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Developing practice in video conferencing

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About the Invite Project

Leonardo da Vinci: Education and Culture



  • Getting started
  • Learning & teaching
  • Examples from class
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Quick guide November, 2008:

Extracts from the Invite Video Conferencing Quick Guide, sections 1 & 2

Types of VC

  • Meeting (business, project, planning, etc.)
  • Discussion
  • Lecture
  • Lesson
  • Seminar
  • Presentation
  • Demonstration
  • Any combination of the above
  • Other (e.g. dramatic performance, poetry recital, personal chat)

Do you use video conferencing? One of the important issues with video conferencing is to be aware that there are very few limits to the types of interaction that can take place. The limitations are mostly set by technology and by users themselves.

The Invite VC Village encourages creative use of video conferencing and we would like to hear how you use it in your own educational and training programmes, or any other communication events.


Equipment and communication

The person who chairs the VC is usually the one who takes responsibility for making the connections. Each location also has a Facilitator. One may also be the Chair.

Make sure you are familar with features of the console and that everything is switched on and working. The camera is usually situated close to the screen to make it easy to see local preview and remote participants.
The mic is very sensitive. You don't need to shout to be heard. Equally, whispering can also be heard. Speak normally and mute the mic for private conversations. Make sure you are familiar with features of the remote control. Practive using it in preview mode before you go live. The document camera is very useful for showing physical objects and printed papers. You can demonstrate small technical processes through it as well (how to make things, how to repair things).
Try to make eye contact with remote participants. Look at the camera when you speak rather than the preview screen. Avoid dominating the video discussion, unless you are lecturing of course. Practice zooming on speakers with the remote control. If you have a large group of participants, speakers tend to disappear into the background.


Adapted from the "Video Conferencing Quick Guide"

© Invite Team, 2008. ISBN 978-80-86984-54-4

Getting to know your VC environment

The most important introductory aspect of video conferencing for communication, learning and teaching is knowing the basic features of the technical ebnvironment.


  • Locate the venue in your institution
  • Determine who controls the booking of the room and VC connection
  • Establish whether you need special permission to use VC equipment and room
  • Establish whether the VC connection is part of a wider network and the ramifications of this


  • Familiarise yourself with the equipment
  • Don’t be afraid to touch things as most actions can easily be reversed
  • Introduce yourself to the technician responsible for VC and take notes when he or she demonstrates the equipment
  • Get to know the various telephone numbers for technicians in all venues and keep them
    close (you will be surprised how valuable and reassuring these numbers are)
  • Know the booking procedure
  • Know IP addresses, or E164 numbers–ask the technician what these are

Starting up

Before the conference begins take a trip to the VC venue and familiarise yourself with the surroundings. Ask the technician to be there so he/she can help you to feel comfortable using the equipment. Move the furniture, where possible, to make the room as comfortable as your classroom. Start a notebook for VC and write down all important information given by the technician and those in charge of booking procedures, such as phone numbers, email addresses, IP addresses, time zones, etc.

Booking the VC connection: the official route

Booking procedures will vary across different institutions and your organisation may have a booking procedure, or you may be expected to make connections with your VC partners yourself. The examples provided below show how connections are booked at Aberystwyth University in Wales and Masaryk University in the Czech Republic.

This is what the booking information
looks like for Aberystwyth University

Video Conference Suite is booked through the Hugh Owen Library, Penglais Campus
Location: D Floor

  • V-Scene Venue ID:
  • IP Address: Contact us for this should you require a direct connection (
  • Booking Address:
  • A number to dial will be supplied on completion of the booking.
  • Type of use: Teaching/Seminar/Meeting.
  • Layout can be adapted.
  • Equipment: IP Videoconferencing with networked PC, data projector, interactive whiteboard, DVD and Video recorder, document camera
  • Capacity: 20 Seats
  • Room Telephone Number: (01970 ...
  • Normal Hours: Library opening hours – please check before booking
  • Access: The confirmation e-mail may need to be printed out and shown at the Loans Enquiry Desk to gain access to the studio. You may also be asked to produce some form of identification e.g. library card.
  • Once you have finished with the studio please inform the Loans Enquiry Desk staff.

This is what the booking information
looks like at Masaryk University

Please contact to book the VC connection.

  • Please make sure you know the IP address of the contacted partner, the time of the connection and all the information necessary for a successful connection.
  • Masaryk University Language Centre
    Video Conference Suite, Location: Rector’s Office, 5th Floor, Room 555
  • IP Address: 147.251...
  • ISDN: Contact if you need to connect by ISDN
  • Type of use: Teaching/Seminar/Meetings/
  • Furniture layout can be adapted.
  • Equipment: IP Videoconferencing with networked PC, data projector, DVD and Video recorder, document camera, radio microphone.
  • Capacity: 15 Seats
  • Room Telephone Number: (+42054949 ...
  • Normal Hours: 7am-6pm (CET/CEST) or other if approved by the Rector´s Office staff.
  • Access: As arranged with the VC suite staff.
  • Once you have finished with the studio please inform the VC suite staff.
  • We usually contact the VC technician who helps with the connection. The connection is dialled in with an IP number. This is a number dialled in
    through the VC equipment which connects one VC venue to another. The IP number looks like this:

Adapted from "Methodology Quick Guide".

