Andre Kostousov, associate director of admissions and international counselor for Northeastern University in Massachusetts, said he has used professional video conferencing software in a previous position. Although Skype is convenient in that it can be installed on almost any computer, it has its drawbacks, Kostousov said.
“Professional video conferencing software produces a much higher quality feed and is much more stable. It allows you to have a clearer and larger picture,” he said.
That argument is echoed by makers of traditional video conferencing solutions, who say users get what they pay for.
Skype’s sometimes poor picture quality is something that Avistar Communications aims to counter with its video conferencing software, said Avistar’s chief marketing officer, Stephen Epstein.
“Because of the architecture, the quality of Skype’s video chats can be poor. The video often pixilates, and the audio is often unsynced. This significantly undermines the success of a video call,” he said. “Avistar’s software ensures that the quality of service is the best that it can be, given every user’s available technology resources, and dynamically adjusts accordingly—instead of degrading the user experience.”
The Avistar C3 platform provides high-definition, multiparty desktop video conferencing. Epstein said the Avistar C3 solutions are ideal for education settings. Desktop video conferencing enhances collaboration, boosts communication, and draws geographically distributed people together, he said.
“Benefits are both soft—faster decision making, enhanced productivity and efficiency—and hard—reducing travel costs and downtime from physical travel,” he said.
Sheninger said Skype is lacking in its video multi-conferencing ability, with another drawback being the need for users’ wireless networks at two simultaneous sites to function properly.
Epstein said Avistar addresses this challenge by including a bandwidth management tool to prevent the overload that can slow networks or crash other applications when using Skype. Avistar also has no limit to the number of participants on a video session, he said.
But even with the potential drawbacks to using Skype in the classroom, many educators said they plan to continue using the software.
Kathy Cassidy, who uses Skype in her first-grade class in the Prairie South School Division in Saskatchewan, Canada, said her use of the software has been completely successful.
“I had not done other video conferencing in my classroom before, and have not tried any other tools that are available. Skype has worked well for me, so I have had no reason to try other tools,” she said.
Note to readers:
Don’t forget to visit the Next Generation Collaboration resource center. The ability to work together on group projects is seen as an increasingly important skill for the 21st-century workplace, and a growing number of schools are rewriting their curriculum to include opportunities for such collaboration as a result. Go to:
Next Generation Collaboration