Another school year is upon us, and again we are faced with the challenge of accessibility and cost of education.

Massive open online classes, more commonly referred to as MOOC’s, are gaining substantial popularity across the nation. These online courses, offered to large numbers of students, and often free of charge, use a recorded video curriculum that students can access at their convenience. One of the major benefits is the on-demand structure of that content. Furthermore, this increased accessibility allows students to participate regardless of their location or scheduled availability.

Although MOOC’s can vary drastically from class to class, they have one thing in common; their use of video. Combining video conferencing equipment and infrastructure, educators are able to record, edit, and stream high quality lectures and content. The growth of collaboration in education beyond traditional video conferencing also includes the use and integration of interactive whiteboards. Instructors are now using these interactive whiteboards to complement and add dimension to their online curriculum. The collaboration of these technologies give students the face-to-face feel of a traditional classroom without having to physically be there.

Recently, an increased number of universities around the country have started to offer both, single for-credit courses, as well as full-scale degrees using a paid MOOC platform. This structure of education gives institutions the ability to start attacking the cost and efficiency problems that traditional programs struggle with. Based on a recent article in the New York Times, Georgia Institute of Technology announced that they are planning to offer a MOOC-based online masters degree in computer science. The price tag for this degree will be $6,600, a staggering difference in comparison to the $45,000 for the on-campus offering. This is just one example of the multiple universities who are launching these for-credit, mass online classes and programs.

Along with a strong number of supporters, comes quite a bit of criticism around MOOC’s. Many educators believe that a blend of both virtual and traditional face-to-face learning, as opposed to an online-only structure, is the most effective combination for student success. Critics argue that these mass online programs are difficult to scale while still keeping the tuition rates at the lower end. Additionally, many also argue that recorded courses lack important real-time engagement and conversation. However, the true effectiveness of these classes is still up for debate due to a lack of concrete data available at this point.

With the wide spread popularity of this emerging education trend, there are sure to be many more debates on the subject. As th­­e number of these programs increase, the more we will be able to understand and judge how successful they really are. Do you think MOOC’s are the wave of the future in higher education?

This Week in Collaboration

August 30th, 2013 | Posted by Danielle Downs in Industry News - (0 Comments)

Welcome to our bi-weekly recap of the weeks’ best articles surrounding collaboration. 

1. Agencies are saving millions with virtual events

This is an interesting article about how NASA and FEMA are using video conferencing, specifically for virtual events. It also touches on the mobile and BYOD policy that they are rolling out, along with the resulting benefits of using these video collaboration tools.

2.  Can Video Conferencing Open Up Three Cans of Worms?

An analysis around the three most common challenges surrounding video conferencing in contact centers. Specifically, the technology, HR, and legal issues are concerns for organizations implementing video conferencing. It does state however, that the far reaching benefits outweigh those challenges for most companies.

3. Seizing the Mobile Video Conferencing Opportunity

Mobile video conferencing is on the rise and many companies are adopting mobile strategies within their collaboration environment to account for this increase. Companies are looking at mobile collaboration as an affordable way to expand video within their organization.

4. The business benefits of dedicated video conferencing versus Skype

This explains where and how dedicated video conferencing can be a better choice for most companies when compared to a free, open, web based option like Skype. The benefits include improved quality, multi-point collaboration, and a professional image among other more advanced technical advantages.

5. Is U.S. videoconferencing bill overkill?

This article is around some of the challenges surrounding the Stay in Place, Cut the Waste Act. The bill looks to shave as much as 50% from government travel expenses by mandating video conferencing and other collaboration tools. Some of the arguments against this bill include the legal obligation to use video and if that is going too far. The article also touches on the need to ensure that government networks are both secure and robust if implementing such widespread usage of video collaboration, which could come with a significant price tag.

As an employee of a visual collaboration organization I often take for granted the ease of access to video solutions and the fact that everyone I interact with on a daily basis is on video. In most organizations video conferencing deployments are often limited to a subset of users. For example, middle management or functional departments like sales are given video due to their high proportion of remote team members.

In a typical video environment, most companies use a mix of hardware devices and software, often causing interoperability issues. Conference rooms normally have some sort of standards-based video system from Cisco or Polycom, while desktop and mobile users have various software applications. Additionally, many organizations have Microsoft Lync clients that are sitting dormant either because the organization doesn’t know how to implement the client, or the client doesn’t interoperate with their current video deployment.

Today, Acano announced general availability for their revolutionary new product that solves many of these challenges, and unites previously incompatible audio, video and web technologies into coSpaces. IVCi is always looking ahead to the next big technology and we are excited to announce that we are one of the first partners selected to resell this solution.

So, what exactly is a coSpace?