Content: Hana Katrňáková, John Morgan, Janice de Haaff, Libor Štěpánek,
Alena Hradilová, Martin Ashe-Jones, Jo Eastlake
Illustrations: Barbora Budíková
Graphic design: Jennifer Helia DeFelice
Copyright © 2008 ISBN 80-86984-55-9 ISBN-13/EAN:978-80-86984-55-1

Example on the use of a forum to preview video conferences

During the project we have been connecting student groups between Masaryk UNiversity in Brno, Czech Republic and Aberystwyth University in Wales. We have also connected between students and our corporate project partners for simulation activities in business and industry.

The aim of our video conferences varies across different courses, which some users of this site will know from our discussions and presentations at conferences in the Czech Republic, UK, Finland, Norway, Netherlands and Spain (conference documents can be found by following the link to "Invite Project Homepage" and "Results".

In one course the focus has been on the development of student teamwork projects and presentations. Students exchange information on their projects via forum and e-mail

Below is an example of how students exchange information before conferences:

This kind of preparation facilitates signifcant discussion time in the actual video conference connection, reducing the amount of one-sided presentation (time spent on this varies significantly). The video conference becomes a visual extension of the forum, reinforcing stronger social ties and fostering much greater interest in the work of other students and motivation to exchange and communicate ideas.

Motivation can be probelematic among students, especially where learning outcomes are different between different courses. In the Aberystwyth side of the video link, students are from different European countries and are studying for up to one year in the UK on an Erasmus exchange programme. The course they study at Aberystwyth "Advanced Communication in English in an Academic Context" provides credits twowards their degree, so there is a high expectation on the work they do. Academic projects conducted by Aberystwyth students via video conferencing so far include:

Semester 1, 2007/2008

  • Death ceremonies in ancient Egypt
  • Problems in learning languages
  • Aristotle: his life, methods and science

Semester 2, 2006/2007

  • Food restrictions in Islamic cultures
  • Immigration and emigration
  • Changes in behaviour and attitudes across generations

Semester 1, 2007/2008

  • Food customs and celebrations
  • Body language and non-verbal communication
  • Global Warming

Semester 1, 2006/2007

  • Cultural differences between GB, Spain, Japan and Turkey
  • Manufactured consent: or how to reclaim the media
  • Renewable energies and alternative technologies

Students at Masaryk University, develop similar teamwork profiles and negotiate project topics within their own courses, e.g. English for law. Topics may be expected to have a legal focus as it is a requirement of their course. During the exchange, however, students appear to benefit significantly from looking at their work from an authentic audience and participation perspective. Many of these topics are too specific for a general auidence who has not studied in this area. The implication of this is that all topics have a general or social aspect through which we can interact with a non-specialist audience.

A good example of this is one of the Masaryk student projects on Czech government policy on school fees. For an outside audience, this would be a difficult topic to generate meaningful discussion from the outset. What the group decided to do though proved very dynamic, as they engaged Spanish, Finnish, German and French students in discussion on how much they pay for university studies in their own country.

It should also be mentioned here that the project topics presented above are part of the students' final course assessment in Aberystwyth, but for the video conferences they do not receive grades. At this stage we have decided to keep this as a social space within the course, due to lack of objective criteria from long term experience on how to mark, or give a grade for, a video conference discussion or presentation?

  • How do you use video conferencing in your own institutions?
  • Do you have criteria by which you could assess a video conference?
  • Would you like to send us a short paper to include on these pages?
  • Contact us via the Shared Links and Ideas page


Menu of links

Web links to video conferencing resources

Web links to video conferencing resources

Educational resources

  • Global Leap Submitted and reviewed by Janice de Haaff:

    "A useful, readable,  resource for teachers wishing to develop and produce video conferencing for classroom use. Although it seems to be aimed at tertiary education I believe it is helpful for all teachers and trainers. It  explains in simple terms  the capability of booking and initiating videoconferencing classes, seeking out partners, addressing video protocols, etc.  It explains curriculum issues in videoconferencing for teachers around the world.

  • Video conferencing for teaching and learning at Heriot Watt University Submitted by Janice de Haaff
  • Sputnic Project for new educational technologies Submitted by Libor Stepanek


Educational networks with video networks and technical support


Working papers and essays

Here we will be publishing short papers and essays that will be archived on a monthly basis, or when we have new papers to publish. If you would like to contribute a practical or theoretical paper, please contact any member of the Invite team (see contact details page) to discuss your work.

November 2008

The subject village as web community and professional resource

John Morgan

One of the greatest advantages of using the internet to disseminate project information lies in identifying some of the different ways in which information can be meaningful to users. Information is no longer as fixed as it would be in a printed and published, paper-based document and it is possible to suggest that a text is something that never needs to be considered finished, or complete. In this context, text and information evolve, and their significance to users can adapt. The emphasis on continuous evolution and adaptation becomes integral to writing and communication processes and through it, social or professional response to text can be viewed as a means of editorial review.

