Center for Continuing Studies - Innovative Leadership for Lifelong Learning

Center for Continuing Studies - Innovative Leadership for Lifelong Learning - St. Cloud State University

Student Guide to Interactive Television (ITV)

Student Guide to Interactive Television (ITV)

Welcome to the ITV Electronic Classroom

Courses delivered via distance delivery and multimedia technologies are becoming more common throughout educational arenas. Specifically, the use of Interactive Television, or ITV, makes it possible to link two or more electronic classrooms located in different sites within a building, a campus, or hundreds of miles apart. ITV creates one classroom environment from multiple sites, and enables campuses to bring courses, instructors, and educational experiences into those sites that would not be possible any other way. The use of ITV, multimedia, satellite broadcasting, and other technology-based mediums opens up a multitude of educational opportunities for learners. There are a few small ways in which interactive television classes are different from the classroom situations to which you may be most accustomed. This booklet will give you a handful of guidelines that will make your electronic classroom experience more productive and pleasurable.

Why Use Interactive Television?

Use of interactive television, ITV, for classes, makes it possible for students on other campuses to take courses not available on their home campuses. It also makes it possible to access specialized instructors and information, bringing that information directly to the campus. Through ITV linkages, students can now acquire most or all necessary courses in a designated program area for a particula certification or degree without leaving their community and campus site. ITV classrooms can increase these educational options by incorporating satellite receive technology, media resource linkages, and multimedia computer technology into the classroom. These technologies further enhance the learner options by connecting students not only to local, regional, and state resources, but also to national and international resources.

In addition to using ITV and related distance delivery technologies for educational uses, ITV networks are often used for conferences and meetings. Through this use, participants can save precious time required by traveling to meeting sites. Associated expenses related to such travel are also eliminated. Clearly, ITV provides for economic and time efficiencies.

Electronic Classroom Guidelines: Some Helpful Hints

When you walk into an ITV classroom, you will see cameras, television monitors and microphones located around the room. Your room may also be equipped with one or more computers, a telephone, a VCR unit, a regular or electronic white board, and a FAX machine. You may notice a teacher module at the front of the room that contains various electronic buttons, equipment, and cameras. You might notice slots for receiving mail and sending mail located on walls, or on tables. Some rooms vary in the number of television monitors they have, but the basic set-up will be similar.

Your instructor and campus Technical Communicator will provide an orientation for you to help you become comfortable with the technology in the ITV classroom. Make sure you ask them questions if you don’t understand all of the equipment and the way it is used. Once you become comfortable with the room set up and equipment, you need to remember a few pointers:

  1. Sit In View of Monitors Find a seat in the ITV classroom that allows you so be seen on the monitor. Don’t be afraid to sit in the front row. Be aware that you are visible and audible to anyone at any of the other sites on the network if someone at another site chooses to tune in your site.

    Due to the set camera angle, the instructor may not be able to see you well enough to know that you have a question or are confused. When you have a question, identify yourself in some way so that people at other sites can tell who is speaking. For instance, you can bring attention to your need by saying, “Dr. Jones, this is Jane Doe at Pine Tech, and I have a question on that point.” A little practice on your part will make this procedure second nature to you.

    The camera can be adjusted to accommodate the number of students in a classroom. If there are several students in a classroom, the camera should be set at the “wide angel” position so everyone can be accommodated to the view of the camera. If there are just a few students in the classroom, the camera can be set to zoom in on those students so they appear closer to the monitor, and they can be seen more clearly over the monitor. The Technical Communicator should make the decision as to how to set the camera focus and angle.

    If you are having difficulty taking notes because the supporting graphics used by the instructor are too small and too hard to see, you need to let him/her know immediately that there is a problem so it can be corrected. In general, if there is a problem with the video picture, let the instructor know so he/she can contact the Technical Communicator so that corrections can be made. It may be something easy to fix if the right person is made aware of the problem.
  2. Microphones/Audio System Please note the location of the microphones. They are usually located on the student desktops. Sometimes you will have microphones with flexible or fixed “necks” that may require a push of a button to open them up to the network. Most sites have continuous open microphones that you don’t have to work with . Other classrooms may have a microphone system located in the ceiling and/or walls of the classroom. Become familiar with the system in your classroom.

    The microphones should easily pick up your voice; however, you need to speak toward them. You also need to speak very clearly so you can be heard distinctly at all the receive sites. The audio system is very sensitive. If you whisper to your neighbor, everyone will be able to hear you at all the receive sites. Also, be careful not to tap pencils, rustle papers, or make other habitual noises in the ITV rooms. These small noises can drown out the presenters. Make sure you don’t place books, papers, or other articles over the microphones.

    When speaking in class, face forward and talk normally. It is not necessary to lean forward toward the microphone, but avoid leaning back or slouching away from the microphone as it will be harder to pick up your voice. Project yourself as you would in a normal classroom and you will be heard comfortably by your colleagues. This is not a public address system, so you don’t have to shout into the microphone.

    If you cannot hear people from the receive sites, it may be because there are materials covering the microphone, they are too far away from the microphone, they are speaking too softly, or there is too much other noise occurring in the affected classroom. Tell the instructor immediately that you cannot hear, and identify the site or student you cannot hear from. The instructor should help the site or student make the appropriate corrections.

