Mason Stays Connected with Videoconferencing Technology

Posted: October 24, 2007 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Catherine Probst Ferraro

With Mason’s new campus located in the Ras Al Khaimah (RAK) emirate of the United Arab Emirates, you might think that communication between the Fairfax and RAK campuses would be difficult. However, Mason’s Division of Instructional Technology (DoIT), part of the Information Technology Unit (ITU), is making it possible for administrators from both campuses to communicate face-to-face through videoconferencing.

Videoconferencing is an interactive connection between two or more sites that transmits video, audio and graphics. Unlike in streaming or broadcast television, people on both sides of the transmission can see and hear each other in real time.

Currently, Mason has approximately 20 videoconferencing units and uses the technology for distance education and faculty and staff meetings. For example, if a student wants to take a class that is taught on the Arlington Campus but cannot make it to the campus, he or she has the option of viewing the class online if it is available. This option is only available to students if the class has been set up as a videoconference class through the Registrar’s Office. Videoconferenced classes can also be recorded and viewed at a later time by students who cannot attend a class.

“For students, faculty and staff, videoconferencing cuts down on travel time,” says Cherie Galantis, videoconferencing manager in the Educational Media Services division of the Information Technology Unit. “Videoconferencing broadens the classroom horizon because now students are able to take classes without having to waste time driving back and forth between campuses.”

The first videoconference conducted between administrators from the Fairfax and RAK Campuses took place in July. Some of the issues administrators discuss include making sure the faculty and programs offered on the RAK Campus are in coordination with those on Mason’s main campus, how to recruit students to the RAK Campus and ways to make transferring easier for students.

According to Bob Nakles, executive director of Information Technology and Project Management, the ITU is hoping to broaden the use of videoconferencing so professors can conduct classes from the Fairfax Campus to students on the RAK Campus. Professors will have the ability to show PowerPoint presentations, computer screens and any other program they need.

“Whether it’s in a classroom or professional environment, body language can be critical,” says Nakles. “Being able to see the person with whom you are communicating allows the feeling of being more connected and getting to know the person better.”

Videoconferencing is also used for meetings with people in off-site locations such as other universities and government agencies. It has even been used for conferences with Turkey and a Supreme Court justice in Kentucky.

To learn more about videoconferencing or to request a videoconference, visit the videoconferencing web site or contact Galantis at 703-993-9555.

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