- Types of Videconferencing Technology
- Getting to know the Technology
- Additional Equipment that may be useful
- Setting the Stage
Free, Internet-based software clients
Free, Internet-based software clients are applications that access a service made available by a server. The server is often on another computer system, which the client accesses the service using the Internet. This is the most basic and economical way to videoconference.
Videoconferencing services in this category require the user to set up an account with a username and password. The user must also have a working webcam, microphone, and an Internet connection (high bandwidth connections are preferred over wireless).
Skype is an Internet calling service with video call, chat, screen share and group calling capabilities. It also allows the user to send and receive files. For more information, see the Skype website.
AnyMeeting is a webinar platform with the ability to hold large or small meetings, screen share, and videoconference. There is also the option to record meetings and classes for later use. For more information, visit AnyMeeting’s website.
Voice and video capabilities are available in Google Chat properties (i.e. within Gmail, Google+ accounts). From within these services, one can host a videoconference. This type of connection can be utilized from a Mac or PC. For more information, visit Google’s support site.
iChat is an instant messaging application created by Apple offering video chat options, including one-on-one conferencing and multiway videoconferencing. iChat works with AIM and other services including Yahoo!. iChat is a standard feature on all Mac products. For more information, visit Apple’s support site.
Windows Live Messenger
Windows Live Messengers is an instant messaging client created by Microsoft that offers free video calling. To download this software, visit the Microsoft software support site.
Much like free, Internet-based software clients, this category of videoconference connection includes applications used on a computer to access a service made available by a server. These services are usually provided by an institution, business, etc. They are not free; these services require an annual fee for use, normally paid by the institution or business that supports its use. For example, Indiana University pays an annual fee for the use of Adobe Connect by any of its faculty, staff, and students.
Adobe Connect is a web-conferencing software with videoconference capabilities. This software has a simplified user interface, unified attendee management, and the ability to record sessions. This software enables highly collaborative interactions such as rich multimedia, high quality videoconferencing, and breakout rooms to focus discussions. Users can also integrate Q&A, Whiteboard tools, and passcode protected meeting rooms. For more information, visit the Adobe Connect website or the IU Knowledge Base.
Cisco Jabber Video for TelePresence (Movi)
Movi is a desktop videoconferencing software that an institution’s faculty, staff, students, and their guests to easily access and connect to a videoconference with full two-way video and audio, as well as to present or receive high-resolution computer graphics. Movi is available for both Windows and Mac computers. For more information and user guides, visit the Movi website.
Videoconferencing systems are a set of telecommunication technologies which allow two or more locations to communicate by simultaneous two-way video and audio transmissions. The core technology used in a videoconferencing system is digital compression of audio and video streams in real time. The hardware or software that performs compression is called a codec (coder/decoder), which transmits the stream through a digital network of some kind (usually ISDN or IP).
There are two basic types of videoconferencing systems: dedicated and desktop. While desktop systems are add-ons to normal PCs, dedicated systems possess all required components packaged into a single piece of equipment. This usually consists of a console with a high quality remote controlled video camera. Dedicated systems include large and small group videoconferencing rooms, in addition to portable devices intended for individual use.
With a videoconferencing system, users can connect through point-to-point connections with an IP number, or through multipoint videoconferencing (MCU), i.e. video calls from several sources.
Videoconferencing system brand names include:
Videoconferencing technology comes in a variety of formats, each unique ways for interactions. Most videoconferencing will require the following technology at all participating sites:
When it comes to monitors, size does matter. The size of the monitor should be determined based on the size of the space and the number of people involved. For a classroom setting, monitors should be at least 30” to insure that all participants can clearly see one another. For lecture halls, it is best to use video projection systems. For two-way interactions, a single monitor with picture-in-picture should be sufficient. If more than two sites are regularly involved, consider using multiple monitors.
