U of Missouri embraces TelePresence, but restricts use

The University of Missouri this week its new Cisco TelePresence system at a library on its Columbia, Missouri campus. The reasons for doing so are similar to the ones usually cited by private companies that adopt the videoconferencing technology: Reducing travel time, cutting travel-related expenses, and shrinking the organization's carbon footprint. According to a published by the university, up to 18 conferees can participate, and PowerPoint presentations can be shown on an auxiliary monitor. The system is mainly intended for communication with other campuses in the University of Missouri system (including the University of Missouri at Kansas City, the University of Missouri at St. Louis, and the Missouri University of Science and Technology) but conferences can also be set up with outside TelePresence systems via AT&T and .

But if you thought the University of Missouri intended to let professors use the system for instruction, think again. "TelePresence cannot be scheduled to deliver courses," a university Web page. This seems baffling, as TelePresence could be a killer app for distance education, potentially bringing a level of immediacy and student-teacher interaction that has been difficult to realize with asynchronous Web-based courses as well as virtual classes in Second Life (). Indeed, the announcing the $1 million lead gift to establish the campus TelePresence system specifically mentioned "greater teaching and research collaboration" as a goal. When the Standard asked the University of Missouri system about the IT department's note forbidding courses, the response indicated that experimentation was possible -- just not regularly scheduled classes:

In addition, TelePresence doesn't scale from a cost perspective. One of Cisco's , not including the network setup or integration, making it far too expensive for home users or more than a handful of remote sites to install.

Columbia Missourian, Division of Information Technology Web site and TelePresence user guide, University of Missouri System press release and email, TheStandard.com.

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