Wednesday, April 30, 2008

SMS in Teleconference Sessions of IGNOU

At Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) one-way video and two-way audio teleconference is being used for more than a decade now. With a modest experiment in 1993, this system has been made a regular event in the teaching-learning process of IGNOU since 1995 with various schools and divisions using the facility available at Electronic Media Production Centre (EMPC) to varying degrees. Realizing the power of the satellite technology, the University has introduced and deployed EduSat in the teaching-learning system with the support of Govt. of India in 2004. This has added another dimension to the technology-enabled teaching and learning in the University. Besides other pedagogic attributes of the TV and video, the unique attribute of the teleconference system is to provide ‘real-time’ interaction between students and teachers and amongst students. The effective utilization of the system can be assessed from the level of interactivity. If there is no interaction, it can be safely said that the system is not working as envisaged. Though, teleconference sessions design, prior notice to the students in the programme guide, annual planning of lectures, integrating teleconference in the instructional design and curriculum are important issues to make the system more effective, some ground reality check is essential to use the system more effectively.

Experiences show that most of the teleconference sessions are not attended by the students due to various reasons. One significant reason cited by many teachers and students is the timing of the sessions. Though there would always be a problem of timing as teleconference is a synchronous system, we can still make this system more relevant and useful by some systematic planning and innovation. Here, I would like to suggest the use of SMS technology using mobile phones. All the Regional Centres and reception centres of teleconference should be given a mobile phone to SMS to a 4 or 5 digit number or a regular 10 digit number at the beginning of each session. Thus, within 5 minutes of a teleconference session, the resource person(s) is/are in a position to know the presence of students in the session in various regional centres. If no students are present, the session can safely be stopped, without wasting resources as the purpose of teleconference is to provide interaction, and not to record video programmes. Talking to the camera without any students is just to satisfy our own self and justify that we are doing something of value. But, in reality, this is of no use that we all know very well. The use of SMS within 5 minutes of each session will also ensure effective monitoring of the receiving ends. Instant data can be gathered on the use of teleconference at the receiving ends. These collected data can be used for decision-making at the highest level to oversee and plan for effective utilization of teleconference.

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