Did you know that NASA, home to astronauts, rovers, and space shuttles, also offers a comprehensive program of free Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) courses for students across the U.S.?

NASA’s Digital Learning Network (DLN) reached almost 76,000 students last year using video and web conferencing from one of their 10 studios. Caryn Smith Long , manager of DLN, explains how the innovative program helps to broaden students’ learning—and worlds.

IVCi: Who uses NASA’s DLN?
CSL: We work with students from kindergarten through certified teachers. We’re developing some asynchronous courses where we take some modules we offer classrooms and teach them to teachers so they’re able to do the same offerings with their students. Our calendars get really full really quick, so this gives them the opportunity to learn the material and do the module themselves in the classroom.

IVCi: What are the benefits of the program and video learning?
CSL: There are a variety of different benefits. I was a teacher for 16 years and I tried to give kids a chance to see beyond their own limited backyard so they could see a future for themselves. Video conferencing provides them with the technology that allows students to see beyond their own world.

When kids hear they’re going to be connecting with NASA, it automatically generates excitement just because of the branding. The meatball, the little blue insignia, is second (behind Coca-Cola) in terms of international recognition.

We’ve done some research on the effectiveness of video conferencing and have found that integrating inquiry presentation within video conferencing is indeed an effective way to have students learn. It’s actually a more effective way to learn the content when you’re being interactive and the students have supplies on their end and you’re facilitating that through a process of questioning.

IVCi: Are there any challenges with using video, especially regarding schools’ access to technology and equipment?
CSL: Initially, there were issues. Video conferencing equipment was very expensive. You could spend anywhere from $10,000 to $25,000 for a complete system and a lot of school systems didn’t have that money. Originally that was the only way we could connect with them because it was consistent in quality for both audio and video. But over the years, web conferencing has become more stable and reliable. We have web conferencing software that allows schools to connect via webcams on their computers directly to our video conferencing units. We’ve also used Skype software solutions. So opening up that door has made us more accessible to schools.

IVCi: Have you seen an audience growth due to this increased accessibility?
CSL: Yes, I think so. We have about a 20% growth and I anticipate even more growth at the end of this fiscal year.

IVCi: Which are the most popular programs?
CSL: Our Magnificent Sun seems to be really popular with our elementary students. Planet Hopping is another one, and States of Matter, and Roving on Mars with Curiosity. This one’s been revamped to include the ongoing research Curiosity is doing on the Red Planet.

IVCi: Are there any particular challenges with keeping students engaged when using video conferencing?
CSL: When you first start with these programs and the kids aren’t used to it, they’re all amazed the TV is talking back to them. But eventually the technology becomes transparent so it’s as if you’re in the classroom with them and they begin to realize we can see them. Sometimes I can see the entire classroom with video conferencing better than I can in the actual classroom because you have a different perspective. We try to personalize it as well. We ask for the kids’ names, and that forms a relationship.

IVCi: What are some of the most memorable questions you’ve heard from students?
CSL: The funniest questions they ask are astronaut related: How do you go to the bathroom in space, how do you sleep, how do you eat? When we open the session up at the end for questions, 9 times out of 10, we’ll get those three.

IVCi: Can you share some of your favorite moments?
CSL: Not only have I had the chance to work with astronauts, which is way cool, but I’ve also met the Tuskegee Airmen. We had author Chris Van Allsburg in our studios to talk about his book Zathura and about myths and realities of space travel. We had a chance to celebrate NASA’s 50th birthday. We had a big web cast where we did a NASA love-fest and connected all day long to each of the 10 NASA centers and each did a special presentation for U.S. schools, but we also did schools internationally that day.

IVCi: What’s your favorite part of NASA’s DLN program?
CSL: Knowing that we’re impacting more than just 30 students in a classroom. We’ve connected with hundreds of thousands during the year and we’ve inspired them to maybe look beyond their own situations and get excited about science and mathematics. To know that, as an educator, you have that kind of impact with that many students, that’s why you go into education.

CarynBlogCaryn Long is Lead Education Specialist for NASA’s Digital Learning Network. She is a 25-year career educator and former elementary classroom educator currently pursuing her PhD in Educational Technology at Oklahoma State University. She resides in Newport News, VA with her significant other and two young sons.

