Seeing The Future In With Video Conferencing – IELTS Academic Reading Passage

A Video-conferencing (or Video tele-conferencing-VTC) as a means of communication intra- and inter-business has essentially been possible since the dawn of television. But the early systems, first demonstrated in 1968, were in fact so prohibitively expensive and of such poor picture quality that they were not viable applications for general public use.

B However, in the 1980s, digital telephone networks like ISDN began to proliferate, so that by the 1990s the decrease in cost brought the equipment necessary for video-conferencing within the reach of the masses. The 1990s also saw the arrival of IP (Internet Protocol) based video-conferencing with more efficient video compression technologies being introduced, thus permitting desktop, or personal computer (PC)-based video-conferencing. VTC had come on the scene in a big way as free services, web plugins and software, such as NetMeeting, and MSN Messenger, Skype and others brought cheap, albeit low- quality, VTC to the public at large.

C Video-conferencing has been disparaged for the lack of eye-contact that can affect the efficacy of the medium and for the fact that participants can be camera conscious. But these obstacles are not insurmountable. The size of modern televisions along with the vast improvement in picture quality as a result of the arrival of the digital age has enhanced the potential of the latest video-conferencing equipment, going somewhat towards solving the former problem. Early studies by Alphonse Chapanis found that the addition of video hindered rather than improved communication. However, as with video and sound recording of meetings, interviews etc. awareness of the presence of the technology diminishes with time to the point that its presence is not felt. A further drawback common to all technology is the ever present possibility of technical hitches. But in the end video-conferencing is no different from any electronic device like a PC or a telephone and so in time, any problems will be ironed out.

D Conferencing by video has enhanced the performance of different organizations through its efficiency and effectiveness, saving both time and money for businesses and, in this carbon-conscious age, by the reduction in the environmental cost of business travel from one corner of the world to another. These apart, video-conferencing has an immediacy that is difficult to challenge. It is now essential in any work situation where organizations with employees on different sites or in different parts of the globe can contact each other rapidly. Like a telephone line permanently connected it is easy to dial up a colleague in seconds anywhere in the world.

E And what about the equipment? The equipment for video-conferencing is relatively straightforward to use. It has, in fact, been commonplace in the news media for a number of years as corporations have broadcast live from the back of a truck or van in news hotspots around the world. Two ISDN lines are needed at each location: one for video output and the other for video input; a high quality camera with omnidirectional microphones or microphones which can be hand-held, clipped on or central are required; and for data transfer a LAN is also needed. And, of course, a television screen at each end is essential.

F The potential use of video-conferencing in the educational field has yet to be fully exploited. In this day and age when academic institutions are supposed to be more revenue conscious and much more flexible, video-conferencing could be employed to bring business into the educational field and vice versa. The system can also be used to take expertise anywhere in the world. It is no longer necessary for experts to travel vast distances for conferences or to teach. In certain areas, say remote islands like the Outer Hebrides in Scotland or the Cape Verde Islands off West Africa, where it may be difficult to find teachers in specialist subjects like languages, video-conferencing is a perfect way to bring education within the reach of everyone. Video-conferencing is certainly not a panacea for every problem, not an end in itself, but a useful tool that can complement rather than supplant existing teaching methods.

G Like the electronic or smart whiteboard, whose introduction in the classroom has met with resistance, video-conferencing may take some time to become mainstream, if ever. But, perhaps with the mounting concern about our carbon footprint, the environment will ultimately be the biggest spur. A sobering thought is whether classrooms and offices of the future will consist solely of TV screens.

Questions 28-33
Reading Passage 3 has seven paragraphs A-G. Choose the correct heading for paragraphs A and C-G.

List of Headings
i Some criticisms of video-conferencing
ii The future of conferencing by video
iii The transmission of education to remote areas
iv The first stages of video-conferencing
v The necessity of having two TVs
vi How video-conferencing can benefit organizations
vii How video-conferencing became more accessible to the general public
viii The various pieces of equipment needed
ix The lack of exploitation of video-conferencing in education

Example: Paragraph B                   Answer vii

28 Paragraph A
29 Paragraph C
30 Paragraph D
31 Paragraph E
32 Paragraph F
33 Paragraph G

Questions 34-36
Choose the correct letter A, B, C or D.

34 Video-conferencing was not common initially because of
A the cost and poor image quality
B poor advertising and marketing
C the lack of skilled technicians
D constant electronic failures

35 Video-conferencing became more practical on personal computers once
A the Internet became more widespread
B the picture quality became perfect
C the software became free for the general public
D video compression technology worked better

36 Video-conferencing has been attacked for
A several problems that cannot be solved
B the lack of large TV screens
C there not being direct eye contact
D the failure of new digital technology

Questions 37-39
Choose THREE letters A-F.

Which THREE of the following statements are true of video-conferencing?
A It is cost-effective for businesses to use.
B Operating VC equipment is not complicated.
C It will solve many problems in the classroom.
D More people now have the necessary skills to use video-conferencing.
E Modern equipment rarely breaks down.
F People in remote areas can have expertise taken to them.

Question 40
Choose the correct letter A, B, C or D.

40 The writer concludes that the success of video-conferencing in the classroom
A is less likely than that of the whiteboard
B will certainly be short-lived
C may be linked to many unknown factors
D may finally depend on the environment