Tag Archives: Polycom

Sharing a Biochemistry Class via Videoconference

This week ended a four-week intensive Biochemistry (MCAT prep) class that Dr. David Nowack, at Andrews University taught to Union College, one of our sister institutions and his alma mater. I thought it would be interesting to share some of the details and behind-the-scenes efforts it took to make this class a success! We started planning and preparing in December, and the class ran May 9 to June 3, 2016.


The most important part of any instructional collaboration is the teachers! The two teachers at each institution knew each other already, and brainstormed this great idea of sharing a class together. They worked together to make it a success!

Live Videoconference

The first and most important technical piece of this collaboration was the tool used to connect the professor and class at Andrews to the class at Union. We thought about using Zoom, but we wanted to be able to have the option of camera presets afforded by room-based H.323 videoconferencing. Union had just acquired a new Polycom system, and we have a LifeSize system at Andrews. So we tested and decided that connecting the two was the best option. It worked well, as at our end, the teaching end, we could have presets on a document camera, the professor’s computer, and a variety of classroom and blackboard shots. Once set up, it was easy for Dr. Nowack to switch between the different views.

Technical staff at Andrews University (Dan Hamstra) and Union College (Richard Henriques, Michael Calkins) provided the regular support to ensure the videoconference worked well.

Content Sharing and Accessibility

Dr. Nowack’s PowerPoint as well as the view of the classroom or professor, were shared with Union via videoconference.

Chemistry PowerPoints are very intense a lot of detail. Students had the printed version in front of them, but another tool that helped immensely was using the accessibility feature of Windows to make the mouse pointer as huge as possible. This made it much easier for students at Union to see where Dr. Nowack was pointing.

Administrative Collaboration

After discussing several models with Dr. Alayne Thorpe, Dean of the Andrews University School of Distance Education and International Partnerships, it was decided the easiest way to make this collaboration work financially would be to have the Union students register at Union, and then to create a tuition sharing agreement between Andrews and Union. Support was needed at both locations, so the expenses and income were shared. Dr. Keith Mattingly, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, and Dr. Malcolm Russell, Vice President for Academic Administration at Union, provided additional support for the collaboration.


In this content-heavy course, regular graded assessments keep students engaged and learning. At Andrews, chemistry majors buy their iClicker and use it often in their courses, as the department supports and encourages regular use by their faculty. iClickers are a great tool for a shared class, because the students at Andrews could use their clickers, and the students at Union could use the online version of iClickers. And all the students responses from both locations came into to the teacher’s computer and the collective results could be shown (or not) to the students.

Learning Management System

Another important piece of the puzzle was using Andrews’ learning management system, LearningHub (powered by Moodle). This involved several pieces:

  • An instructional designer at Andrews was assigned in January to provide course design and LearningHub support to Dr. Nowack as he prepared for the class.
  • The Friday before the class started, the Union registrar sent the students names and emails to our LearningHub support team, who created accounts in the course and emailed the Union students with their login information.
  • Handouts, reading guides, and student versions of the PowerPoints were shared in LearningHub. The student versions of the PowerPoints provided a note-taking guide for each chapter, and were provided ahead of time so students at both locations could print them ahead of time to be prepared for class.
  • LearningHub also hosted grades, including the grades synced from the iClickers using the integration between iClicker and LearningHub.


It takes a team to make a collaboration successful! Both institutions need to be committed to supporting the creative collaboration desired by faculty. I look forward to supporting and encouraging future collaborations, both within the U.S. and internationally via COIL.

TxDLA: Skype vs. Standards-based VC: The Showdown

Here are links and resources for my second TxDLA presentation today (Skype vs. Standards-Based VC: The Showdown):


H.323 Desktop VC Options (a few… please comment to add more)

Hybrid / Cross-Over Solutions

  • Vidyo (send a link to anyone to join your VC; also connects to H.323)
  • Blue Jeans Network (connect Skype, phone, H.323 etc. all in the same conference)

Previous Blog Comparisons

Please feel free to comment, add additional resources, or share different views!

