June 2008 // Volume 46 // Number 3 // Tools of the Trade // 3TOT7

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Procedures That Improve the Interactive Video: Learning Environment

A survey to determine the effectiveness of using Interactive Video (IV) as an instructional delivery method is providing Extension educators with guidance to improve the IV learning environment. Participants from three separate IV classes were asked to complete a questionnaire designed to query knowledge gains and participant evaluation of room set-up and facilitation. The evaluation revealed that the better students at distant sites hear and see the instructor during the class, the higher their reported level of increased knowledge. The survey also revealed the need for pre-planning, including education on using the system for instructors, facilitators, and participants.

Pamela Powell
Extension Educator
College of Cooperative Extension
Fallon, Nevada

Marilyn Smith
Area Youth Development Specialist
College of Cooperative Extension
Elko, Nevada

Rod Davis
Extension Educator
College of Cooperative Extension
Battle Mountain, Nevada

University of Nevada Cooperative Extension
Central/Northeast Area

Use of Interactive Video in Rural Communities

Interactive Video (IV) is a two-way telecommunication tool that combines live audio and video. Sometimes referred to as "Compressed Video," this delivery method allows for real time instruction between two or more sites simultaneously. Connecting sites can see, hear, and talk to the entire network. IV can also incorporate system tools such as document cameras and remote video recorders, allowing for the immediate sharing of documents and activities beyond the scope of the main camera. In addition, VCR and DVD units can be connected to the system so that conferences can be recorded or training clips can be broadcast to other sites.

Because much of Nevada is rural, face-to-face communication and training opportunities can be limited due to travel distance. To address this distance concern, IV systems were installed in each of the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension (UNCE) offices across the state. Office faculty and staff, in addition to Extension clientele, are now able to connect to classrooms with IV capabilities. In 2006, it was estimated that Cooperative Extension hosted over 1,150 IV connections, serving 3,800 attendees. Approximately two-thirds of the connections were for meeting purposes; one-third were for Extension instruction.

As the use of IV for teaching UNCE programs increases, additional information about the effectiveness of the current teaching efforts is needed. Other studies have provided important information about uses and savings associated with use of IV (Vergot, 2004; Kessell & Miller, 2001; Hiel & Herrington, 1997). This study provides information about student learning using IV.

Methods and Procedures

For the purpose of the study described here, a 41-question survey was developed by the authors to assess program participants' perceptions regarding the use of IV as an instructional delivery tool. Questions regarding individual technology preferences and instructor effectiveness were also included. All survey items used a four-point Likert-type scale. The data were analyzed utilizing the Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS, Version 14.0, 2006) for Windows XP.

Included was a cover letter outlining the purpose of the survey, including instructions for returning the survey. An exemption statement approved by the University of Nevada Institutional Review Board (IRB) was included in the cover letter, explaining that voluntary completion of the survey indicated their consent to participate. To qualify for an IRB approved exemption, no repetitive contacts with survey participants were allowed.

The survey was conducted in 2005, utilizing the participants in three separate UNCE Interactive Video classes delivered to remote locations. Classes surveyed included: (1) a Master Gardener series training course; (2) a series of Nutrition classes; and (3) a four session Entrepreneurial program. All survey participants attended multiple classes and were adults.


A total of 51 participants in the selected IV classes returned the mailed surveys for a response rate of 60%. While the sample size is relatively small, the response rate is considered robust (Dillman, 2007).

The results of the survey provide baseline data regarding the use of IV by selected students of UNCE. This baseline data can be helpful to those interested in reviewing the current strengths and areas needing improvement when using IV as an instructional delivery system.

Survey Participants

Of the respondents, 74% had never used IV prior to taking their respective class. Ninety-two percent of the respondents indicated that they like new technology, and 72% use new technology quite a bit or almost daily. Sixty-three percent indicated they learned as much or more than if they had been in the same classroom as the instructor.

Table 1 ranks the five most important factors that affect student learning when IV is used to deliver educational programs. The highest rated item affecting student learning was "classroom discussion." Ninety-six percent of the respondents indicated that "classroom discussion is important to my learning." Rated number 5 was "side conversations." Fifty-three percent indicated that "side conversations bother/distract me."

