Video conferencing is easier than ever with the latest technology, much of which is free. Professors at BYU are using it to cooperate with other universities worldwide, bring guest speakers to their classes, and more.
In past years, video conferencing meant having a special room set up with professional video, sound, and lighting equipment that connected to a television or a satellite system. That system then linked out to multiple classrooms that were separated by distance. The cost for this set up was extremely expensive. Now, with the advancement of Web 2.0 technologies, the video conferencing landscape has dramatically changed. All that expensive equipment has been pruned into a sleeker, less expensive species. And, it is now being called ‘web’ conferencing.
Web conferencing technology only requires a computer with a web camera (either built in or external), free software, and an Internet connection. With this simple setup, people can connect to others around the world at minimal cost.
How professors are using web conferencing:
Peter Rich, Instructional Psychology and Technology
I actually use Skype as my home phone. Academically, it allows me to connect with scholars the world over without having to worry about distance. I taught a course on Distance Education in Winter of 2008 in which each class featured a lecture from a scholar via a distance. Skype was always a faithful backup tool in case Breeze, our synchronous meeting and presentation tool, wouldn’t work for some reason. I will often use Skype’s messaging and video conferencing features when I need to quickly connect with a scholar one-on-one. This has allowed me to make connections with folks that I otherwise have never met or seen.
Cherice Montgomery, Department of Spanish and Portuguese
I find that it is most powerful when combined with tools such as Yugma, chat, and a webcam. In terms of my teaching, it has allowed me to bring guest speakers from other states into my classroom.
Benefits of web conferencing:
- Bring an expert into your classroom with minimal cost.
- Hold class-to-class exchanges with classes at universities from around the world.
- Teach your class while you personally are off campus (e.g. at a conference or doing research).
- Collaborate with colleagues at other universities without any travel expense.
- Work remotely with team members on collaborative projects without having to be in the same physical location.
- Hold online office hours.
- Mentor students who are off campus at various locations.
- Facilitate study groups or personal tutoring sessions.
There is a wide assortment of options to use for web conferencing. With the current volatile economy, a company that is in business today may be non-existent tomorrow. Because of that, we are highlighting two web conferencing products from companies that have a good chance of staying in business during these unsettling times. These two products are Adobe ConnectNow and Skype.
Here is a table briefly listing advantages and limitations of five other web conferencing options.
|Google video chat||
|Windows Live Messenger||
|ooVoo (free version)||
|Yugma (free version)||