Day 11: How To Dial with a Polycom Remote

This post continues our 20 Day Challenge to understand the technical aspects of videoconferencing.

We have covered the larger issues of setting up and optimizing the network, using gatekeepers, and how to tell people to connect with you via a firewall traversal unit. This week, we are shifting our focus on when you pick up the remote to your endpoint and dial to another site.

Most parts of dialing are straight forward. Enter the numbers and connect. Sometimes, there is a hidden button or a function that changes and it isn’t explained on the official equipment documentation. We are going to share some things that we have learned over the years.

How to Dial

  • Press each number and be sure to enter the “.” after each octet. Dialing a video conference unit is different than dialing a phone, in that you don’t add any “punctuation” in a phone number, but you must on a video conference system.
  • Access the directory, if it is set up, and dial directly from there without entering any numbers.
  • To Dial an Alias: Dial the main IP address, add ## and then the number of the extension, alias, or room number.
  • If you dial an IP address and arrive at a screen and if there is audio, listen to what it is saying to you. Codian bridges are “talky” bridges and will present you with an entry queue or auto-attendant. You can navigate this screen by using the far end camera control on your remote and the the up and down arrow keys. When you arrive at the conference where you should be, press enter.

Polycom ViewStation: Quirk

Remember, when you enter the IP address into the dialing menu, you must enter the “.” between each octet.

  • Older ViewStation remotes had no dot button. You press the red, right arrow key while in the address box. That makes the dot.
  • The call/hangup button is green and does both functions.

Polycom VSX 7000: True Love

This could possibly be our favorite video conference remote of all time.

  • Separate call/end call buttons.
  • Dot button.
  • Separate near and far camera control buttons.
  • Color-coded buttons separating the camera and call functions. (This went away in the HDX remotes.)

Polycom HDX Systems: Tip

Polycom HDX systems came with an entirely new remote design. This design was not made with classroom functionality in mind. It was created to appear attractive in a conference room environment. It takes a bit of getting used to the different shaped buttons and some of the design takes precedence over functionality, in our experience. And it takes more batteries!

If you are accustomed to the Viewstation or the VSX line, those remotes will also work with the HDX line. The color coded buttons on the old remote design were user-friendly and easy to train users on.


Your Turn

Anything we missed? Can you remember when you first began dialing? What was hard to remember?

Team-written by Janine Lim, Shane Howard, and Roxanne Glaser. The opinions expressed in these posts are based on our collective video conference experience connecting classes across multiple networks to connect them to zoos, museums, experts and other classes during the past 10 years. This series of posts reflects our usage and understanding, not that of any vendor or manufacturer. No one is paying us to write these. We are just sharing what we have learned.

Blended Learning for the 21st-Century Classroom

SIG IVC Showcase: Elaine Shuck, Polycom, Inc.

Elaine started with a cute video clip about a student waking up in the morning to get engaged.

Polycom Special Events

She described the Polycom Special Event with blind author Jim Stovall, as well as other events: Dr. Ben Carson, Evelyn Coleman, Laurie Keller, Sarah Miller, Elizabeth Raum, Sue Stauffacher, Susan Thoms, Margaret Willey, Amy Young, Janie Panagopoulos; and other events for Black History Month, Women’s History Month.

Registration opens on September 1st inside CAPspace: Collaborations Around the Planet, where also registration happens for Read Around the Planet and teachers can post their own collaborations as well.

The programs are popular and fill up in a few hours, so get ready to register!

They also described a partnership with Global Nomads Group and showed how the lesson plans etc. are posted on the Polycom Special Events wiki.

The Polycom Special Events are free for Polycom customers, and there are only 5 slots for each session. They ask that only one school per district register for each event to make room for everyone.

The ASK Process

Sue Porter explained the ASK process: Ask, Specialist, Knowledge, where the students read a book, journal, write good questions, and then interview an author or a specialist. The video shown during the session is linked here at the top of the page.

