Challenges of Video-Conferencing Teaching and Effective Teaching Methods
Higher educational institutions are increasingly called upon to make cost-cutting decisions in the types of courses offered, the maximum number of students allowed per section and course delivery modes. Lever (1992) says that this "doing more with less" is one of the core challenges facing community colleges and universities. All of us involved in teaching have seen the maximum number of students per class increased. We have been forced to change our teaching approaches and to modify the length and type of course assignments in order to not only accommodates the growing numbers of students in our classes but to save our sanity. Students and instructors involved in courses that are taught in remote areas, which are hosted by universities located several hundred miles away, have also felt this tightening of the resource belt. For example, administrators, who had supported pedagogically and economically that an instructor's physical presence in a classroom contributed to the success of the students and the program, are now informing their academic staff members that teaching by video conferencing is a viable alternative. Some are even proposing that technology based classrooms can produce higher results than the conventional classroom. Such views are supported by The Academic Technology Center at Cornell University, which suggests "distance teaching and learning can be equal to or better than in-person teaching in a traditional classroom" (2001, p. 1).
I do not have the expertise nor the experience to argue whether teaching to groups at remote locations can be equal or better than on-site teaching. However, I do believe that whatever mode of teaching we do use, as Taylor (1988) reminds us, "there is no substitute for the interaction between a good lecturer and the audience" (p. 167). In this paper, I discuss effective instructional methods while employing video-conferencing as a course delivery mode. My first data source is from a review and analysis that I conducted on a rural-based teacher education program, which was based in a rural community, from its inception in 1990 until 2001. Responsibility for the overall planning and supervision of the program rested with the host university's education faculty, which was located several hundreds of miles away from the rural campus. Course delivery was by local lecturers and by instructors from the host university who flew to the area for some classes and conducted others by video conferencing. The second data source is from a search of the literature on video-conferencing as a course delivery mode.