For classroom-sized systems, the main camera should be placed near the primary monitor allowing participants to maintain virtual eye contact. If there are additional cameras consider designating a camera for the classroom instructor and/or presentation facilitator and another for student questions; this can also be achieved by presetting positions on a single camera capable of rotating and zooming. For personal videoconferencing systems, such as ooVoo, it is best if there is a camera for each participant, though this can be adapted to accommodate resources and space.
Microphones and Speakers
Each site will need both a microphone and speaker system that allows all participants to effective communicate to one another. While these will generally be incorporated into the monitor and camera systems, it is important to check that the audio equipment is in working order. If the systems are separate from the video technology, make sure they are properly hooked into the system and placed where they can be accessed by all participants.
A computer will be essential for the use of personal videoconferencing software such as Skype and ooVoo; however, it will also be beneficial for all videoconferences for sharing data, documents and media. If you are using personal videoconferencing software or relying on a computer to operate classroom-sized videoconferencing technology, make sure all external audio and video equipment is compatible with the computer, has the correct connector cables and has long enough cables so that all participants can access the equipment.
Remote controls and control panels
Most classroom-sized systems will come with a remote control that will allow instructors/facilitators to operate the equipment, adjust camera angles and volume and switch between devices during the videoconference. Many IU classrooms also have control panels near computer stations that may be used in tandem with videoconferencing equipment to operate audio-visual devices, particularly if using personal videoconferencing software
Reference guides, troubleshooting guidelines and technical support resources
Over time, the technology will become easier and easier to operate. However, as you are getting used to the equipment, it is worthwhile to keep equipment manuals and reference guides (such as quick start-up guides and remote control keys) nearby. Also, because all equipment can occasionally act up, keep a brief troubleshooting guide (like the one available on this site) handy and keep a log of problems and solutions so that you can refer to them in future uses. Always post key numbers and email addresses for on campus technical support (there is a quick list of numbers and resources available on this site, though there may be a departmental or building technical support contact person as well).
- Student computers may be useful for some lessons allowing students to work on projects related to the presentation. Personal computers may also provide students with a means to communicate with students at a distant site through instant messaging software allowing for inter-classroom group activities.
- A document camera can be used for demonstrations and visual aids.
- A fax machine with an outside line may be useful for sharing documents between sites.
- An outside phone line that can be used to contact the far site to establish connection or communicate should the videoconferencing technology fail to connect. This will also be useful for reaching technical support in case of problems.
- Multiple clocks showing the time of the different sites reminds participants of time differences and helps presenters keep track of duration and pacing.
The classroom and presentation space can greatly affect the success of a videoconference. Currently there are more than 80 designated videoconference rooms on IU Bloomington’s campus available for private and public use. The rooms are varied in size and number of seating. Before booking a room, consider the needs of the presentation and choose a room that can accommodate the expected number of participants. Whether you are using one of the designated rooms or using videoconference technology in your normal classroom, take the following into consideration:
Be sure to account for any presentation space needed. If there is going to be PowerPoint presentations or other visual aids, position audio-visual equipment so that participants can easily see the presentation as well as the videoconferencing monitor with little rearrangement of seating. Allow for as much open space as possible which will facilitate presentations and create a more comfortable atmosphere.
Seating arrangement should facilitate discussion both within the classroom and between the sites. While the specific needs of each situation should be considered, a common and effective arrangement of seating positions the desks or tables in a horseshoe shape around the videoconferencing equipment and monitor. Use the equipment to test the seating arrangement—all participants should be visible at the widest camera angle.
The technology should not dominate the space. Organize and set-up technology so that it does not take up excess space or pose safety issues with loose cords and unstable carts and platforms.
Generally, the brighter the room the better. However, make sure there is no glare on the monitor or visible through the camera which can limit the visibility of participants. Diffuse lighting is better than a single light source. Use the equipment to test the lighting of the space to insure that there is no glare or obstacles hindering visibility of the camera and far site.
Position the microphone(s) near the center of the space but away from sources of white noise such as heaters and computers. Test the sound level and clarity before videoconferencing.
In order to find out more about the designated videoconferencing spaces on IU campuses, please see the VICOPS classroom scheduling website.