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Videoconferencing at UVa

Examples

Desktop video conferencing, desktop collaboration, and group video conferencing may be used to enhance productivity and to reduce travel costs. Use of these technologies must be matched to the situations that will benefit from their application. It is possible that an activity may not only fail to benefit from the technology, but actually be negatively impacted by attempted use of the technology. An example of this is a group of staff members who do not already use computing as a regular component of their work activities who are directed to use desktop collaboration to produce a directory. While desktop collaboration may be a reasonable tool for this purpose, it would be a mistake to try to impose its use before the staff is comfortable using more familiar programs such as email or word processing.

Examples of good candidates for desktop collaboration include:

Co-authoring

A faculty member in Virginia may wish to write a paper with a colleague at a university in another state. Rather than send email drafts back-and-forth, they brainstorm using an electronic whiteboard, then use a shared application to jointly write the paper. Their discussions could be via video conferencing, but a telephone would be just as useful.

Interviewing

A dean could conduct an initial interview of a faculty candidate using desktop video conferencing, or a human resources officer could interview a job applicant. While this example is frequently given as a natural use for video conferencing, the video and audio quality may be inadequate. The interviewer may find that the process takes longer to conduct as both parties adjust hardware and software in an attempt to improve the quality. A network outage or a crashed PC may make the video interview impossible. Both parties need to be flexible, and should suggest resorting to a phone interview before frayed tempers affect the outcome.

Programming

Two (or more) programmers who may work from different locations (including from a home office) can participate in debugging, editing, and testing programs using shared applications. As in co-authoring, verbal communication via telephone or an audio-only network connection are equally feasible.

Staff Meetings

Staff or board meetings which are regularly conducted in multiple locations can benefit from use of a room-based videoconferencing system rather than attempted use of a desktop video system. The extra elements such as a self-orienting camera and full duplex audio, as well as a large display, will offset the cost of travel (and lost productivity) of sets of people. Infrequent staff meetings, however, may not justify the acquisition of a full room-based videoconferencing system. Managers of occasional remote meetings may opt to use a desktop video system or arrange for the loan of a portable unit. Sites on a busy commercial Internet segment could severely affect the quality of the whole videoconference, so preliminary testing is always a good idea.

Page Updated: 2012-02-16