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Learning to Act in the Telepresence Classroom: the case of King Lear Online

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Rebecca Ferguson
15 May 2017

Tom Gorman, Daniel Villar-Onrubia, Koula Charitonos, Mikko Kanninen and Tiina Syrjä

Telepresence is commonly referred to as a sense of ‘being there’ in a virtual environment (International Society for Presence Research, 2000) and may be defined as “live video that allows for human-sized interactions, while offering clear sound and visual fidelity to individuals in remote rooms” (Miller et al., 2015). The project Immersive Telepresence in Theatre explores the potential of telepresence for teaching and learning in the field of performing arts, with a particular focus on learning to act. The project seeks to facilitate international virtual mobility collaboration between theatre students at the University of Tampere (Finland) and Coventry University (UK).

The paper reports an evaluation of King Lear Online study, which took place over a week in February 2017. The study was designed for two groups of undergraduate students (N=29), geographically separated, to meet synchronously via webcam links and perform acts based on the text of ‘King Lear’ by Shakespeare. The study largely draws on ethnographic approaches to investigate how real and virtual environments intersect to support teaching and learning for educators/learners/performers and analyse any opportunities and challenges that may emerge in this setting. It also sought to examine the pedagogic practices that the telepresence technology enables for synchronous teaching and learning across two different sites and time zones, and finally to look at individual’s experience as being mediated by technology.

The paper will focus on two whole group warm-up sessions, one led by a theatre practitioner at the University of Tampere and another one by vocal practitioner at Coventry University. Qualitative data will be presented: video data from the sessions in the telepresence classroom, interviews with the educators, along with reflective interview data from the students and fieldnotes from the researchers.

Essentially the paper contributes to the growing field of online teaching and learning and makes a substantial contribution to the field of virtual mobility for international collaboration on subject-specific learning activities.

International Society for Presence Research (2000). The Concept of Presence: Explication Statement. At:  (Retrieved 31.3.17)

Carrie Miller, C. Qijie Cai, Q., Manderfeld, M. and Higdon J.A. (2015). Student and Faculty Perceptions of telepresence course. 18 (4), p661–685. At: (retrieved 31.3.2017)

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