Experimenting with Desktop VC Part 2

Last Wednesday Craig Mollerstuen from GCI Alaska hosted another experimentation session for desktop videoconferencing options. We keep talking about ways these tools can be used to bring VC to the classroom and to bring outside experts to the classroom.

I’m a little slow writing this up, but the need continues. I had a small private school call me on Friday with a request to get VC. They had a donation for $500. For now we are seeing if Polycom PVX will run on the older computers that the school has.

So on Wednesday, we had a group of people connected on the Vidyo side:

And another set of people connected on the H323 side:

Just like hooking two bridges together, it’s not possible to have all the sides in all the squares.

Notice the great quality of the picture on both sides of the VC (from the Region 12 perspective).

The Vidyo sites are connected through a Vidyo H323 router which was connected to a Polycom MGC which connected the H323 sites.

Audio & Video Gear
One of the things we talked about was different types of mics and video cameras that work well for making desktop VC work in the classroom:

  • Clearone Chat 50: Some liked it, some didn’t. The audio was a little low.
  • Phoenix Duet: This had more recommendations from the people attending; the Phoenix Quattro also was recommended but is in the $500 range.
  • The Logitech 9000 also had high recommendations, but isn’t easily mounted for classroom use. It’s designed for the laptop of course.

Some issues with Vidyo
Issues with Vidyo that came up during the discussion included:

  • You can’t change your audio settings during the call – you have to disconnect and reconnect after changing the audio source/settings.
  • Another issue is the regular updates that are required – something that can be problematic for schools that can’t upgrade constantly because of computers locked down. This raised another question for me – do all the sites in a Vidyo call have to be on the same version? That could potentially be an issue doing Vidyo across installations of it like we do with H323 between schools.
  • Sharing content (h239) doesn’t cross Vidyo to H323. For me, this doesn’t matter as H239 drives me crazy anyway. I prefer AverMedia QuickPlay to connect the computer to H323 unit; and I don’t expect to have h239 on my desktop/classroom VC rigged setup.

Potential Applications
Some ideas we discussed of how to use this included:

  • Bringing in remote sites without VC
  • Bringing in guest speakers, authors, lawyers, any single person who doesn’t have easy access to full VC

Issues with Rigging Desktop VC for Classroom Use
We also talked about some of the challenges of trying this.

  • The web camera doesn’t have pan, tilt, zoom. On the other hand, if we’re competing against Skype and/or trying to bring H323 VC content to schools that are using Skype, they don’t really need pan, tilt, zoom.
  • USB cables would be good to extend the length of the mic and webcam so that there is more flexibility to classroom use.
  • An appliance is simple and easy for the teacher to use; it is much more complex to get all this working. It potentially could take more tech support and tinkering to make this work for cheaper. Is that totally true? One of my district techs called last week for help – the SVideo cable for the main camera was in the wrong place. Even the appliance still needs VC support. Both would need support, I think.
  • Mic quality is definitely an issue. Nothing’s going to work as nice as my favorite Polycom VSX 7000 mic or Viewstation mic. The person speaking has to be right in front of the mic to work.
  • Integrated sound on an interactive whiteboard could really cause problems – echo – cancellation is an issue too. Vidyo is supposed to have echo cancellation soon.
  • Another issue is having a powerful enough computer in the classroom. Schools tend have older computers.

InPerson

We talked a wee bit about Creative’s InPerson.

  • It’s H323.
  • It has a fixed camera.
  • Costs about $800 ish.
  • People on a browser can connect to it.

Some Concluding Thoughts
Some thoughts from the group….

  • It’s possible to do this, but could be challenging to make it work. Could take a lot of tinkering.
  • If I missed anything that you found important from the meeting, please add comments below!

By the way, this was a pretty cool little meeting. When does it happen that someone sets up a videoconference to continue a discussion that started on a blog? Thanks Craig for making this possible!

0 replies on “Experimenting with Desktop VC Part 2”

  1. Thanks for capturing all of what we discussed. I was amazed at how much goes into using desktop for classroom well. I only use Skype for one-to-one personal use and did not know some of the things Craig was sharing about mics, audio, echo cancellation and such.

    I do know that we met with a supt who wants H.323 videoconferencing at her school, but they did not budget for it this year. She wants her students to take Spanish classes and wants to spend less than $2,000. There will be about 25 students attending this class.

    Thanks to all!
    Roxanne

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