Tuesday, September 24, 2013

There's video-conferencing...and then there's video-conferencing...

Before I started working at Plan Ceibal, when anyone mentioned video-conferencing, I'd think of Skype. There was that other way of doing it, but I assumed that was for corporate meetings in big businesses.

I did wonder before I started working here why they were installing expensive video conference systems and high speed fibre-optic cables in schools all over Uruguay and insisting on it being installed in Argentina, Mexico, Colombia and the Philippines (where the remote teachers are based). Why didn't they just use Skype or another similar system? I asked myself.

Now, after helping with installation and testing of equipment, observing classes and working here for over three months, it is clear that part of the success of this project is because high definition video-conference equipment is used and not the low quality, low-cost solutions that are fine for most people's domestic use (and sometimes business) use. Having to depend on Skype myself to contact friends and family and to talk to colleagues from Montevideo has also underlined this too.

First of all, for the project to work, it requires the use of equipment that is durable and reliable and an internet connection that is fast and reliable too. That's not to say there are no technical problems - there are, but these are far fewer than there would be if a lower quality less reliable system was used.

Then there's the quality of the image. When I first walked into a classroom with a remote teacher (RT) on the screen, it was almost like she was in the room too. The sharpness of the image means makes it more real for the kids. It also means the RT can see details and even identify the children, which would be impossible using Skype. The lesson plans also require desktop sharing of images, audio and video, which would be problematic, but which works like a dream with the VC system.

It's not just the fibre-optic lines either. For a period of time, while waiting for delivery of VC equipment in the Philippines, the organisation there used a temporary solution (MOVI) and although they were able to cope, there were more technical problems that needed to be dealt with. When the VC equipment was finally set up, the teachers and kids almost jumped for joy at the visible difference in quality.

2 comments:

  1. Great post Graham Stanley,Video conferencing software solutions that result in a high-performance workplace with easy access to information and faster decision-making.

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  2. Video Conferencing helps people to collaborate with each other instantly, share ideas and documents, conducting meetings, giving online presentations etc. which saves both, time and money. There are various video conferencing tools like RHUB, WebEx, GoMeetNow, gotomeeting etc. to select from.

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