Video conferencing: What is interactive and non-interactive?

Modes of interaction

Students learn best when they actively interact in face-to-face and online environments. In all learning environments, including video conferenced lectures, students should be given an opportunity to engage in a variety of modes of interaction.

There are three main modes of learner interaction:

Interactivity scenarios

In the context of VC, these modes of interaction need to be evident to ensure that video conferenced lectures are interactive. The following scenarios illustrate interactive and non-interactive use of video-conferencing in lectures.

Scenario 1: Lecturer A

Lecturer A video conferences lectures from the Melbourne campus to first-year students on the Bendigo and Albury-Wodonga campuses to an overall cohort of 150 students. She believes in the importance of promoting interactivity in her video conferenced lectures and feels she always provides plenty of opportunities for students to ask questions during her lectures.

At the beginning of every lecture, she asks all of the students if they have any questions about what she presented in the previous lecture. And at the end of each lecture, she again asks students if they have any questions. Lecturer A is often disappointed that very few questions are ever asked, and when they are asked, it always seems to be from the same mature-aged students in the Melbourne lecture theatre. Even though she tries very hard to encourage it, there are almost never any questions from the regional campuses.

Lecturer A feels that she is making her video conferenced lectures interactive by providing an opportunity for students to interact, and she can't make them interact if they are not interested enough to ask questions.

NOT Interactive

Lecturer A unsuccessfully attempts to provide learner-teacher interaction. Simply asking if there are any questions at the beginning and end of a lecture does not provide a variety of modes on interaction.

Scenario 2: Lecturer B

Lecturer B video-conferences a series of 8 lectures from the Bendigo campus to second-year students in a lecture theatre on the Melbourne campus. There are about 80 students in the Bendigo lecture theatre and about 150 in the Melbourne one.

To make sure his video conferenced lectures were interactive, he consulted the LTLT video conferencing guide and planned a strategy. At the start of each lecture, he tells the students that he will be stopping the lecture twice so that students can discuss the key concepts her is presenting. After about 20 mins, he has explained the first major concept, and he puts three multiple choice questions on the screen. These MCQs require students to apply the new concept to a particular scenario. Students are instructed to first answer the questions individually and a show of hands is used to indicate student's chosen responses. The tutor in the lecture theatre in Melbourne counts up the responses and reports back to lecturer B in Bendigo.

At this stage, the lecturer does not give the correct answer. He then gives students 2 minutes to discuss their responses to the MCQs with one or two students nearby, telling them to attempt to justify their answer and change their mind if someone convinces them to. Lecturer B then counts students' updated responses to the MCQs on both campuses, and usually finds that the total number of correct responses has increased after the students have had a chance to discuss their responses with each other. Lecturer B repeats this procedure after he has presented the next concept.

At the end of every lecture, lecturer B invites students to post questions or comments about the lecture in the appropriate discussion forum on LMS, and these questions are followed up in the next lecture.


Lecturer B provides opportunities for all three modes of interaction. The posing of a multiple choice concept-checking question allows learners to engage with content. The opportunity to discuss their responses with peers provides learner-learner interaction. The invitation to post questions on LMS provides an opportunity for learner-teacher interaction.

Scenario 3: Lecturer C

Lecturer C went to a conference where she experienced an audience response system that enabled participants to use mobile devices to vote on the extent they agreed with a set of statements. She was very impressed with the way everyone's responses were immediately displayed in a graph on the screen. It helped her to compare her views with those of others in the room.

Lecturer C decides to use this audience response system with her students. She teaches a second year subject which is video conferenced from Melbourne to Shepparton. Lecturer C chose a lecture with a number of tricky concepts to try out using the new technology. At the end of the lecture, she put three multiple choice questions on the screen. Students on both campuses used their mobile devices to respond to the questions and all of the responses were displayed on a graph on the screen. Unfortunately, most of the students got all three questions wrong.

Lecturer C was really disappointed and told all of the students to go home and listen to the Echo 360 recordings of the lecture and answer the questions again before the next lecture so they could work out what the correct answers were.

NOT Interactive

While lecturer C wants to use technology to enhance interactivity in her lectures, she does not ensure that students actively engage in any of the three modes of interaction. Her attempt to provide learner-content interaction is inadequate as she does not provide any feedback to students about the correct answers to the concept-checking questions.

Scenario 4: Lecturer D

Lecturer D teaches a large first year science subject and her lectures are video conferenced from Melbourne to Albury-Wodonga and Bendigo. When the subject was only taught on the Melbourne campus, Lecturer D used to get all of the students close to the front of the lecture theatre to watch her do demonstrations. Even though not all students could see the demonstration clearly, she felt it added some excitement to the lecture, and students seemed more willing to ask questions about the demonstration than other parts of the lecture.

Lecturer D wanted to find a way to use demonstrations in a multicampus video conferenced environment, so she approached La Trobe Learning and Teaching to ask for advice on how she could use technology to clearly show the demonstration to students across three campuses simultaneously. She learned how to position two cameras and switch between them to show the demonstration from different angles. Lecturer C encourages students on all campuses to ask questions during the demonstrations. Students in the remote locations are given the choice to ask questions with a microphone or to email questions to the lecturer. She finds that regional students are usually more comfortable using email to ask questions.

After the demonstration, students on each campus work in pairs to choose one thing they observed and formulate a question and a set of hypotheses for the observation.


Lecturer D encourages all three types of learner interaction in her video conferenced demonstration lecture. Students simultaneously engage in student-content and student-student interactions when they formulate their questions and hypotheses based on their observations. During the demonstrations, student-teacher interaction is maximised by offering alternative ways to ask questions.