Currie, N. (2007). A Study Of The Factors That Impact Videoconferencing As A Learning Tool Within Three Regional Service Agencies In Michigan. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Oakland University, Rochester, MI.
Author: Neil Currie
Title of dissertation: A Study Of The Factors That Impact Videoconferencing As A Learning Tool Within Three Regional Service Agencies In Michigan
Publication year: 2007
Database source: Not yet in dissertation abstracts. Received chapters four (results) and five (conclusions) via email from the author.
Name of journal: n/a
My Codes: VCImplementation
Main point of the dissertation: This dissertation examined the factors that impact the success of videoconferencing from both the ISD (regional service agency) level, and the school district level, comparing among the three and between the ISD and school district perceptions.
Methods: Mixed methods including a survey and in-depth interviews. Surveys were given to videoconference staff at the educational service agency as well as the superintendents and/or technology directors in the local schools serviced by those agencies.
Research questions examined what affects the success of a regional delivery network: the size of the network’s geography, the socio-economic homogeneity, the key planning elements, and factors involving the availability of programming.
The three ISDs were analyzed separately. Participants rated their perception of the use of VC in their school district as “rarely” “couple times per month” “couple times per week” “used almost daily.” They also predicted whether future use would increase or decrease in the next few years.
In the two smaller ISDs (9 and 7 school systems), videoconferencing was used by 100% of the school districts. In the larger ISD (28 school systems), only 68% had used videoconferencing. In the larger ISD, none of the schools reported using it daily; whereas in the smaller ISDs they reported using it more often (67% daily in ISD B, 100% daily in ISD C).
A chi-square test of significance was used to cross tab the size of the districts in square miles with the answer to the question “Have students within your school system participated in video conferences”. The results (χ2= 18.707, df=3, p=.000) indicate a significant difference between them. It would be nice to know the effect size. However, this data did not match the survey results, so the researcher recommended that the actual practices be used as a measurement of usage; the need and purpose of VC are more logical reasons than the size of the district, and the network’s geography shouldn’t be used as a predictor in success. I do think this warrants a closer look with actual numbers usage, and a comparison of shared classes to shared classes and curriculum VCs to curriculum VCs. It needs to be done in a way that the purpose/type of VC isn’t a confounding variable.
The amount of money spent per student and the number of students participating in school lunches was used to determine the socio-economic homogeneity of the school system. This was cross tabbed with the same question as above “Have students within your school system participated in video conferences”. There was no significant difference. However in the discussion section, the researcher describes how this data was collected. It was the ISD personnel’s perception of the districts use and the district personnel’s perception of total use. It would be useful to actually compare the socio-economic status with the actual numbers of use – again divided by purpose. I don’t think it’s fair to compare shared classes to short curriculum videoconferences when looking at usage.
Issues that arose in the survey and in depth interviews on the question of key planning elements that are necessary for successful delivery included:
- lack of a person to facilitate videoconferencing
- lack of promotion of videoconferencing by administration
- access to equipment
- awareness of how to integrate it into lesson plans
- professional development for all users
- low picture quality
- lack of a clear vision or purpose for using this technology
- teachers lack of time
- fear of the unknown
It’s interesting that in some of the ISDs, the local districts perception of training offered differs from the ISDs perception of training offered. The districts in the smaller ISDs perceived more training offered to them than the districts in the larger ISD. Hmm. How do we know we’re meeting the perceived needs from an ISD perspective? We should be careful not to make assumptions!
Another interesting finding was that in the larger ISD, the local districts felt that the elementary schools were using videoconferencing more often (42.8%) whereas the ISD personnel felt that the greatest usage was at the high school level. In one of the smaller ISDs, the ISD personnel thought that it was used more in elementary, whereas the schools thought it was used more for high school. In the other ISD, their perceptions matched, that high school was using it more. I wonder if some of this difference in perception is related to the type of videoconferencing – full course delivery at the high school level vs. short curriculum-based programs at the elementary level. The larger ISD had only 10% of the districts using course delivery, whereas the two smaller ISDs had 100% of the local districts involved in course delivery.
A finding that TWICE should think about more is that in the larger ISD, 68% of the local schools said that they did not take advantage of the services offered by TWICE. This was true in one of the smaller ISDs too. In ISD C, the districts were using the TWICE services more often. We suspect that sometimes the word doesn’t get past the ISD down to the districts level, and here we have data from two ISDs that supports this possibility. What might be a solution?
In ISD A, the districts were given videoconferencing equipment but without follow-up or infrastructure in place to ensure it’s success. In most of those schools, the equipment is sitting in the administration buildings gathering dust. This is an important lesson for grant implementations!
The ISD (C) with the highest usage of videoconferencing offered training not just on videoconferencing, but also how to use it in the curriculum and how to integrate it in the curriculum. These sessions were offered via videoconference so that the teachers could receive the training in their school building.
Another important difference with ISD C was that every school building in their service area had videoconferencing in the school. This access obviously is critical to increased use of videoconferencing.
Recommendations include: “having a codec device located in an adminstration building makes it almost impossible for individual schools to utilize this technology.” So of all the places you could put VC in your school, the administration building is the last place you should put it if you intend to use it regularly with students.
“The lack of a local person who can trouble shoot transmission problems and coordinate programming can often lead to districts giving up on using this type of technology.” How many times have I said this! If you want VC to be used, you must have someone local in the same building as the equipment to help people use it. In my experience, it doesn’t matter so much who they are, but if they are trained, supported, and enthusiastic.
77%of the 44 local districts studied, and 100% of the ISDs had videoconferencing as part of their technology plan. The researcher recommends that this “remain a necessary section of all future technology plans.”
In looking at the data on shared classes, the researcher recommended that offering distance learning classes will increase the use of VC, legitimize the technology, and make it easier for others to see how the technology works. It also seemed that starting with foreign languages and AP classes were a good place to start when offering distance learning classes.
A long list of further research is supplied and shows that we have much more work to do in this area.
Questions/thoughts I have still:
- I want to get the full text and look at the theoretical framework and literature review providing the basis for the study.
- I’m very intrigued with the educational service agency perspective and feel that my intended research will supplement this work.
- This research focused on total usage, with some discussion on the difference between VC for shared classes and content providers. However, collaborations weren’t mentioned. This should be considered in future research as well.
Note: I didn’t put page numbers in my references because they aren’t the true page numbers since I only have part of the dissertation.