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Summary

Very specialized master's programs usually have the challenge of having only a very few experts at one location that can cover the entire thematic spectrum of the specialized field. One solution can be the implementation of video conference systems. In the following example three universities contribute weightwise weight-wise with different content offers to this master's program, the Master in Survey Statistics. The implementation of the video conference system serves to enable cross-site seminars and lectures. 

The courses are provided alternately by the three different locations. Every videoconference session is managed by one of the locations; the responsible lecturer as a rule usually holds a lecture and moderates the discussion. The students that are located at the respective other location follow the event within the video conference room of the own university. They have the possibility of participating in the discussion and asking questions. 

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  • TabletPC with pdf annotation software allows the lecturer to annotate one's own presentation during the lecture.
  • Virtual network computing system (VNC) with whose help the lecturer allows the other presenters at the other locations to access his/her presentation slides in order to add notes and highligtshighlights.
  • Video conference system (at the Freie Universität Berlin: the video conference system LifeSize in the Henry Ford building) for the transmission and recording at the respective locations.
  • LMS (in Berlin: Blackboard) for the lecture materials, including recordings of the video conferences. 

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Setting up the video conference: The video conference is started by selecting the preprepared pre-prepared conference. Necessary for this is that the Multi Control Unit (MCU) in Trier is activated. Via the "remote control" the transmitting location switches its screen to the "control channel". The local microphones are activated so that one feels acoustically as if everyone is in one room. Sadly this requires a high level of quality with regard to the microphones and the students have to speak with a powerful voice in order to be understood at the other locations. This sometimes causes problems. By using another button of the remote control one can activate the recording of the content channel, the audio channel as well as the (scaled down) video images of the lecture halls. This feature, though, is only available at the FU. There are, however, also reservations by a few of the lectures against these recordings (decrease in the participants' face-to-face involvement). The students on the other hand welcome strongly this additional possibility. Especially when using statistics software, the documentation of the user screens and their operations is very helpful.      

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What wasn't successful all the time was actively engaging the students that were following the course via the video conference. What one could do here is, for example, to create application tasks after a short input that should be solved by the various different locations and, afterwards, these can be jointly discussed. 

The concept profitted profited through technical support for the video conference system that was available on-site (in the Henry Ford building at the Freie Universität Berlin) and a student assistant for the support..

Further information

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