Microsoft Lync is an amazing unified communications and visual collaboration tool that continues to see major adoption across all areas of business. However, there are integration challenges with traditional endpoints and other standard-based video systems. Ray Beaulieu, Senior Director of  Network Operations and Infrastructure at Charles River Labs, talks about some of these challenges as well as gives insight on how the Acano solution helped solve these challenges.

Distance learning programs have been around for years.  They’re a great way to extend a college or university’s reach to students who otherwise wouldn’t be able to attend. For example, moving across the country or sometimes even the state isn’t feasible. However, with distance learning programs, these students can attend classes from their home and receive their degree remotely.

Over the years the method of delivering distance learning programs has evolved significantly.  The first virtual classroom wasn’t much of a classroom at all. Professors would upload PowerPoint presentations with voice clips attached to each slide and students would listen to each session on their own time. To facilitate discussion, professors could pose questions on message boards and require students to post responses or comment on each other’s posts.  Unfortunately, these classes lacked the interactivity and group discussion typically found in a traditional classroom. Students were unable to ask questions or discuss topics in real time causing an isolated learning experience.

Then web conferencing solutions came along. These solutions allowed a presenter to share content (a presentation) and talk through the slides while participants joined the conference and followed along virtually. This allowed students to ask questions and participate in real-time, making the learning experience much more interactive. However, these solutions lacked the face-to-face interaction common in traditional classrooms which allows students to bond and develop relationships with each other; both of which are necessary to stimulate open discussion.

Eventually, video conferencing began to integrate into web conferencing solutions. Cloud-based virtual meeting rooms were also developed which provided a way for professors and students to interact face-to-face while simultaneously viewing the presentation. This created a more interactive learning environment and allowed a virtual classroom to more closely emulate a traditional classroom.  However, the ability break out into small groups during class or work on group projects still presented a challenge. These services were not scalable and it was cost prohibitive to give small groups of students their own room let alone give each student his or her own virtual meeting.

Acano, a visual collaboration technology that was recently introduced, overcomes these scalability barriers and allows virtual classrooms to truly rival a traditional classroom. Every distance learning student can receive their own account and licenses can be redistributed as students graduate or leave the program. Virtual meeting rooms can be set up for each class and students can be subscribed to the classes they are registered for.  Additionally, professors can set up separate rooms for breakout sessions then subscribe small groups of students.  A list of rooms that users are subscribed to is always available, allowing students and professors to easily switch between different classes and breakout groups.  As a result, distance learning students are able to listen to a lecture while simultaneously viewing the presentation, easily engaging and interacting with professors and their peers, as well as participating in both class and group discussions.

Virtual Classroom CTA

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.