Video conferencing growing at WSU

[media-credit name=”Tyler Brown” align=”alignright” width=”300″][/media-credit]With the growth of Skype reaching milestones, Weber State University is increasing its use of video-conference technology.

In a recent blog, Skype said on its website that about 35 million users were logged in at the same time, a new record. This was just one week after reaching the milestone of 34 million.

“It’s probably been the past year that teacher education started using Skype as interviewing a potential faculty member,” said Bob King, who works in Academic Tech Training and Planning at WSU.

Interviews through Skype were then used in other departments, along with IP video conferencing.

“The key that makes Skype work so well is that it’s free software, and it’s easy to use,” King said.

King said there are some issues with it when there’s heavier internet trafficking, but for the most part it’s successful.

One of the issues with Skype is that it is not a secure network for video conferencing. From a university perspective, King said they want to use a more secure way of communication, such as IP video conferencing. Although more expensive, with costs of equipment up to $9,000, IP video conferencing is secure and is used for universities to communication with other schools and departments.

“My knowledge of Skype use on campus is that it has been used by faculty members to individually contact students,” said Allen Lore, online specialist at WSU.

He said it is not used in an organized fashion because they have tools like Wimba. It integrates with the learning management system and works for faculty members.

“If you are a student at WSU, you automatically have access to Wimba,” Lore said.

Lore said that Wimba has more benefits than Skype and is used on the Blackboard Learning System and WSU’s Canvas website for students. It has the same kind of features as Skype. Many faculty on the campus are using it during office hours to provide help for students who miss class.

“Right now on campus, there is a big push for conference rooms where people can meet and have someone who’s not there to be able to do it,” Lore said.

He also said that when the H1N1 flu virus hit WSU, the university pushed for this kind of technology to receive help on how to handle the situation.

Lore said the technology allows students and faculty to talk, text and use two-way video communication. Wimba was built with the classroom in mind and is more instructor based.

“For Skype, it’s easy to get an account and talk to your buddies, but Wimba is teacher driven,” Lore said.

Lore has helped a few instructors use Skype, but he has helped more instructors with Wimba. The product was purchased by the Utah Education Network and has been on campus for three years. The technology is being used for the next year while looking for a technology to replace it.

“I would love to see it connect faculty and students better,” Lore said for a replacement technology.

Lore’s former boss Gail Niklason  said the courses that students did better in had student-to-student contact and interaction. She said that it helps increase student learning.

“Anything that helps the students learn better,” Lore said.

Although Skype may be growing in its number of users at WSU, it isn’t the only video technology the faculty is using.