Tatiana Prokhorova: Contemporary problems of using videoconferences in the educational process

A unique opportunity of personal contact with foreign scientists, teachers and specialists can be obtained during foreign internships.

Within the framework of the project “IESED” (Innovative ICT education for social-economic development) (ERASMUS + programme) meetings and sessions with the heads of the University of Economy in the Polish city of Bydgoszcz, the heads of IT companies and teachers of Poland and the Czech Republic, actively using innovative technology in their teaching practices, were organized. Total immersion in the subject and the language environment, thematic excursions, study of corporate culture and working methods, internships certainly give a lot. But, like everything that is really valuable, foreign internships happen in our lives quite rarely. Accordingly, the question of other ways of communication, that can be used not only for personal development, but also for the educational process, is relevant. Especially because, the practice of using webinars and forums is well developed at SBMT.
Videoconferencing is rapidly gaining popularity in education. By the way, videoconferences not only help save money on business trips but also are a modern high-tech communication tool designed to improve the efficiency of business, optimize business processes, accelerate decision-making.
Videoconferencing is a telecommunication technology of interactive communication of two or more remote users, which allows them to exchange audio and video information in real time, taking into account the transmission of control data. Undoubtedly, videoconferencing puts serious demands on servers, terminals of videoconferences, communication channels. But the practice of videoconferencing expands through cheaper hardware and use of SAAS applications. For interactive communication, services such as VideoMost, Skype for Business, Cisco WebEx, Polycom, TrueConf, GoToMeeting, Google Hangouts,, etc. are used in the world.
During the internship, the big interest was caused by the speech of the head of the Automation Department of the Mining and Geological Faculty of Technical University of Ostrava (Czech Republic), an engineer with solid experience in managing IT projects, Roman Daniel. He presented a report on the topic “Using of Skype/ Google Hangout for the conduct of employments for students comparing of equipment of Polycom to the decision of Skype”. At the Polish university Dr. Daniel has been working since 2012: lecturing at various universities in the Czech Republic, as well as in Poland, became possible thanks to innovative information and communication technologies (ICT).
The videoconferencing system is designed to send and receive audio from all the locations in the room. In contrast to a webinar, a teacher can fully control the audience and the video image on the screen.
Videoconferences are held in specially equipped lecture room.
Video collaboration increases the efficiency of collaboration, creates additional opportunities for the implementation of international projects, allows to engage students in modern educational programs. In 2014, Technical University of Ostrava installed equipment that provides audio and video transmission - Polycom HDX 8000, 2 remote-controlled cameras EVI-D100, a matrix switch for video and audio signals, a data projector Epson 450WI, 4 Sony 55X4500 TVs, 2 lamps and an audio amplifier. As the equipment was added, the cost of maintenance increased significantly. In addition, the university staff faced the problem of compatibility of equipment from different manufacturers.
Since September 2016, the University of Economy in Bydgoszcz uses Skype with Google Hangout as a backup system. Despite the obvious advantages, Roman Daniel noted the following problems:
  • dependence on external service providers and the conditions of their work;
  • the presence of sound interference on the air and the complexity of echo cancellation.
However, more important for us turned out to be the following observations: students prefer live interaction with a teacher rather than modern web technologies. First of all, we are talking about the study of automated systems, robotics, electronics. For example, in 2015, graduate students addressed a written statement to exclude the use of videoconferencing systems from teaching of disciplines, included in the final state examinations.
Referring to the studies of Manfred Spitzer (M. Spitzer, “The Mind within the net: models of learning, thinking, and acting”, MIT Press: 1999, ISBN: 978-0262692366; M. Spitzer, “Cyberkrank!: Wie das digitalisierte Leben unsere Gesundheit ruiniert”, Droemer: München 2015, 978-3-426-27608-2) and his own experience in teaching IT disciplines, Roman Daniel suggested to think about the problem of reducing the quality of education while expanding the use of multimedia tools, and also concluded that education using a videoconferencing system is only suitable for certain disciplines.
Indeed, we have to agree with him that the use of videoconferences in the educational process is more in demand for students of social and humanitarian  field. Videoconferencing in IT field can be applied in the following cases:
  • if the installation of new systems, platforms in the classroom is not possible, but students should know the principles of work with them;
  • to conduct an analytical review of various software and hardware functionality;
  • to study IT business models with the help of leading specialists and CEO who, due to their professional busyness and (or) territorial remoteness, can’t come to an educational institution;
  • to get acquainted with the specifics of the life cycle of IT products, other academic questions from the field of IT management.
In general, the use of videoconferencing in educational institutions is not a tribute to fashion but a modern innovative technology that, when properly applied, can improve learning efficiency.