Solutions offering on-demand video conferencing collaboration are helping university faculty, students connect.

video-collaborationIt’s not hard to spot technology on campuses across the nation, and unified collaboration tools are quickly becoming essential to teaching and learning at institutions of higher education.

With more students turning to online courses, MOOCs, BYOD, and more, collaboration tools offer a way for students to connect with their peers and professors without worrying about geographical barriers.

And as learning has gone mobile, universities are seeking ways to make it as easy as possible for users with laptops or tablets to access video conferencing and collaboration capabilities. Tools such as Cisco Jabber or Adobe Connect offer ways for faculty and students to connect and collaborate from different locations.

At the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), students and professors are using eZuce’s Viewme tool for video collaboration.

The university wanted a video conferencing system that could be used on multiple operating systems from any device. Suess said IT staff also wanted the solution to be available campus-wide and able to operate with the university’s fixed telepresence equipment.

Part of the challenge was the fact that free video conferencing solutions are available, and getting faculty and students to switch to a university-compliant video conferencing solution is difficult. Integrating with those free services is sometimes impossible, and if it isn’t, it can be cost-prohibitive.

“We have a major committment to building classrooms that have integrated video conferencing–they all use standards that have been around for a number of years,” said Jack Suess, UMBC vice president of IT and CIO. “These standards allow one vendor’s brand of equiment to work with another’s brand, independent of the fact that you have different vendors. You can still have classroom-to-classroom interaction taking place.”

“We wanted a solution that would marry the ease and usefulness of consumer tools that were out there [such as Skype and Google Hangouts] with the support for standards so that a consumer–a faculty member or student–could connect into one of these larger video conferences using the standards in place,” Suess said.

The Viewme (formerly SeeVogh) video conferencing solution is a software based, multi-point, high-definition, hybrid-cloud based, video and web collaboration solution for PCs and mobile devices, according to the company’s website.

Through Viewme, every user at UMBC has their own meeting room, eliminating the need to schedule meeting times. All users have an alias meeting room ID number to share with colleagues and other meeting attendees.

“We see this as a great way for students to connect to a campus or location,” Suess said. “We have an environmental graduate program across six different locations in the state, and often, students are in remote areas [and need to connect].”

“It comes down to two factors: it has to be easy to use across different platforms, and it has to work well and effectively.”

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Laura Ascione

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