Table 1.
Factors Affecting Student Learning When Using IV

Survey ItemPercent
Classroom discussion is important to my learning96%
It is important to me that a knowledgeable person be present in the classroom88%
It is important to me to have personal or informal discussions with the instructor before or after the class83%
It was important to me that the camera be zoomed in enough for me to read facial expressions and non-verbal communications80%
Side conversations bother/distract me53%

In addition, instructors were interested in the participant evaluation of facilitation and room set-up as potentially influencing student learning (Table 2). Respondents (80%) indicated that they could see the monitor clearly. However, only 11% stated that the camera was zoomed in enough to read facial expressions and other non-verbal communication.

Table 2.
Effectiveness Rating of Facilitation and Room Set-Up

Survey ItemPercent
Could see the monitor clearly80%
Doors were open and the room was ready69%
Could hear the instructor clearly46%
The camera was focused clearly upon the instructor30%
Could hear clearly the students at the other sites25%
Camera was zoomed in enough to read the facial expressions and other non-verbal communications11%

In order to determine the effectiveness of student learning when IV is used as an instructional method, investigators looked at variables participants' stated affected learning. This "overall knowledge gain" variable was regressed as a block (stepwise) against the potential issues with CV, as shown in Table 3. A significant relationship was revealed between knowledge gain and two issues related to issues affecting learning:

  1. I could hear the instructor clearly, B= -.46, t= - 3.35, p<.01

  2. The camera was zoomed enough to easily "read" the facial expressions and other non-verbal communications, B= -.32, t= -2.35, p=.05

This model suggests that students report that the better they hear and see the instructor during IV classes the greater the chance for increased knowledge. These issues are predictive of higher scores on knowledge gain.

Table 3.
Summary of Multiple Regression Analysis for Variables Predicting Knowledge Gained by Compressed Video (CV) Program Participants

Potential Issues with Interactive Video (IV) as a Teaching ToolRespondents


The doors were open and the room was ready-.010
I could see the video monitor clearly.046
I could hear the students at the other sites clearly-.095
I could hear the instructor clearly-.46**
The camera was focused upon the individual speaking-.161
The camera was zoomed enough to easily read facial and nonverbal communication-.323*
How important is it that the camera was zoomed in.010
Importance of knowledgeable person in room-.177
Note. Values are betas. R2 = .418 (full model).
**p = .01. * p=.05 Although some variables were intercorrelated, there was no serious problem with multicollinearity.

Conclusion and Recommendations

To achieve an optimal learning level for participants, survey responses indicate that instructors and IV facilitators need to ensure that the connection between sites provides clear audio and video. While technology upgrades such as High Definition monitors and microphones may address these two significant variables, pre-training instructors, facilitators, and participants in the technology constraints of IV systems may also increase knowledge gains. Instructors must manage physical movement around the microphone and camera.

In addition, instructors should discuss the idiosyncrasies of IV use, including the management of lag time between sites and how and when questions will be allowed. This initial classroom preparation should include a discussion about limiting sidebar conversations and muting microphones when distant sites are speaking.

As with audio, video concerns may be addressed with pre-planning. If the instructor needs to be at different locations in the room, pre-designated camera set points can eliminate the need to "zoom" the camera in and out or "track" instructors around the room. Facilitators, located at each of the remote sites can help the instructor manage IV issues, including connection to the systems in advance of scheduled class times to determine if any connection problems exist.


Dillman, D. (2007). Mail and Internet surveys: The tailored design method (2nd ed., updated). New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Hiel, E., & Herrington, D. (1997). Plausible uses and limitations of videoconferencing as a tool for achieving technology transfer. Journal of Extension [On-line], 35(4). Available at http://www.joe.org/joe/1997august/rb1.html

Kessell, J., Miller. G., (2001). Desktop videoconferencing: An effective tool for communication and instructional supervision. Proceedings of the Annual National Agricultural Education Research Conference, Vol. 28, (pp. 308-319). Retrieved September 12, 2007 from: http://aaaeonline.ifas.ufl.edu/NAERC/2001/Papers/program.HTM

Statistical Package for Social Sciences for Windows (Version 14.0) [Computer Software]. Chicago: Author, 2006.

Vergot, P. (2004). Using Web-based interactive video to enhance University of Florida IFAS Extension. Journal of Extension. [On-line], 42(3). Available at http://www.joe.org/joe/2004june/tt2.shtml