A major objection to, or let’s face it, “fear” of, telepractice (online speech therapy) is that since it is computer-based, the entire success or failure of the session rises or falls on the flawless performance of the technology. And many responsible school administrators ask, “How can I take that risk with my students?”
While this fear indeed indicates the concern and profound sense of responsibility of the administrator, at the same time it also reveals a certain misunderstanding of the technology itself, as well as the care taken by quality online agencies in assuring the smooth delivery of the therapy.
The truth is that the technological requirements of telepractice are relatively modest compared to many other activities that most of us engage in on a daily basis. Video communication only requires the use of a webcam, video conferencing software, secure web-based programs, headset or speakers and an internet connection.
A Tech Coordinator will contact the school liaison to confirm that all the equipment is available. If any equipment is not, the agency will assist in procuring what is necessary. Before beginning, the tech will complete a “test run” with the school liaison to ensure the technology is working properly, and confirm that the visuals and audio are working well.
And yet that “fear” often boils down to one thing- connectivity. If anything could jeopardize the session, it is weak or erratic connectivity. To mollify that fear, consider some of the following factors in determining an appropriate connection strategy:
- Network connection speed affects the overall quality of video and audio clarity. Expert users note that an upload/download speed of no less than 3 MB is needed for optimal connection and screen sharing. When adding a shared video source (e.g., Microsoft PowerPoint, YouTube, or video recordings), upload and download speeds should be no less than 5 MB.
- The available bandwidth may be reduced by the number of users on the communication network—for example, during peak usage times in schools. Lower bandwidth may result in delays, jitter, and loss of data, and may interfere with quality of signals for clinical decision making or natural turn-taking in conversational discourse.
- Establishing an alternative connection (e.g., telephone, e-mail) enables participants to troubleshoot connection problems or to reschedule the session.
- A hard-wired connection is optimal in a shared Wi-Fi environment.
- Secure transmission during telepractice may be obtained through the use of encryption, unique passwords, unique meeting numbers, secure connection via a virtual private network (VPN), and hardware/software firewalls.
When the telepractice provider works with a stable and experienced video conferencing platform, such as GoToMeeting, there are many benefits. GoToMeeting has a fantastic reputation for being reliable and for the availability of dedicated and professional technical support. In the unlikely event, a technical problem arises, an agency representative will be available to assist via phone, chat, or email.
You Have Nothing to Fear but Fear Itself
So as you can see, many of the fears of technology associated with telepractice are not as frightening as they may seem. Contracting a quality teletherapy agency will reduce the stress as experience continues to meet high expectations. With the technological concerns allayed, school administrators will see firsthand how their students flourish.