Tag Archives: LifeSize

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.

Meeting the LifeSize Icon Flex

lifesizeiconflex-sMany of you following this blog remember my K12 videoconferencing days. Since I’ve been working in higher education, I haven’t had many chances to use standards based or room based videoconferencing with equipment like LifeSize or Polycom.

Web Videoconferencing vs. Room Videoconferencing

But I’ve been doing plenty of videoconferencing with tools like Skype, Zoom, GoToMeeting, and AdobeConnect.

I’ve always been frustrated with webcams though with those web based videoconferencing tools. I miss the ability to zoom in and create presets.

LifeSize Icon Flex

So I was excited when the opportunity came to try out a demo LifeSize Icon Flex from I2I Technologies. It’s “real” videoconferencing that you can connect to your laptop! I know, I know, videoconferencing with your built in laptop webcam is videoconferencing too. But for four years I’ve been trying not to say “real” videoconferencing – it’s room-based, right? or standards-based.

Well, call it what you want, the LifeSize Icon Flex can zoom, pan, show a great shot of a conference room, and I am thrilled! A webcam on top of a mounted TV is tolerable, but a camera with zoom, tilt, pan, etc. is just BETTER! Yay!!

Disclaimer: I have good friends & colleagues who work at I2I Technologies. I got the demo because we are considering our options. No one at I2I asked me to blog about it.


A New LifeSize Express Arrived Yesterday Afternoon!

Yesterday afternoon we were privileged to receive a grant through Views On Learning to receive a new LifeSize Express system, plus a really cool Ergotron cart and 50 inch display.

Views on Learning, Inc. (VOL) is a registered 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation established to provide our Educational Broadband Service (EBS) schools with distance education opportunities that meet the requirements of NCLB and improve student learning.

Thank you to Jeff Gangloff and Les Turner of Views On Learning for coming to install our new HD videoconferencing system! We’re excited to partner with Views on Learning to bring engaging learning opportunities to more students via videoconferencing. I’m looking forward to facilitating the Jazz workshop this summer from this system too.

One of our elementary schools was also able to receive a grant through Views on Learning. You can read more about that here.

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 13: How to Dial with a LifeSize Remote

This post continues our 20 Day Challenge to understand the technical aspects of videoconferencing, particularly the section on dialing.

The LifeSize remote has menu-driven functionality that neither the Polycom nor TANDBERG remotes do. The buttons on the remote are not static. The blue, green, yellow, and orange buttons each have multiple functions.

How to Dial

From the home screen, there are three ways to dial.

  1. Left arrow to the Video Call icon and press OK.
  2. Down arrow to a recent call which shows in the middle, select one, press OK.
  3. Press the yellow button to access the unit’s directory of address and select the one you are looking for there.

Watch the screen as you enter the IP address. The LifeSize unit emits beeps when a number is entered. This is different from the Polycom units that speak the number when it is entered.

Also, on the LifeSize, the dot button also includes the * – : , which can be accessed by repeatedly pressing the “*.” (dot/asterisk) button on the lower left.

How to Dial an Alias

LifeSize units can dial the IP##alias format. Enter the IP address and then ## and the alias. If someone gives you the alias@IP format, switch it around and dial it as IP##alias and the call will connect.

Other LifeSize Information

The original LifeSize remote was the silver edition. It was completely menu-driven. There is no Home Button or Display button, so you will have to be very attentive to the menus as you navigate this unit.

The black remote seems to be a great mix of single use buttons and menu-driven ones.

If you are using a LifeSize Express or above product to record, the blue button becomes the record button. Currently, the Passport is the only unit that you cannot record from.


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.

Installing a New LifeSize Room

Today was an exciting day! New equipment installations are always exciting! We were lucky enough to have a school eligible for a grant through Views On Learning to receive a new LifeSize Room system, plus really cool Ergotron cart and 50 inch display. Rolling the system down the hall in the school created quite a buzz!

This was my first opportunity to really test out a LifeSize unit. I did present from one in Nebraska last year, but didn’t get to really play with it.

Here’s the cart. Isn’t that a great cart – I love how lightweight it looks. Seems like it won’t be too hard to push around either. The display mount has some kind of cool technology that you can easily just move it up or down without any knobs or handles.

Of course we tested it fine to my office Polycom units, my Tandberg bridge. Registered it to our gatekeeper, tried out our dialing plan. Everything worked seamlessly.

I had to have a picture of the remote so I can assist the teachers when they call me on the phone needing help in a panic!

Hooking up the cables. It’s got an S-Video in, so we can use an existing document camera in the school. Here they are connecting the computer.

Testing sharing the computer (Mac login screen) with the other site.

Just like the new Polycom HD units, you can easily swap the layout of your picture in picture etc. on the screen.


If you’ve been reading this blog very long, you know that I have serious issues with H.239, so I was pretty nervous about how this would work. Of course it worked great to a Polycom HD unit with H.239 turned on. But what about when you connect to a unit that has H.239 turned off? Every other unit I’ve seen just complains and says the far site cannot receive the computer screen. Then you’re out of luck. One of the reasons H.239 really annoys me and I tell my schools never to buy the extras for H.239.

But. Wonder of wonders! I tested sharing the computer to my Polycom VSX 7000 with H.239 turned off. It sent just the computer. No errors or complaints!

I tested sharing the computer through my Tandberg bridge with H.239 turned off. Voila. It still sent just the computer. No errors.

Yay! Yay! I think this is the piece I’m most excited about.

It’s sooooo frustrating to have schools in MysteryQuests and other events where they want to share their computer and they think they can, but then it doesn’t work.

Hollywood Elementary has quite a few videoconferences this spring, so I’ll be looking to see how stable this unit is and how it interacts with other units in all the different types of calls that we’ll be doing.

Thank you to Views On Learning for the incredible opportunity to be part of this grant!

And thank you to Kevin Clark for taking the photos.

The Shake Up in the VC Market

Are you following all the interesting developments in the videoconferencing market? Here’s an interesting review and analysis of the changes coming down the pike. I highly recommend that you take some time to read it. Here are a few snippets to convince you to read further:

The future of videoconferencing is the software-based codec running on general purpose (albeit high end… for now) general purpose processors connected to a low-cost, high quality HD camera via a USB 3.0 connection. The $20,000+ plastic-camera-on-the-TV-set-on-the-desert-cart dedicated videoconferencing appliance is a business model with the lifespan of an alcoholic fruit fly chain smoking unfiltered camels. The singularity approaches.

[imagine that]…all of the sudden you can purchase a fully functional standards-based HD videoconferencing end-point at every Best Buy, Target, and Wal-Mart in the world…..

This is great news for schools, as I’ve been looking for the H323 (standards based) desktop-ish classroom VC setup (for less than $1000) for over a year now. It really bothers me that all these 21st century classrooms are getting installed without videoconferencing! Tricked-out classrooms with no VC! It’s a travesty! But maybe with a Logitech camera and good echo cancellation mic plus great desktop h323 software it’s actually possible! We won’t have VC in every classroom or school until it is much cheaper and readily available. Purchasable by teachers with little instructional grants from various organizations, or easily acquired with existing tech funds.

So, in my opinion, bring those changes on! We need lower cost easier standards based VC to bring all the great existing VC content to more schools!