Comparing Skype and VC Carts in the Jazz Workshop

This week in the Jazz Workshop, my participants and I keep coming back to comparing Skype and videoconferencing carts (or standards based videoconferencing – i.e. H323). We’ve been discussing it all week. (For reference, here’s a previous comparison.)

Today, we did a 5 minute call with a group of teachers in OH who learning about Skype in an afternoon workshop.

Computer Sharing

  • Is pretty easy on Skype, but you can’t show the desktop and the video at the same time.
  • On H323 VC carts, you can share the computer and in some cases, the computer and the video/presenter at the same time.

Other Video Sources

  • On the H323 videoconferencing system, we could easily share the document camera by pressing a number to jump to a preset.
  • On Skype, we are not sure. In theory a USB document camera could be shared with the other site. But do you have to disconnect or end the video part of the call to change video settings? It seems likely.


  • The mic on our Polycom VSX 7000 is obviously designed for a whole classroom and works great.
  • I was very surprised that the audio we were sending to the group in OH seemed to work fine from across the room. That was using the built in mic on my Mac. I also had my Mac hooked up to the SmartCart with speakers so they could hear. And that did not cause an echo for the remote site as I thought it would. I was pleasantly surprised!
  • The group in Ohio had a hand held mic that sounded GREAT. But when they switched to their logitech mic it was kind of tinny and not as clear. I don’t know which logitech webcam they were using or how they connected the hand held mic. I would like to learn that!

Camera Presets

  • On both sides we had the camera set to show the whole room.
  • Of course with Skype/webcams, we don’t have a way to do presets or easily switch to a document camera.
  • With the H323 system, it’s easy to set presets to just hit a number to jump/zoom to a specific area of the room. (Zoom, pan, tilt, preset cameras!)


  • The participants shared some of their experiences with Skype and how sometimes it’s great and other times not so much. And sometimes it won’t connect at all.


We discussed how Skype is good for short learning experiences that aren’t critical/frustrating if it can’t connect right then.

Standards based (h323) videoconferencing carts are better when

  • you’ve paid for the program
  • need it at a specific time
  • have a guest speaker only at a specific time,
  • or have a more in depth interaction.

What do you think? Do you agree? Do you have more to add to the list? Please comment!

2 replies on “Comparing Skype and VC Carts in the Jazz Workshop”

  1. Another thing that we do with the Polycom HDX is people on content which is handy for instruction and facilitation. We also use a PointMaker for annotation over any type of content including live video and doc cams.

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