Sessions in the Polycom Booth

Also FYI, there are a whole bunch of 30 min sessions throughout the conference at the Polycom booth – on CAPspace, with Global Nomads, with Andy Campbell at LearnNCO, and CMA Desktop, the new desktop videoconferencing tool; among other things.

Attendance: This session was JAM PACKED – it was great to see the large number of people interested in videoconferencing!

Interviewing Women Business Executives

Three of the executives participated from California.

Last Friday afternoon we had several local classes participate in a Polycom Special Event. Students from business, management, and economics classes interviewed four Polycom women executives as a celebration of Women’s History Month. The students had prepared great questions:

  • Did you know this job existed when you were going to school?
  • Were you always interested in this field?
  • What skills and/or abilities were really helpful to you in this job?
  • Why is following your skills and interests so important in choosing a job?
  • What are the most difficult aspects of your job?
  • Did you need to know a lot about technology?
  • Explain how technology has changed the way you do your job?
  • How will the job outlook and advancement affect your career plans for 5 years from now?

Students appreciated the opportunity to talk to women in the work force to hear about their experiences and their advice for high school students.

Thank you, Polycom, for offering these special events to our students!

Dragging Participants from "Entry Queue" to Conference

I just figured out something on my Tandberg bridge, and have been urged by VC friends to share. So here goes.


I have had a Tandberg MPS 200 and Tandberg Management Suite since 2005. When we purchased our infrastructure, Tandberg didn’t have the Border Controller. So we do not have one.

I have written before about my struggles dialing other schools who are “off  my network” and “not on my dial plan.” For example:

Since most of my calls are off network, I cannot run my videoconference program without the ability to have people dial into just an IP address of the bridge and drop into a conference or get dragged into the conference where they belong. Because of that, I have not been using my Tandberg Management Suite, because it will randomly assign conferences into conference 1, and I need to keep conference 1 open for the people who can’t dial into conferences and who I can’t call from my bridge (for technical reasons).

But, last week I just figured out a way around this conundrum. Here’s how I have it set up.

Disclaimer: I totally understand that I’m not using this the way Tandberg designed it or prefers that we use VC. However, I need to be able to have schools outside my network connect to my bridge, so this is what I figured out.

Default Conference 1 & Scheduled Conference 1

  • On the bridge, a long time ago we telnetted into the MCU and set the default conference to conference 1. (Ask your tech support for the exact info as I don’t have it anymore.)
  • The MCU is set up with single dial in OFF. This means that there is no entry queue. If someone dials the IP of the MCU, they drop into conference 1.

Now, what I figured out two weeks ago, is that I can set up a conference from TMS to start at 8 am and close at 4:30 every school day from now until the end of the school year. Since nothing else was scheduled when I started, that reserved conference 1 for the rest of the school year. I made the conference with 4 dial-ins, so when I have a MysteryQuest like yesterday where 4 out of 5 classes had to just dial the bridge IP, there is lots of room for them.

This set up then allows me to schedule all my other conferences as normal with TMS.

Dragging Over

So, whenever someone can’t get into the right conference or I can’t dial out to them, they drop into conference 1.

Then, I use the MCU web interface (instead of TMS) to drag that participant over to the conference where they belong. See the screenshot below. It’s under the Change tab (shown), and then I select other open conferences from the menu (not shown).

Other Dialing Notes / Disadvantages

Now there are some ramifications to setting it up this way; but dialing just the IP to get into the bridge is worth it for me.

  • Codian MCUs can call in with my MCU IP as a gateway and using the conference alias.
  • I have to call other Tandberg MCUs; haven’t figured out how to get them in.
  • Tandberg endpoints can’t call into my conferences. They drop into conference 1 and I drag them over; or I dial out to them.
  • Polycom endpoints can call in with the IP## format. Since it seems Polycom has about 70% of the K12 market that I connect with, this format works well. (Numbers from 2010 Read Around the Planet statistics.)
  • The Polycom RMX & MGC can call in with the IP and the extension in the party alias field.
  • I haven’t yet run into a LifeSize unit that I need to connect, so I’m not sure on those.
  • I have my gatekeeper set up with GDS, so I can easily place and receive calls with anyone else who is on GDS.