The internet has provided opportunities for users to access resources, share resources and make decisions based on information exchange. The types of decisions can include, in this project, ways in which teachers and learners use video conferencing resources and how the design of the web-site enhances their understanding of information and their capacity to engage in practical activities. These actions can be referred to as “affordances” (Gibson, 1977, 1979); what a user is able to do as a result of choices made by the designer of the web-site.

Affordances can be divided into two broad categories (based on Norman, 1988, 2002):

  1. Real affordances are based on the human actions that are facilitated by the properties of a web interface, e.g. accessing a forum or blog through web links (within the web medium).
  1. Perceived affordances represent what a user identifies as being possible through the real affordances. Not only is a user able to access a forum or blog, which is the same real action for all users, but now an individual user may perceive this as being particularly important for specific social or professional reasons, which may be different to those of another user. It may also be related to learning processes advised by the web resources, but which are external to medium, e.g. learning how to operate video conferencing equipment through on-line instructions.

In a well defined user group in en educational or training context, it is relatively straightforward to conduct a needs analysis and identify a user profile that will inform the design of training materials. This works well in single user groups and it is where notions of “best practice” emerge as needs are defined in relation to fixed learning outcomes. As user groups are transferred to on-line environments however, a much wider range of needs emerge as different types of users—organisations, companies, primary schools, secondary schools, further and higher education institutions—begin to access resources that support their own needs, but which may have been designed for narrower user groups, e.g. how to use video conferencing in any one of the settings listed above.

To design a resource that will serve the needs of disparate user groups, it is necessary to identify policies and procedures that will work with the real affordances of being able to use video conferencing equipment and with the perceived affordances of what types of practice may be best for different users. One way of approaching this is to consider the notion of subject village (Glazier, 2002). Glazier was instrumental in setting up the Electronic Poetry Center at the University of Buffalo, NY and has argued (ibid: 3) that this type of web resource has been central to the proliferation of poetry on the internet. The subject village itself operates as a web-site and may include structured discussion areas and other areas for more formal educational development. He also argues for the limitations of the subject village, which does not necessarily offer a comprehensive account of the subject in question, nor does it control the actions and interests of the users in the way that a formal training programme might. The more important aspects of Glazier’s notion of subject village are listed below:

  1. the collection of materials based on an editorial policy;
  2. the dissemination of materials through agreed policies related to bibliographic maintenance and payment of royalties where appropriate;
  3. the dissemination of materials that may not be possible in print-based publishing;
  4. the provision of a focused collection of web pages and links to similar resources;
  5. the creation of a community of practice based around the collection, dissemination and discussion of materials;
  6. the possibility of developing educational resources either within the on-line community or as a result of the on-line community.

(based on and adapted from Glazier, 2002: 3)

The main point that is not listed in Glazier’s description of a subject village, which is used in the Invite subject village, is a means of interactivity that can elevate the resource from something similar to on on-line catalogue of resources, into an actual web community. In terms of creating a social or professional dialogue on theories, practices and resources, it is necessary to provide a definition of interactivity that leads to critical subject development. Lippman (date not cited: in Brand, 1987 & Stone, 1995; in Ryder & Wilson, 1996: 6) has identified five useful criteria of interactivity:

  1. interruptability, where either party may interrupt at any time;
  2. graceful degradation, in which unanswerable questions are set aside without disrupting the discussion;
  3. limited look-ahead, through which it may not be possible to determine a finite closure to a discussion;
  4. no default, where the directions of a discussion may evolve according to mutual interests of the communicators;
  5. the impression of an infinite database, through which many definitions and qualities may be the result of the ongoing discussion

Interactivity will be further developed by using the subject village as a means to creating new resources, not initially linked to a specific project such as Invite. Further collaborations, exchanges of information and projects will emerge, independently of the original resource. The subject village provides a means of interacting through the materials collected and disseminated for given projects that can be made more sustainable by cooperating users groups in different communities. This affords a strong profile for a community of practice towards the development of training and educational resources that can be adaptable to any number of different contexts. Ryder and Wilson (1996: 6) neatly summarise the role of such affordances:

“There is nothing inherent in the Internet that guarantees learning. But in a specific context involving learning activities, such as research collaboration, self expression and reflection, the Internet offers multiple affordances, so numerous that it may be a mistake for us to treat it as a medium. It is really an infrastructure which brings together media, tools, people, places and information, expanding the range of human capabilities."


  • Glazier, L.P. (2002). Digital Poetics: The Making of E-Poetries. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press.
  • Morgan, J. (2004). “Affordances  and Effectivities in Creating an Interactive Learning Infrastructure.” [On-line]
  • Norman, D.A. (1988). The Psychology of Everyday Things.New York: Basic Books. In Norman, D.A. (2002).
  • Norman, D.A. (2002). “Affordances and Design.” [On-line] (Accessed: 04/05/05). No longer available at this address: to be updated.
  • Ryder, M. & Wilson, B. (1996). “Affordances and Constraints of the Internet for Learning and Instruction.” [On-line] (Accessed: 04/05/04). No longer available at this address: to be updated.


Suggested citation:

Morgan, J. (2008). "The subject village as web community and professional resource". [On-line]. (date of access).