    If an audio problem is determined to be a technical problem, the Technical Communicator should be called to correct the situation. Since the audio systems are very sensitive and are set at a level in accordance with state mandated levels; the only person who should work with changing those levels is the campus Technical Communicator and/or Regional Scheduler.
  3. Be Assertive You may need to get the attention of the instructor if you are having difficulty hearing or seeing the instructor site or the other receive sites. You and your instructor may wish to establish some type of protocol that allows you to interrupt or get his/her attention under these circumstances. Do not hesitate to say something if the video or audio is not coming in loud and clear at your site.
  4. Participate Participate, Participate, and Participate! The ITV system is called interactive because it supports communication from all participating sites. You are expected to participate in the classroom experience, just as you would if you were all located at a single site, in one classroom. This is not passive television viewing!
  5. Different Technologies/Different Audio/Video/Data Functions. In some ITV network systems, called compressed digital systems, there is a delay between the time you ask or answer a question before the next person will speak. There is also a slight delay from what you hear (the audio signal) and what you see (the video signal). This is a technical characteristic of the compressed technology system and it reflects the time it takes to code and compress video information versus audio information and transmits it back and forth between sites. There is usually a delay of from one to three seconds. Don’t worry if the response is a little slower than you expect (the reason for the delay could also be deep thought). Once you get accustomed to the process, it is easier to work with.

These systems usually have only two television monitors in the classroom. One monitor features the origination (teaching) site, and the other monitor presents the receive sites. If there is more than one receive site, the site that will appear on the monitor is the last site a student talked from. This system is “voice activated” which means that when someone speaks at a receive site, the video picture references that site and puts it onto the monitor. Students at all sites must be careful to not interfere with other sounds or interruptions while someone is speaking over this system. If an audio sound is louder at another site while someone is speaking, the picture will reference that site and put that site onto the viewing monitor.

The remaining network systems use full motion video/audio signals. These systems are called “analog” systems or “uncompressed digital” systems or related reference terms. There is no delay in the video or the audio systems. All motion and audio occurs in a “real time” format, just like your television reception in your home. These systems have enough channel space to dedicate a full channel to each ITV classroom in the system. If there are more than two receive sites, all sites have their own channel designation and all sites can be seen at the same time. Rather than have more than four monitors in an ITV classroom (the recommended standard for ITV classroom sites), monitor screens are split into two, three, or four segments to feature all the receive sites if more than four sites are involved.

If the network is a digital network, you may also see text running on the screen. Digital technology enables instructors to work with text/data, as well as video and audio transmissions. This technology is fairly new to campuses, so it will take a while for instructors to understand the extent to which it can be used in their classroom presentations.

Serving As Assistant

You may be asked to help the instructor by collecting assignments at your site. Assignments, tests, and other materials that need to be sent to the instructor at another site should be given to the instructor, the Technical Communicator, or some other designated person. That person will mail the assignments to the instructor. Your help will be appreciated.

You may be asked to hand out tests to students on the day of the test. You may also be asked to collect the tests. If asked, you must carry out these tasks in full view of the camera so that the origination (teaching) site instructor can view your actions at all times. All students you deliver materials or tests to must also be in full view of the camera. Do not hand materials/tests out to any student who is not in view of the camera and the instructor.

Serving As Assistant

Due to the nature of ITV and the fact there are at least two sites involved, you should label all your work as to your site, course title, instructor’s name, date, and your name. This gives you a better chance of getting credit for your work and getting your work back. As an extra precaution against lost assignments in the mail, you should have an extra copy of your assignments and papers on hand.

If you are absent for an exam in a scheduled ITV class, you may arrange for an exam make-up in accordance with procedures established by your instructor at the beginning of the semester. Procedures for make-up work and exams may be included in your class syllabus. Some instructors may have a proctor available for exams and others will rely on your honesty. Sit within full view of the camera and do not be surprised if a site monitor stops in to check on the class during test times.

Serving As Assistant

If you need to have a discussion with your ITV instructor, you may not be able to stay after class to confer with the instructor. If your discussion need has to do with individual grading decisions, approval for a topic for your paper, or other individual matters you may not want to discuss these issues in the ITV classroom where the open audio system could pick up parts of your one-to-one discussion with your instructor. It is best to make arrangements with your instructor for a discussion at another time. Usually the hours and method of communication with the instructor are published in the course syllabus. The instructor may also have made arrangements for communicating via email and Internet chat rooms or list serves. Your instructor may also be willing to be paged, or he/she may have a cell phone number, a telephone number, and voice mail messaging services to provide you access to him/her. You may also want to give your email address to your instructor. Whatever the case, try to take advantage of the opportunities that are available to you.

Your instructor may ask how things are going in relation to your general distance learning experience or specifically regarding a certain issue or problem. Don’t be shy! Providing feedback and input will improve your experience and make the path for future students easier.

Weather Conditions

The Central Minnesota Distance Learning Network Board of Directors has established recommended procedures for closure of ITV classes due to emergencies and inclement weather. If you are unable to attend class at your ITV site due to bad weather or school closing, please contact the course instructor and the ITV Network Operations Center at 320-255-1515. If classes are still being held at the St. Cloud campus, the ITV Network Operations Center can notify the instructor of outstate school closings.

For information on SCSU campus closings due to inclement weather in St. Cloud, please listen to WJON 1240 or WCCO 830 for an announcement regarding delayed classes or campus closings.

Campus Schedules

Other campuses may not follow the same schedule as SCSU and from time to time your campus may be closed when SCSU classes are open. In this event, IF POSSIBLE, YOU SHOULD PLAN TO ATTEND CLASS ON THE SCSU CAMPUS.  Planning in advance to attend class on the SCSU campus will prevent frustration for you and your instructor. At the start of your ITV course, you should verify the campus schedule where you are attending classes, identify any dates when your campus is closed and make arrangements with your instructor to attend on the SCSU campus for that course date.

Remote Resources for Distance Learning

Please see the Distance Learning Resource Packet prepared for you by Learning Resources and Technology Services. There are a large variety of library and research materials available through your computer and the Internet.

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