You’ve heard of using video to arraign inmates, manufacture products, produce films, and even design clothing; but what about to build homes?

Well IVCi customer K. Hovanian Homes, a nationally recognized home builder with headquarters in New Jersey and satellite offices across the company, is doing just that. Video is mostly used for quarterly accounting and budget planning, home design and other industry related meetings since many executives and directors work in satellite offices around the US, or in one case the Middle East.   

Mobility Experience gives these executives the flexibility to connect to a video call wherever, whenever, on whatever device is most convenient. This was a crucial component for one traveling executive who replaced his audio calls with video calls made from his mobile device or tablet in his hotel room and even during his summer vacation in Italy.   

Video conferencing solutions have also helped the company to streamline their design process. The design team, consisting of architects scattered across the country, are able to easily share their designs and ideas with executives without having to travel to headquarters. 

 “Document cameras allow us to share the progress of blue prints, and this ability to push content across the network has been a big plus for us. Our remote teams can easily share the architectural diagrams, view a 3D virtual walk-through, and address changes that are being made to plans at headquarters in weekly video meetings.”   – Brian Catri, IS Field Operations Manager at K. Hovnanian

K. Hovnanian has found a way to succeed despite the economic downturn and struggling housing market. Visual collaboration solutions have allowed them to reduce travel costs and gain operational efficiencies which provide a significant advantage in their hypercompetitive industry. 

To read the full case study visit:
Designing Real Homes Using Virtual Meetings

Manufacturing relies on efficiency more so than any other industry. Being able to decrease the cost of goods sold by just one or two cents per unit can translate into a significant increase in profits. Many companies have begun outsourcing their manufacturing overseas for lower labor costs; however as products become increasingly complex and technical, a brighter and more technically sophisticated workforce is needed. As a result, the United States is starting to expand in manufacturing jobs. In fact, Apple recently announced that it plans to start manufacturing some of their Mac computers in the US.

Video conferencing and unified communications solutions can help US manufacturers drive efficiencies and remain competitive with global competitors. Here are just a few examples:

Hiring the Right People:
In a recent HBR article, Scott Erker states that manufacturing profits come from a company’s ability to “make the best use of technology to flexibly create high-quality products with continual process improvements and few accidents.” Therefore, US manufacturers need to hire “technically sophisticated, adaptable, engaged workers who are self-motivated to learn.”

Video conferencing allows hiring managers to screen applicants in a more effective manner, especially those located in different cities or even states. Conducting the first interview over video allows hiring managers to distinguish facial expressions and other non-verbal clues which can help determine whether or not the applicant will be a fit for the company.

Employee Training & Development:
Using complex machinery and technical equipment requires a significant amount of training for the most efficient and effective results. Video conferencing and unified communication tools can be used to enhance employee training and development. Streaming video can provide a consistent experience for training sessions, policy updates and other company messages while reaching multiple employees simultaneously.

Coordinate with Suppliers:
A key to efficient manufacturing is to build in redundancy for raw materials and source components from multiple suppliers in multiple geographic locations. Maintaining quality and consistency can be challenging and requires consistent communication with suppliers. Video conferencing solutions can be used to coordinate with suppliers, verify product quality and negotiate contracts without the added expense and hassle of business travel.

Green Initiatives:
Manufacturing places a significant strain on environmental resources due to the high consumption of energy and other natural resources needed to operate manufacturing equipment. Video conferencing solutions can help minimize a company’s carbon footprint by reducing airline and automobile travel to the plant without sacrificing face-to-face meetings.

Additional Resources:
Manufacturers Stay Ahead of the Competition with Video Conferencing

Video conferencing uses span across nearly every industry and profession. When it comes to staying connected with both internal and external contacts, there is no better way to maintain communication and provide the highest level of customer service. When it comes to sales, utilizing every avenue available to differentiate oneself is critical to closing that next big sale. Previously we have discussed the merits of video conferencing as a tool for sales professionals who work directly with customers. But another key area to apply the power of video is the internal management of sales within any organization.

Sales managers across a variety of industries struggle with similar challenges; including managing a team of sales professionals, providing timely and accurate forecast data to upper management, as well as being able to mentor and contribute to each rep’s success. Let’s look at how video can be used in these key areas.

