With ever-sharpening technology and rapidly falling price points, videoconferencing has never been more accessible to colleges and universities. Over any computer, iPad/tablet or smartphone comes a remarkably high definition picture and super-clear audio—ready to transport any student or researcher – or even entire lecture halls – into face-to-face or place-to-place, real-time encounters with the rest of the world. Today’s videoconferencing setups run over public Internet connections, making expensive, private WANs a thing of the past. The end result can be a liberation of learning.
“Mobile videoconferencing,” says Charles Kazilek, director of technology integration at Arizona State University (ASU), “instead of being an event, is going to be a way of life.” He’s watching it all take place from a front-row seat as it happens around the campus at Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona. “[Users] can interact and do things so much faster now than they could before [with room-based systems].” (Click here for video: Arizona State University).
ASU’s School of Life Sciences was the first department at the school that Kazilek equipped with videoconferencing technology because the particularly broad subject range necessitates lots of research and consultation with experts and colleagues across the world.
“[S]tudents are participating in high-quality [video] exchanges with Smithsonian Institution scientists and researchers located in the jungles of Panama,” Kazilek said. [“W]e can now capture these valuable interactions to use as an educational resource for larger groups of students to view and learn from; it enhances the learning experience for our faculty and students, alike.”
Kazilek chose products from the videoconferencing vendor Vidyo, Inc., of Hackensack, NJ, because he was thrilled with the quality and price of the technology.
Vidyo’s technology relies on a new coding method that uses layered streams of video and the replacement of the standard MCU (Multi-point Control Unit) with a newly-patented router. A basic system runs from $6,000 for the VidyoRouter, which can handle up to 100 connections, with each connection or port costing $1,000 each for licenses that don’t expire.
ASU tested the Vidyo system for six months with students on campus, the scientists in Panama and partners at other research institutions. The results were dramatic: Kazilek said the desktop video conferencing software has exceeded his expectations in terms of quality and enabled users to be both more independent and highly collaborative.
“A lot of [desktop video conferencing vendors] had promised what Vidyo is doing and didn’t deliver,” Kazilek said. “What we’re doing would typically require tens to thousands of dollars worth of equipment, and we’re doing it with laptops on consumer-grade [Internet] lines.”