When we think of high-quality education, high-tech labs and classrooms immediately spring to mind. But what about video conferencing? Can it revolutionize education in a way a computer once did?
The answer is yes; however, it’s not without its caveats. In this article, we shall explore the pros and cons of using video conferencing in education.
Advantages of Video Conferencing
Video conferencing is full of exciting benefits, and we will try to cover the best of them.
Easier Access to Experts
True professionals often have their schedules full, and even reputable universities have a hard time getting some of their attention.
Video conferencing makes the whole ordeal so much easier. Experts no longer need to spend countless hours on travel, possibly missing out on other important deals. They can just tune in during their lunch break and deliver a lecture without leaving their comfortable workspace.
This is especially relevant for rare specialists that may be located halfway across the world. For example, Columbia and Cornell universities have been using video conferencing to teach the dying languages to their students – an endeavor that would require many more resources otherwise.
Distance No Longer a Problem
Not all universities have campus buildings in one place. Some have them dispersed all over the city, which makes cooperation between faculties and students so much harder.
However, this is not a problem when you’ve got the video conferencing tech all set up. This is what Western Sydney University did. Instead of forcing their staff to travel all the way across the city to solve some minute issue, they connect via video conferencing platforms and have it fixed in 5 minutes.
Students all over the world can get access to quality education regardless of their physical location. All equipment they need for video conferencing is a stable connection and some basic tech.
The key here is that the distance problem is fixed – and we can thank video conferencing for that.
More Flexibility for Everyone
As you can imagine, not every student is just that – a student. Some work full-time, some have families, some simply want to have a life outside college.
While you can definitely get evening shifts, send kids to the kindergarten, and fit your hobbies/social life into weekends, things don’t always go according to the plan. And this is where video conferencing can step in and save the day.
Instead of deciphering the incomprehensible handwriting of your friend, wouldn’t it be much nicer to watch the recording of a lecture? Instead of waiting for your professor’s office hours, wouldn’t it be much faster to write your question in a public college forum and get a reply from your peers?
Many universities in India do just that with platforms such as Impartus and the like. Video conferencing in education does not only cover the distance. It also allows people with different life circumstances to get their dream education without having to sacrifice everything else.
Cultural Awareness and Tech Savviness
When you live in a homogenous area, it’s hard to get a feel of other cultures unless you physically travel (which can be pretty expensive, especially for students).
Video conferencing makes it possible to connect with literally anyone on this planet. This can prepare students for life in a globalized world where you need to face people of various backgrounds on a daily basis.
You’ve probably heard of a fun video conferencing solution called Mystery Skype. With this program, two classrooms located in different states, countries, and even continents can play a game of geography.
As you can imagine, setting up a game like this in person would be a nightmare. Getting passports, buying tickets, taking a bunch of kids on an 8-hour flight – who would want to do that?
However, with video conferencing, it’s literally one webcam and a couple of mics away. Not only do kids get to interact with peers of different cultures, but they also naturally become more tech-savvy.
When they grow up, video conferencing will be something of ordinary to them, rather than a new and complicated thing they need to master.
Disadvantages of Video Conferencing
Despite the numerous advantages, video conferencing has a darker side. Here are some of the common negatives that come along with it:
Higher Chance of Stress
Some employers may abuse the availability of video conferencing by forcing teachers to work overtime at home. This may lead to stress and anxiety even among the best of us.
That is why boundaries need to be set. Yes, you can have a parent-teacher conference at eight at night. As an exception, not as a rule. And not as a daily exception.
Another issue that comes with that is content availability, which can make the students feel like they need to study at all times.
That is why online students and freelance employees still need to set certain hours for their work/study routine. Otherwise, their minds will never be able to leave work and relax truly.
Worsened Social Skills
More introverted people get hit the hardest with this problem. While in a physical classroom, they are forced to communicate with others and develop their social skills. It is much easier to hide in a virtual environment.
While this may not impede them from graduating, this issue can definitely become prominent during interviews and in the workplace.
Difficulty in Organization
Most kids and even students don’t like homework. However, for the majority, coming home, getting food and sitting down at the table to do it has almost become a ritual.
When that ritual is removed, students may find it hard to push themselves. That is why it is preferable to be present at a video conference as it airs and gets to homework right afterwards. Do not just hope to watch a recording sometime later. Often that time never comes.
As much as we love technology, it will never be as reliable as a good old pen and paper. In addition to the possible power outages and outright bugs, the video conferencing interface may confuse a lot of newbie users.
Those who type slow, have an incompatible device/operating system, or are simply bad at tech will definitely be at a disadvantage. These are things everyone needs to consider individually before choosing video conferencing as a primary tool for education.
There is no doubt that the adoption of video conferencing in education is an irreversible process. It’s simply too convenient for both teachers and students ever to say goodbye.
However, there are certain things every educational institution needs to do before they jump right in:
- Train everyone to use the video conferencing platform of your choice
- Set up occasional meetings outside the virtual room if possible
- Make sure the conference is properly moderated, and everyone has a chance to speak
- Do not call people outside their work hours – it’s rude and unprofessional for one
By following these basic rules, video conferencing can become that magical realm where non-traditional students don’t have to give up on their work and family, teachers are not forced to teleport between campus buildings, and the rarest and most distant experts can become regular guests in your classroom.