Video conferencing has made a serious impact on numerous industries, facilitating better communication and fostering idea-sharing. But what about higher education?
Our universities are rich environments of discussion and communication, which makes them the ideal space for video conferencing software and platforms. Read on to learn more about how universities are putting video conferencing to work.
Many of us have stories regarding showing up to a lecture or seminar at one campus, only to discover that the materials we needed were somewhere else on a different campus. Perhaps yet more of us have stories of having one or two lectures in locations outside of our base campus, giving us a seriously unwelcome commute.
We might even dress these stories up as being part of 'the good old days', when students just got on with stuff and took things in their stride, but is this fair? It is likely that, at the time, those 'old days' didn't feel quite so 'good' at all.
So, what is different today? Well, video conferencing for a start. This concept in the landscape of digital communication is not a particularly new one, but it is only recently that it became viable for use in an academic setting. With crystal clear, HD feeds, synced audio and visual, and intuitive controls, video conferencing has become almost as straightforward as face to face communication, rendering it perfect for the transmission of resources and a far more efficient experience for students, instructors, and administrators, alike.
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It is important for a university to connect with students from as wide an area as possible, just as it is important for such institutions to reach inductees from all walks of life. This leads to inclusivity, regardless of race, religion, class, gender, bodily ability, or any other mode by which people have been discriminated against in the past.
Important for our universities, certainly, but for our society? For our society this is priceless. Universities are traditionally centred on campuses in leafy suburbs of major cities, instantly placing them in the 'upper middle class' income bracket, at least in terms of real estate. There is nothing inherently wrong with this - such areas are often well served by nearby cities, and give universities the opportunity to attract the best talent and to run the best programs - but it does represent a risk.
If universities are unable to support access for students in rural areas, inner city areas, or students from other demographics, they are immediately reinforcing discriminatory boundaries. With video conferencing, our academic institutions make sure that this is not the case, supporting the ongoing educational needs of all Australians, wherever they are.
We tend to look back on our university days fondly. The freedom from economic or other responsibility, those first few steps out on our own two feet, the ability to explore lifestyles and interests hitherto unknown to us - all of this combines to create a situation which is very special indeed.
But, as with most forms of nostalgia, our recollections of college life tend to be a little inaccurate. We forget about the pressure of deadlines and expectations. We forget about the dread of wondering what are we going to eat for the next six and a half weeks until the loan comes in. We forget about the anxiety and insecurity that many of us feel during our university experience. There are great times, certainly, but we can't assume that every student is having a wonderful, carefree time, all the time.
A study from 2010 - since backed up by more recent research - found that as many as 84% of students have suffered from some form of psychological distress at some point in their academic careers. Findings from a survey carried out by the mindfulness app Headspace and the National Union of Students were even more distressing. They highlighted how as many as one-third of students had contemplated self-harm or suicide.
These are shocking figures, and those which prove that psychological support and counselling services are not just useful facilities to provide at a university, but are downright necessities if we are to protect our next generation. Video conferencing provides an additional level of this protection, offering another channel via which students can connect with the support they need. For many students, this will make life a great deal easier and more positive; for a few, it might just save their lives.
Universities are about the dissemination of knowledge and understanding at as high a level as possible. This means, meetings with thesis tutors, guest lectures from figures at the forefront of their field, connection with visual resources, discussions, and other interactions designed to enhance and augment knowledge.
Unfortunately, lecture theatres are of a restricted size, there are only so many hours in the day for tutors to meet with students, discussions might be hampered by one or more parties being out of town at any given time - these are the limitations of the old-fashioned, 'physical way' of doing things.
Digital tools, such as video conferencing platforms, do away with these limitations and restrictions, instead offering instant, high quality connection, even across long distances.
It is this high quality of connection that brings us to our final point. When students work together on projects, often a simple phone call is not enough. Students need to be able to engage with the visual elements of the project and to explore this in a meaningful and profound way. This renders rudimentary video conferencing solutions useless, as the call quality is just not good enough.
But modern digital technology has evolved far beyond this. Today's video conferencing service providers offer HD quality, with audio to match, and a suite of other features designed to make life easier for collaborating students. This includes the ability to tag notes to different parts of the video in real time, as well as to save collaborative digital meetings for future reference.
Video conferencing is changing the way we are approaching higher education in Australia. Get in touch with the Express Virtual Meetings team today to find out more about this unique concept, and about how it can benefit you.
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