It’s a virtual meeting room, only radically better. Users can connect with any device or application they have, ranging from a standard video conferencing endpoint to Microsoft Lync or their web browser. Acano also offers native iOS and Android apps that allow users to not only join from their smartphone or tablet, but also split how they attend. For example, if I am connected to a meeting from my desktop system but have to leave the office, I can “throw” the call to my iPhone with a push of a button and without disrupting the meeting. Then, when I get to my destination, I can throw the call back to my iPad.  Or, if I am in a busy area, I can view video on my iPad while sending audio through my phone. That brings new meaning to our mission of Collaborate Anywhere!

coSpaces also go beyond a virtual meeting; they provide a dedicated space for people to organize and exchange ideas by storing chat logs, meeting notes, and more. Users can create as many coSpaces as they need, one for every project, supplier or team, and then invite participants to join.

Acano’s hardware is based on standard Intel processors (similar to those found in a laptop computer) but have been modified specifically for video and collaboration. Based on the hardware and their specially designed software, a single Acano server can handle up to 2500 users, making the solution extremely scalable. Now, every user in an organization can have access to video. Furthermore, all of the inactive Lync clients floating around can be effectively utilized to drive collaboration.

Acano overcomes technology barriers allowing you to work wherever your ideas and creativity thrive. See for yourself with the demo performed at Infocomm below.

To learn more about Acano visit our website.

There are numerous statistics that discuss the proliferation of video conferencing into conference rooms and other meeting environments. Every year, some analyst or video evangelist says, “This is the year video is going to explode!” While video continues to grow at a steady pace, that “explosion” of mass adoption and ubiquity has yet to happen. Right now, only 5% of conference rooms are equipped with some form of video conferencing. This leaves a lot of room for growth!

A typical situation for an organization implementing video usually follows this formula; ten conference rooms have been identified as “video rooms” and will be outfitted with high-quality video conferencing systems from manufacturers such as Cisco or Polycom. This company, however, has another 50 rooms that are used for smaller meetings, huddle sessions, or other forms of collaboration. The cost of equipping each one of those smaller rooms with the same video systems creates budget constraints. Consequently, at this point most companies are forced to leave those rooms without any video conferencing.

If one takes this limited roll-out approach and multiplies it across every organization out there, the ability for video to be truly everywhere becomes almost impossible. So the question becomes, how should the market address this?

Enter the telyHD Pro from Tely Labs. This unit is capable of full 720p HD video conferencing and can be attached to any display (via HDMI). Best of all, it’s under $1000. In addition to the low cost, it is also capable of connecting to standard video conferencing infrastructure (via the SIP protocol) and is natively integrated into the Blue Jeans Network for full interoperable video.

A recent white paper from Wainhouse Research highlighted these smaller meeting rooms and how the availability of a low cost video conferencing system opens up huge possibilities.

These solutions specifically do not offer the high cost ‘luxury’ features such as industry-leading video resolution, full motion dual stream video, optical and motorized pan/tilt/zoom cameras, support for multiple microphones, integrated audio mixers, or multiple video/audio outputs. What they do offer is a solid collaboration experience, including in some cases interoperability with standards-based systems, at an easy-to-afford price. –Wainhouse Research

These types of systems present “good enough” video conferencing; quality that provides a suitable experience but not on the same level as an enterprise grade video conferencing system. In many cases, however, that is ok. Organizations can connect these smaller rooms and help increase overall collaboration across the entire business.

With millions of conference rooms sitting without video connectivity, the introduction of a low-cost unit has the potential to help video spread like wildfire!

The Cohen Children’s Medical Center, a part of North Shore LIJ, strongly believes that art is a crucial aspect of children’s hospitals, as it creates an optimistic and constructive environment. This kind of environment allows children to open up their imagination and begin the healing process. As a result, they implemented an interactive virtual aquarium to entertain the children who are in the pediatric emergency waiting room.

The inspiration of this theme came from Long Island’s very own ocean and shoreline to create a familiar setting for young children, making them feel more at home rather than in a hospital. A hospital environment can be scary for young children and having interactive technology that makes them more comfortable can make their stay much more enjoyable and entertaining. By interacting with the technology and creating their own underwater world within the digital aquarium, children can gain a sense of control, something they may have lost by being in a hospital.

Rather than sitting in an intimidating waiting room, children can now be entertained with the virtual aquarium, and interactive “fish tank” that allows children to create their own fish, and then launch it into the tank to swim among the other fish other children have created. The fish are virtually fed, and swim among other sea creatures, such as turtles, larger fish and live among sea coral. Fish and shells decorate the floors and walls, and the CT scan also has fish painted on it. The renovations have made the hospital more appealing to children, making them less fearful of their environment. “Years of planning went into making the new facility child-friendly. Kids almost want to be here,” said Dr. Charles Schleien, Chairman of Pediatrics, in an interview with Newsday.

IVCi was contracted by North Shore LIJ and The Rockwell Group to install the system which is made up of six LCD panels, each about 55 inches wide, creating a fifteen foot screen. Six iPads are used to control what happens on the panels and allow the children to create the fish they want. The main audio comes from two speakers located on either side of the LCD mounting frame, creating as real of an experience as possible.

See for yourself with the demonstration below!

Digital Aquarium at Cohens Childrens Medical Center – Emergency Waiting Room from labatrockwell on Vimeo.