Other MCUs

The ability to “rescue” participants who can’t get into the right conference is one of the most important features I check when I consider purchasing an MCU. I need a bridge that can help me make calls that don’t work point to point.

Codian: Right now, as far as I understand it, only the Codian actually has a built in feature to drag participants from the entry queue to the conference where they below. To me, that’s a big score for the Codian MCU; hopefully Tandberg won’t consider that a “hack” and take it away in future software revisions.

Tandberg: Now I’ve figured out this major work-around for the Tandberg MPS. Yay!

Polycom: As far as I understand, you can’t do this with the Polycom RMX. And of course the MGC (if set up the old way instead of with meeting rooms) uses the IP address of the incoming participant to drop the participant into the right conference.

Please Comment & Read the Comments

I don’t claim to be a certified videoconferencing technician, and am still learning how to make my calls work. Please comment and share additional information and opinions. I realize there are majorly differing views on this situation. So be sure to check the comments to get any additional information or views on this issue.

How to Make a Tandberg call the Polycom IP##extension Format

Dialing drives me crazy! I’ve said that before. I’ve noticed that it’s the Read Around the Planet test calls time of year when I get the most frustrated about it. So, it’s a breath of fresh air to figure out another piece of the dialing puzzle.

Here’s what I learned that is helping me so far.

I have a Tandberg MCU, and haven’t been able to get it to dial any Polycom IP## formats. But here’s what I learned that works:

Polycom Endpoints

If the IP## format is an endpoint that is behind the Polycom firewall traversal unit (used to be called V2IU and is now called a VBP: Video Border Proxy), then you can use this format:

  • alias@IP

Polycom Bridges: MGC / RMX

If the Polycom bridge is registered to a gatekeeper (i.e. CMA or an older gatekeeper), then you dial:

  • alias@ the IP of the gatekeeper (NOT the bridge!)

If the Polycom bridge isn’t installed with a gatekeeper, then you can only dial in and use the DTMF tones (if the MCU has the entry queue set to default).

What I Still Don’t Know

  • I’m still not sure if the Tandberg endpoints can do this. If anyone knows, please comment and enlighten us all!

Please comment

This dialing mess is something we all have to deal with. If you have additional information, please comment. Be sure to read the comments on this post also to get any updated new information.

Calling Other MCU Conference Rooms

One of the conundrums of my videoconferencing life is how to make calls work with weird dialing. Since 60% of my calls are with schools across the country (off my network with various dialing policies of their own), I run into these a lot.  Please, please, please vendors, when will it work like a phone?!

Yesterday I received additional training on TMS from SKC. We spent pretty much two hours trying to figure out how to make TMS in conjunction with my Tandberg MPS 800 dial conferences on other MCUs that are off my network. Since the results are obscure and undocumented, I thought it would be helpful to share. This was tested with TMS J12.2 and the MPS J4.5.


Create a Participant Template. Enter the MCU IP as normal. In the DTMF box, enter the extension this way:

Polycom MGC:

Create a Participant Template. Enter the MCU IP as normal. In the DTMF box, enter the extension this way:


(Apparently the numbers come too fast for the MGC. The commas slow it down.)

Polycom RMX

Create a Participant Template. Enter the MCU IP as normal. In the DTMF box, enter the extension this way:


Tandberg MPS

This needs the alias@IP format, however you can’t enter this in the participant template. If you put the alias@IP in the IP field, it strips out the @IP.

So, instead, use the phone book to enter alias@IP.

This solution works for a Tandberg endpoint behind a Border Controller as well.

Your Turn: If you have additional tips for making MCUs dial conferences and extensions on other equipment outside your network, please comment!!