Friday, April 10, 2009

Multi-site video conferencing

Videoconferencing has been developed to reduce the amount of travel our faculty and staff have to travel to attend meetings. Most meetings we travel to consist of people from more than one institution. We can now make connections to up to three sites from all our video conferencing facilities.

We have had video conferencing capability in two classrooms for quite a while, but most of the time during the day, these rooms are occupied by classes.  Two years ago, we established a smaller conference room in Halsey 259, but up until now it could only connect to one site at a time.  We have now licensed the multi-site capabilities for that room.  Curiously, the machine that makes the connections always had the capability, but you have to buy the license separately and input a code to unlock it.

Multi-site conferences can follow a couple different formats.  In the discussion mode the screen is split so that every site is visible at all times.  In the presentation mode, the last site that speaks fills the screen to the other sites, and the speaker sees the split screen version.

All three of our rooms also have the capability for "people plus content," with which a full resolution computer display is transmitted along with the video and displayed on a second monitor or projector. This is controlled separately from the video source, and the last site who activates this feature has their computer displayed to all the sites.

People plus content only works if all sites have the capability to do this, if not, the video source can be switched between the video camera and a lower resolution version of the computer display, and a document camera or video recording device as well.

Gas prices have been reasonable for the last few months, but it's unlikely to stay that way, and video conferencing gives us means to meet with distant colleagues without spending the time and money on travel. 

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