Using Videoconferencing in Postgraduate Education: Benefits and Challenges

Smyth, S., Houghton, Catherine, Cooney, Adeline, Dowling, Maura, Kelly, Marcella, Kelly, John and Cantillon, Peter (2012) Using Videoconferencing in Postgraduate Education: Benefits and Challenges. In: AISHE-Conference 2012: Responding to Change: Effective Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 30th & 31st August 2012, Dublin City University, Ireland..


The aim of this paper is to present the findings of a study exploring students and lecturers’ experiences of videoconferencing (VC) for the purpose of identifying optimal learning and teaching strategies using this technology. The School of Nursing and Midwifery, NUI Galway deliver a number of postgraduate modules through VC. The literature suggests that, when compared with traditional classroom teaching, there are no differences in outcome for students in terms of general satisfaction, performance or examination scores. However, using VC can pose challenging for lecturers and students. Interacting via VC is more challenging because of the three to five second sound delay and absence of non-verbal cues, for example, lack of eye contact and difficulty interpreting facial expressions (Taylor, 2011; Telles, 2008; van Boxel et al., 2003). It is important that the lecturer is flexible and dynamic and uses interactive teaching strategies. The study was approved by the University’s Research Ethics Committee. It was a qualitative descriptive study and data was collected using focus group interviews. Three focus groups were conducted with students who experienced on-site and off-site learning via VC and a fourth focus group was conducted with academic staff who had lectured students via VC, to gain insight into their experiences. A semi-structured interview schedule was used to guide the focus group discussions. The qualitative data was analysed utilising an appropriate framework. This presentation focuses on the findings from this study to identify the benefits and challenges of this approach to teaching and learning. Recommendations from this research aim to enhance the use of VC in postgraduate education.

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