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Blueprint realises interactive classrooms

The European project "Blueprint for Interactive Classrooms" (BIC) has published a handbook "Classrooms for Distance Teaching & Learning: A Blueprint", which provides practical information and advice for institutions interested in setting up and using such classrooms.

Over the...
The European project "Blueprint for Interactive Classrooms" (BIC) has published a handbook "Classrooms for Distance Teaching & Learning: A Blueprint", which provides practical information and advice for institutions interested in setting up and using such classrooms.

Over the past four years, a consortium of European universities, working together within the BIC project, has been developing prototypes and resource materials for people interested in setting up and using interactive telepresence teaching facilities over ISDN and satellite networks. While many educational and training organisations are turning to videoconferencing and other two-way interactive systems for various teaching purposes, consortium members found that there was a lack of freely available practical resources for others interested in setting up their own facilities.

This network includes leading higher level institutions in Belgium, Finland, France, Ireland and Italy, which are experienced users of telepresence facilities for their own organisations. With the support of European Commission funding, under the Telematics Applications Programme (Education & Training), they built five fully functioning telepresence teaching sites. By comparing and contrasting the different characteristics of each teaching situation, the BIC researchers collected data on teaching styles, learning environments and the effects of budget. The end result is the BIC handbook. Packed with ideas on everything from furniture placement to technical guidelines, the handbook is indispensable for teachers and administrators planning to implement a telematic component to learning. Complex it is, but this advice is well within reach of educators and authorities. Most of the equipment is available off-the-shelf, easy to work with and highly inter-operable. The goal for project implementers was simple: distance learners deserve greater access to more effective courses at low delivery costs.

The approach taken by the consortium is that interactive teleteaching, using, for example, ISDN-based videoconferencing, is only one option in a media mix, which will probably include a wide variety of technologies and scenarios. But it is an option that can provide a very useful, effective resource for the institution embarking upon distance teaching. It can be used to reach remote learners in another campus or study centre, it can be used to bring in outside or remote expertise, and it can be used for group and collaborative work. Advice is given about general media mix, on matching your technological approach with your pedagogical objectives and on designing your facilities in the most cost-effective and pedagogically sensitive way. The range of functional demonstration teaching facilities built by each of the participating universities provides a working laboratory environment for testing and evaluating various technologies and support systems for teaching at a distance. These include:

- Interactive teleteaching classrooms, studio and mobile facilities located at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (K.U.Leuven) in Belgium;
- Telepresence classrooms and other facilities at the Audio Visual Centre in University College Dublin;
- Interactive classroom located at the Université de Nancy II in France;
- Facilities for teaching at a distance in the Politechnico di Milano in Italy;
- Facilities managed by Helsinki University of Technology (Dipoli) in Finland.

All these facilities can be visited by appointment and staff and users of the systems regularly run "Open Days" and offer their experience to others who are interested.

The handbook, published by Leuven University Press, gathers much of their experience and provides guidelines and advice to both designers and users of such systems. Laid out in a practical manual style, the handbook provides information on all aspects of designing, building, using and testing such facilities from choosing equipment to guidelines for teachers. With plenty of pictures, check-lists, glossaries and diagrams, it can be used by technicians and managers alike and includes interesting case studies of the universities involved showing exactly how they set up their own facilities.

Source: Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (K.U.Leuven), Belgium

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