This guidebook was written to help teachers and others who are
delivering or are planning to deliver courses through videoconferencing.
It is intended to be a practical guide and the information and tips
in it are gathered from the authors' eight years of videoconference
education experience. It should be remembered while reading this
guide that each situation is different and that the comments, observations,
and recommendations in it are the result of those experiences, which
will have some similarities to your experience, but will not be
exactly the same.
To be successful in providing videoconference education, you will
need to have the following qualities: be passionate and enthusiastic
about educating your students; believe in the possibilities of videoconferencing
while being aware of its limitations; be flexible; and be prepared
to push the envelope, which always means putting in lots of time
and thought. Preparation for a videoconference class takes anywhere
from three to 10 times as much time as for a traditional class.
Please use this guide in the spirit in which it is offered--a sharing
of our experiences and lessons learned.
We have used videoconferencing for eight years while working for
the North Slope Borough School District (NSBSD), which is located
on the Arctic coastal plain of Alaska and is approximately 88,000
square miles in size (just slightly smaller than the state of Oregon).
NSBSD contains eight villages (200 to 4,500 population). Secondary
schools range in size from 10 to 250 students. Because of the small
number of staff at each school, secondary teachers become generalists
who teach many subjects outside their area of certification.
Because of these factors the district needed to improve the equity
of course offerings for the smaller schools, increase the ability
of students and staff to interact with people outside of their villages
in order to increase collaboration and support, to promote a greater
feeling of district cohesiveness, and to provide more high-quality
staff development opportunities for all district staff.
The greatest challenge for the staff and the school district was
not keeping the network going and upgraded, but rather in learning
what the new opportunities were and how to use them to improve the
education of their students. As with any new "tool," a lot of experimental
play, question asking, getting technical instruction, and reading
guides took place while learning how the system worked. There was
also lots of trial and error and lots of impatience, both by people
who did not believe in the system and by those who did. Through
it all we learned much about what didn't work for us as well as
the processes involved in developing successful education programs
Although this guide shares what we learned about videoconferencing
in this district's technology program, it was not written to be
a blueprint for your program. Rather it is meant to help you develop
a program appropriate to your needs.
We hope you will find this guidebook useful and that it helps you
deliver passionate, enthusiastic, and quality interactive education
to your students.
Susan Mason and Mike Davis