In one window on
the computer screen was a video transmission from a journalism class
at the Modern Sciences and Art University in Cairo, Egypt, led by
Professor Ahmed El Gody. In another, smaller window were images
of students from a freshman seminar, “News Media and International
Crisis,” led by Professor Shelia Tefft, director of Emory
College’s journalism program.
The students, 14 in Cairo and 15 at Emory, listened to questions
and responded both verbally and by typing their comments into a
Richard Lorenc, a first-year Emory student studying political science
and Chinese, asked about Jihad: “Two prevalent definitions
are ‘armed struggle’ or ‘holy war,’”
Lorenc said. “What would you say your definition is...?”
“There is no such thing as ‘holy war,’”
answered Arwa Sallam, an 18-year-old advertising and public relations
major born in Saudi Arabia. “Basically what we are trying
to do is defend...” She looked at the other students as they
talked among themselves about what she should say, smiled, and began
again. “We are basically against bloodshed, and we are trying
to defend our image. Jihad basically means that we are protecting
ourselves against those who oppress us. We are completely against
violence and war.”
The videoconference, which took place Nov. 12 at Emory’s Center
for Interactive Teaching (ECIT), was set up using Microsoft NetMeeting
and Messenger, and it is an example of the kind of technology available
for University courses.
All videoconferencing is dependent on having equivalent technology
at each transmission site, so it’s necessary for scholars
and researchers to have access to a wide range of videoconferencing
technologies. For the highest quality video broadcasts for both
educational and research needs, ECIT offers three types of live
audio/video broadcasting systems: a CUSeeMe person-to-person conferencing
system and a Sun Microsystems ShowMe TV multimedia player (both
Internet-based), and PictureTel’s Swift Site, which transmits
via ISDN phone lines.
Using the ISDN-based system involves minimal costs; there are no
added costs when connecting via one of the Internet-based systems.
However, these systems depend on the availability of a robust and
Emory has access to Internet2 (I2) technology, which greatly increases
broadcast quality, speed and reliability on the Internet. Today
Emory’s network automatically relays transmissions via I2
whenever delivery is to an I2 site, such as those at more than 200
U.S. universities, 40 international organizations and networks,
and government and corporate I2 partners.
Included in Microsoft Windows 2000, NetMeeting also can be downloaded
from Microsoft at no cost. It provides desktop-based videoconferencing,
file transfer, chat and application sharing over the Internet, and
these options are dependent on users having only a PC with a camera
(which usually cost less than $100), microphone and an Internet
connection with IP number for each site.
At the lower end of the broadcast-quality spectrum, NetMeeting is
best suited to individual videoconferencing but does present an
option for videoconferencing with sites with limited technical resources.
Tefft recommended having technical support when using this technology.
“When communicating with people who have different views or
beliefs than my own, I feel a sense of challenge,” Lorenc
said after the conference. “There is the challenge of communicating
your ideas across to the other person or group clearly, but there
also is the challenge of understanding and absorbing their argument
“I don’t think there was any student who did not come
away with some strong feelings, probably covering the whole gamut
of reactions,” Tefft said. “Whether we like it or not,
we are part of the world—Sept. 11 made sure of that. Backing
out and saying that we are not going to communicate with people
is not an option, really.
“That’s why I said to [the students] that being angry
and reacting to what was said is the first stage of communication,”
she continued. “Then you have to move on to other stages and
try to communicate at a more sophisticated level—get past
that initial gut reaction. I think all of them now are contemplating
what those other stages of communication would be. That’s
what I’m trying to get them to do.
“It was a great teaching moment for me,” she said.
For more information on videoconferencing options, call ECIT's Wayne