This morning i joined with Craig from GCI in Alaska, Janine from Michigan, & Janet my ePrincipal colleague from Baylink cluster to have a conversation about desktop video conferencing and integrating webconferencing (think Adobe, Elluminate) with H323 connections (what we know as ‘VC’).
Firstly we looked at the lower cost hardware options of webcam & echo cancelling microphone running through the desktop compared to an integrated H323 VC unit. Craig demonstrated the difference by switching between the two during our call. There was no noticeable difference at all. With USB extension cables attached to the camera set back from the laptop you can have a wider view (potentially including more people) than the close up view (compare my & Craig’s pictures). The only drawback is that the webcam (currently) doesn’t have the same functionality as a polycom camera of zoom, pan & tilt.
We then went onto discuss the Vidyo platform we were meeting in. Craig & Janine were both coming into the VC with their regular VC IP connections, Janet & I were coming through the open internet using our webcams from home. The beauty of this is that you don’t need expensive hardware or even a connection with Qos – Quality of Service (such as we currently have to use with SchoolZone to be able to VC). You can bring people in from just about anywhere providing they have sufficient bandwidth (I have nearly 2mb download & 512kps upload) & you can bring in users on a standard vc connection as well.
The possibilities here are being able to open up our online classes that are currently only VC to any school with web access or vice-versa. Those schools such as in SILC cluster with only web conferencing would be able to bring in VC connections also. Schools, particularly primary schools who want to join virtual fieldtrips won’t have to pay crippling internet service prices for a video connection or traipse down to a VC room at the local high school but be able to connect from their own classrooms.
This sort of solution to current VC constraints will really open up accessibility for the Virtual Learning Network and is something that our VLNC community needs to investigate further & put to the MOE to provide the support we need. The VLC has an infrastructure working party that has been looking at EVO which is being used by users on the KAREN network – very similar i believe. Hopefully something will come of this as we move into the high speed network era.