups at multiple locations can be linked frequently.
- Timely: For time-critical information, sites can be linked quickly. An audio or point-to-point teleconference can be convened in three minutes.
- Interactive: Dynamic; requires the user’s active participation. It enhances personal communication. When used well for learning, the interactivity will enhance the learning and the teaching experience.
Types of Satellite Conferencing
(i) Audio Teleconference
Voice-only; sometimes called conference calling. Interactively links people in remote locations via telephone lines. Audio bridges tie all lines together. Meetings can be conducted via audio conference. Preplanning is necessary which includes naming a chair, setting an agenda, and providing printed materials to participants ahead of time so that they can be reviewed.
Distance learning can be conducted by audio conference. In fact, it is one of the most underutilized, yet cost effective methods available to education. Instructors should receive training on how to best utilize audio conferences to augment other forms of distance learning.
(ii) Audiographics Teleconference
Uses narrowband telecommunications channels to transmit visual information such as graphics, alpha-numerics, documents, and video pictures as an adjunct to voice communication. Other terms are desk-top computer conferencing and enhanced audio. Devices include electronic tablets/boards, freeze-frame video terminals, integrated graphics systems (as part of personal computers), Fax, remote-access microfiche and slide projectors, optical graphic scanners, and voice/data terminals.
Audiographics can be used for meetings and distance learning.
(iii) Computer Teleconference
Uses telephone lines to connect two or more computers and modems. Anything that can be done on a computer can be sent over the lines. It can be synchronous or asynchronous. An example of an asychronous mode is electronic mail. Using electronic mail (E-Mail), memos, reports, updates, newsletters can be sent to anyone on the local area network (LAN) or wide area network (WAN). Items generated on computer which are normally printed and then sent by facsimile can be sent by E-Mail.
Computer conferencing is an emerging area for distance education. Some institutions offer credit programs completely by computer. Students receive texts and workbooks via mail. Through common files assigned to a class which each student can assess, teachers upload syllabi, lectures, grades and remarks. Students download these files, compose their assignment and remarks off-line, then upload them to the common files.
Students and instructors are usually required to log on for a prescribed number of days during the week. Interaction is a large component of the students’ grades.
Through computers, faculty, students and administrators have easy access to one another as well as access to database resources provided through libraries. The academic resources of libraries and special resources can be accessed such as OCLC, ERIC, and Internet.
Administrators can access student files, retrieve institutional information from central repositories such as district or system offices, government agencies, or communicate with one another. Other resources can be created such as updates on state or federal legislation.
(iv) Video Teleconference
Combines audio and video to provide voice communications and video images. Can be one-way video/two-way audio, or two-way video/two-way audio. It can display anything that can be captured by a TV camera. The advantage is the capability to display moving images. In two-way audio/video systems, a common application is to show people which creates a social presence that resembles face-to-face meetings and classes and enables participants to see the facial expressions and physical demeanor of participants at remote sites. Graphics are used to enhance understanding. There are three basic systems: freeze frame, compressed, and full-motion video.
Video conferencing is an effective way to use one teacher who teaches to a number of sites. It is very cost effective for classes which may have a small number of students enrolled at each site. In many cases, video conferencing enables the institution or a group of institutions to provide courses which would be canceled due to low enrollment or which could not be supported otherwise because of the cost of providing an instructor in an unusual subject area. Rural areas benefit particularly from classes provided through video conferencing when they work with a larger metropolitan institution that has full-time faculty.
Through teleconferencing, institutions are able to serve all students equitably.