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Computer Mediated Conferencing Facilities at Warwick

 Forums for creating discussion boards

One of the major components of the e-lab's web architecture is the provision of a centrally supported system to deliver discussion tools on the web. Various systems such as webBBS, WebBoard and Ultimate Bulletin Board have been used at Warwick at various times, and new tools such as TELRI have been prototyped, but each of these systems has its own strengths and weaknesses; in particular, integrating them with other central services such as the directory and student records has often proved problematic. The development of a system which incorporates the best features of each of these systems and is designed specifically to fit in with other central Warwick systems should enhance use of the web for communication and collaboration.

The first step was to identify the requirements for asynchronous discussion groups; in due course, synchronous on-line chat and multimedia communication tools will also be included. The immediate aim is to build a discussion group system ("Warwick Forums") which can be used both stand-alone and as a component of future e-learning developments.

The production version of Warwick Forums is now live. You can request that new forums be created by using the links within the forum system. Planned features can also be found on the site, along with the original specification document.

 Videoconferencing

IP room-based facilities
Videoconferencing equipment that can plug into IP ports. Advantages: high quality, flexible, easy to operate. Disadvantages: expensive; does not have a dedicated line, so will have to share bandwidth with other users of the network. Available to hire from Audio Visual Services.

ISDN facilities
Integrated Services Digital Network. Advantages: High quality; dedicated lines. Disadvantages: High cost to install and use; BT responsible for maintenance so unless regularly used tend to be poorly maintained and therefore unreliable; location of ISDN connection tend to be into meeting rooms, not classrooms.

The videoconferencing equipment is normally housed in the University’s Television Studio, which is a purpose built acoustically insulated room. The TV studio has a waiting room where participants can prepare for the videoconferencing. The actual studio will seat up to four people comfortably and still has room for specialist equipment. However the equipment can be used in any suitable location that is provided with an ISDN link.

Establishing a link is in principle the same as making a normal telephone call, users dial-up the location they wish to be connected to. Once the link is established they can see and hear each other either on a TV monitor or a large screen depending on what presentation equipment is available. The call is made via ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network) lines which are different from the normal telephone line.

IP desktop-to-desktop facilities
A computer with a camera attached. These can be used either for 1 - 3 students (sitting around the computer) or larger groups (by projecting the monitor image via a data projector). Advantages: easy to use; flexible; no cost; can use other applications with the image; does not require high bandwidth. Disadvantages: low quality.

 Guidelines for running videoconferencing sessions at Warwick

IT Services offer a range of different ways you can take part in a conference through University technology, all free of charge:

Desktop video conferencing can be set up for small groups of students.

Larger groups of students can use classroom based video conferencing by setting up one or more laptops with Internet-based software (NetMeeting, iVisit).

ANNIE Guidelines

The ANNIE Project has produced a range of useful materials to illustrate and guide the various pedagogical and technological approaches to using computer mediated communication in teaching and learning, including extensive guidance for the use of videoconferencing in classroom and distance based teaching.

ANNIE is led by the University of Warwick (School of Theatre Studies and Centre for Academic Practice) and funded through HEFCE’s Fund for the Development of Teaching and Learning (FDTL) programme.