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.

A few weeks ago I had to privilege to play with one of Oblong’s Mezzanine systems and it was hands down one of the coolest things I have ever seen. Mezzanine truly pushes the boundaries of collaboration to the next level by creating a shared workspace across multiple displays. Essentially, anyone connected to the network can push and control content from multiple inputs on just about any device imaginable.

I was using my iPad, another person was on his PC and another was using Oblong’s spatial wand (think Wii remote but so much cooler). We were all able to push contend from our device, move things around on different screens and “pin” documents to digital corkboards.

Why does this matter?

Well think about a meeting where collaboration is critical; such as research and development, business or financial market analytics or product marketing and design. In each of these meetings, a simple PowerPoint presentation or word document will not suffice. For product launch meetings, participants need to see design specs, cost projections, target markets, key messaging and more.

With Mezzanine, all of these documents can be displayed simultaneously and managed in real time! Market research information can be displayed on one screen with remote participants on another while the team collectively brainstorms on product messaging or market segmenting on the whiteboard. The applications are simply endless which is what makes this solution so amazing.

Watch the video below for a quick demonstration as words simply cannot do Mezzanine justice!

IVCi and Oblong will also be hosting an event on Thursday, March 7 at 5PM at Oblong NYC. Participants will be able to meet the team, grab a drink, and experience the future of collaboration for themselves. Space is limited, click here to register.

See the future of enterprise communications, listen to thought leaders and comprehensive analysis, attend in-depth technical sessions, and of course stop by Booth #330 to visit IVCi!

Enterprise Connect (formerly VoiceCon) is the premiere event and exhibition for all things enterprise communications and collaboration. Sessions cover areas from Unified Communications to Video Conferencing to Social Media.

Some of the sessions we are most excited about are Building a UC & Collaboration Roadmap, Building a UC Business Case and Emerging Video Technologies. Click here to view the entire conference schedule as there are a lot of great sessions.

In other exciting news, we just found out the UC Room was selected as a finalist for the Best of Enterprise Connect! The Judging Committee reviewed over 40 entries and selected six finalists based on products with the most significant technical impact, helping to revolutionize the enterprise communications industry.

The winner is going to be announced during the Keynote speech on Wednesday, March 20 at the Gaylord Palms Convention Center in Orlando, Florida.

We would obviously love to see you there so we’re passing along a special offer!

Save 40% off the on-site price for the Entire Event and Tue-Thu Conference Packages or register for a Free Expo Pass with Priority Code EIIVCI.

*Photo courtesy of Enterprise Connect 2012

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

Recruiting is a high-stakes industry with everyone vying for the best and brightest candidates. Efficiency is crucial for recruiters; quickly sifting through applications and screening applicants can often make the difference between finding and missing the perfect candidate. As a result, more organizations are turning to video interviews to help qualify applicants faster and lower travel expenses.

This can be quite the change for both seasoned veterans and those entering the workplace for the first time. Seasoned veterans may have a difficult time figuring out how to work the technology while first time applicants might have a difficult time with the professionalism required for an interview.

Here are a few tips should to help make the process smoother should you find yourself accepting a video interview:

Pick an Appropriate Location
While you can hide your bedroom or messy office over the phone, you cannot over video. Prior to joining a video interview, ensure that your surroundings are tidy and professional. The background of your video call says as much, if not more, about you than your responses to the questions. For example, a messy office can convey an unorganized and haphazard candidate while a tidy office can convey a detail oriented candidate. Additionally, be mindful of any pets or additional distractions. Having your roommate in the background or a cat climbing over your computer is not professional either.

Test the Connection
Approximately an hour before the interview log into your computer and connect to a video conference with a friend or family member. This will help ensure your video software is set up properly; for example your camera and microphone are properly configured so the interviewer can hear you and the speakers are working so you can clearly hear the interviewer. This will also ensure your network has enough bandwidth to support a video call. Remember, failing to show up for a video interview is just as detrimental as failing to show up for a physical interview.

Dress Appropriately
Planning the perfect outfit is just as important for a video interview. Stick with solid colors and avoid busy patterns and bright colors (even a striped shirt can be distracting over video). Most importantly, do not wear casual bottoms with a professional top. The last thing you want is the interviewer to see your jeans or pajama bottoms if you have to stand up or shift in your seat for any reason.

Look at the Camera, Not the Screen
Eye contact is critical for any interview; therefore ensure the webcam is set up to maximize eye contact. When answering questions look directly at the camera frequently instead of staring at the screen. This may take some practice as it is counterintuitive not to look at your interviewers but it adds a nice touch.

Just like an in person interview, preparations must be made in order to ensure the most successful meeting possible. In addition to the suggestions above, make sure you understand the company you are interviewing with, their offerings and any important news surround the organization. The more informed you are, the more attractive of a candidate you will be.