Forecasting

One of the most challenging aspects of managing a sales team and sales effort is receiving accurate forecast data from the sales team as well as reporting the most accurate forecast to upper management. Video conferencing provides a far better way to work with remote reps on this critical business area. In many organizations, reps provide their forecasts electronically through a CRM or other tool.

These numbers may be discussed via a phone call with a manager before submittal but sometimes they only live electronically. Even in those situations where a manager and rep discuss the numbers, it can be hard to read the sales rep’s demeanor and overall confidence in the numbers. When these forecast calls are elevated to video, non-verbal cues can help the manager quickly ascertain if the forecast is based on solid information or purely on conjecture. Armed with that “truth” the manager will be able to provide forecasts that are based on reality.

Internal Teams

Another challenge a sales rep must overcome is the need to rely on different teams within an organization to provide the products and services they are tasked to sell. Especially in a technical sale, sales reps are required to call upon engineers and other subject matter experts to help explain products and services, define pricing and scopes of work, as well as give the customer more in-depth technical presentations. In many cases, these subject matter experts must be flown to different locations (thus increasing the cost of sales). With video, sales can easily communicate internally with the SMEs on what they need to move the sale forward and can also bring a customer into a video meeting to help sell the value of the organization’s technical expertise.

Sales Training

How does an organization keep its sales team updated on the latest product and service developments without taking the team away from the business of selling? Video conferencing can provide a way to do short, specific training sessions with sales reps, no matter where they are located. Instead of requiring the team to come into one location for an extended period of trainings and updates, information can be disseminated in smaller sessions, more frequently. Even better, a sales rep would only have to take an hour or two out of their schedule and they can return to selling as soon as possible.

Video conferencing has the power to transform a sales team into an incredibly efficient and profitable machine. When sales is more prepared, better connected, and held even more accountable, the results can only increase an organization’s bottom line!

Since most people have little to no understanding of legal jargon and legal processes they rely heavily on their attorney to handle things properly. Clients must place a significant amount of faith in their attorney; trusting that he knows what he is doing because it’s impossible to check over his shoulder. For example, at the grocery store you can double check your bill to ensure you were not double charged for items; but how do you know if your lawyer filed the correct paperwork?

Law firms rely heavily on building relationships by staying in touch with clients; and face-to-face communication is a key component. Unfortunately, due to busy schedules of both attorneys and clients it can be difficult to coordinate these meetings and status updates. As a result, many law firms are turning to video conferencing to meet with clients as these solutions provide the face time without the added travel expenses.

Plus, trends in new cloud services are making it easier than ever for clients to connect with law firms. Clients can join the video conference including Skype, Google Video Chat and even their web browser eliminating the need audio conferences or renting public telepresence rooms for clients. Furthermore, even when attorneys are traveling they can still attend critical meetings; such as important client updates or internal meetings to prepare for an upcoming case.

In addition to staying in touch with clients, video conferencing solutions can provide a number of other benefits for law firms. Here are a few more ways law firms can utilize this technology to provide better service to their clients while minimizing costs.

Video Depositions: Preparing for trial can be a lengthy process depending on the number and location of witnesses that need to be deposed. As long as they have a web cam, witnesses can connect to a video deposition without having to travel to the law firm’s office. Additionally, these calls can be recorded and archived so they can be played back as needed.

Subject Matter Expert Interviews: Expert witnesses play a significant role by providing credibility and backup for key evidence and claims. Unfortunately, these specialists can be difficult and costly to access; especially if they are located internationally. Video testimony allows specialists to provide expert opinions that corroborate evidence without the added expense and potential delays of travel.

Coordinate with State Agencies: Earlier this year Michigan Social Security Administration’s (SSA) real-time video conference system went live. Law firms who specialize in disability cases have to work with the SSA on a regular basis; video conferencing can help alleviate some of the redundancy by providing a more efficient processes for handling cases.

Video conferencing offers a wide variety of cost savings and business benefits to law firms; from reducing travel time to increase efficiency and interoffice communication. Firms can strengthen relationships with clients and gain a competitive advantage through superior client services.

Additional Resources
Growing Your Law Firm with Video Conferencing