August 4, 1997
Volume 49, No. 36
In 1945, Authur C. Clarke proposed the concept of stationary satellites circling the earth, providing global communications. More than fifty years later, cable television and direct broadcast satellite programming bear out his theory and vision. In recent years, increasingly sophisticated land-based networks have joined satellite technology, expanding the growth of conferencing systems for personal and group use.
At Emory, electronic conferencing is used to communicate with colleagues around the world, to teach classes and to consult with others on university issues. Last semester, a graduate history course was taught at Emory over the Internet with a class at the University of Augsburg in Germany. This fall an undergraduate language class will use videoconferencing systems that link the Oxford and Emory campuses.
There are different types of conferencing systems available at Emory for teaching, research and collaboration-satellite conferencing through the cable TV system, and two-way audio and video conferencing through telecommunications and the Internet. Each type of conferencing provides different standards of quality and their costs vary.
Through Emory's cable television system and a campus satellite antenna, single event satellite broadcasts can be viewed throughout campus. These conferences provide high resolution, one-way video from an originating national site. During the past year, over 30 medical continuing education and technology training conferences have been broadcast to campus auditoriums and conference rooms. Satellite conferencing is cost-effective and reduces travel-related expenses. It also provides opportunities to see and learn from nationally known speakers and instructors.
Two-way audio and video telecommunication conferencing transmits over dedicated phone lines. Through large screen monitors and remote controlled cameras at two locations, videoconferencing is ideal for point-to-point collaboration and learning. However, the transmission and viewing equipment necessary for this type of conferencing limits it to such facilities as the Telecommunications Videoconferencing Room and the Oxford College Library. Videoconferencing provides medium to high quality video depending on the selected transmission rate. The higher the transmission rate the higher the cost per minute. But these costs are moderate and provide excellent two-way audio and video for small group use.
Using the Internet
The rapid growth of Internet-based conferencing systems has made campus and international communications via the web a reality. Faculty can consult with students and colleagues worldwide through their computer screens. Internet conferencing uses simple software such as CU-SeeMe and a personal computer camera. Once installed on a computer, connections between individuals or groups with two-way audio and video is possible. One primary limitation to relatively inexpensive internet conferencing is the less than VHS-quality audio and video.
Other means of Internet conferencing are LearnLink and IRC (Internet Relay Chat). LearnLink, an Emory-based computing service, allows virtual collaboration through shared discussion areas accessible via the web. For example, in English and Spanish classes faculty and students have a forum for discussion of topical subjects. LearnLink also provides access to Internet NewsGroups, Listservs, and e-mail. IRC is another way of communicating with people worldwide over the web. Both systems provide lively interactive exchange of ideas for groups with common interests.
Campus Conferencing Contacts
Related Web Links:
Scott Sawyer is an education analyst in the Information Technologies
Return to August 4, 1997 Contents Page