Videoconferencing Definition Confusion

One of my pet peeves this summer has been the absolute confusion around videoconferencing definitions. Even I am struggling with the right terms to use to explain what I mean!

Comments I heard at the ISTE 2010 conference

We use Skype because it’s IP.

Huh?! People using “standards-based videoconferencing” use “IP” to mean “H.323” as opposed to “H.320”. (Remember that, H.320/ISDN?)

But Skype doesn’t connect to “IP/H.323” or at least not without herculean efforts that aren’t easily replicable.

What is IVC?

I got this question at ISTE due to the SIG name – SIG IVC. We’re not doing a very good job if people don’t know what “IVC” stands for.

By the way, it’s interactive videoconferencing. (IVC)

Desktop videoconferencing doesn’t connect to zoos and museums with room systems (content providers).

That’s not true! There are now a whole slew of H.323 compatible desktop videoconferencing solutions. What this person probably meant was that Skype doesn’t connect to those content providers. But “desktop videoconferencing” doesn’t mean “Skype”.

“Desktop videoconferencing” no longer means “not H.323”. But some people are still using it that way!

I use Adobe Connect for videoconferencing.

Adobe Connect! It’s a webinar platform that has videoconferencing added on. Most webinars I’ve seen may show video one way – from the presenter to the audience, but it is rarely both ways.

Elluminate, a webinar platform, has added videoconferencing, even H323 support, with their new Elluminate VCS product.

That sure blurs the lines!

How do you explain the difference between videoconferencing and web conferencing? It used to be you could say web conferencing was on your computer. But now we have desktop videoconferencing too….

Remember the days…

Do you remember these terms?

  • electronic education
  • ITV
  • IVDL
  • virtual field trips
  • two way interactive videoconferencing

These terms are not consistently used, so it seemed simpler to use the term business and industry were using… videoconferencing. But that term has been muddied. It’s not clear anymore! How do I write descriptions for workshops? How do I differentiate between my Skype workshops and H323 workshops? I would like to call it “real videoconferencing”. Hear my bias?! But that’s not really fair! Standards based videoconferencing? It seems to be the most accurate, but isn’t a very teacher friendly term. How do we keep the communication clear?

What about “telepresence”?

Telepresence only a few years ago meant videoconferencing at very high bandwidth, with very high end cameras, with rooms designed identically so that it feels you’re in the same room: paint, walls, windows, furniture… the whole works!

Recently, Bob Dixon made this comment on the Megaconference listserv:

My only suggestion is to recognize that there is no real line between “telepresence” and “video conferencing”, and we now have vendors
using the telepresence term to mean almost anything. There will be interconnections among all levels of system sophistication.  So whatever new protocols are developed for signalling and negotiation among disparate systems should be applicable even to the most basic systems, and not just to those which call themselves “telepresence”.  This would allow interoperation throughout the complete continuum of video products, and might even improve interoperation among systems which do NOT call themselves “telepresence”.  Of course all the vendors at all levels would have to incorporate these protocols to make that happen.

What do you think?

How are you navigating the ever changing world of videoconferencing terms? How do you explain it clearly to teachers you serve? What words do you use to compare H323 to Skype in a clear way?

7 replies on “Videoconferencing Definition Confusion”

  1. I think some of the confusion comes from what we know personally. To me “video conferencing” is any means by which two or more people/locations exchange information via video systems.

    You rightly point out that desktop video isn’t ONLY skype. I first oriented to iChat. But I have also used X-meeting to hook into Polycom systems.

    So I think there is confusion because we apply tools, methods, and systems to the definition.

  2. Jason R says:

    I like the term that Apple came up with. Here are some other synonymies that I’ve collected over the years that more or less maybe mean what we do at least in part kind of.

    Connected Learning, Curriculum Videoconferencing, Cyber Schools, Distance Education, Distance Learning, Distributed Learning, eLearning (e-learning), Electronic Encounter, Electronic Field Trip (eFieldTrip, EFT), Interactive Distance Learning (IDL), Interactive Instructional Video (IIV), Interactive Videoconference (IV, IVC), Internet Videocommunications, Live Interactive Video Experience, Picture Telephone, Televideo Conference, Tele-Visual-Course, Video Communications, Videoconference (VC, VeeCee, Vidcon, Vidconf, Videoconf), Videoconference over IP (VCoIP), Video TV (VTV), Video-telephone, Video Teleconference (VTC), Video Telepresence, Video Teletraining, Videonet (Vidnet), Videophone, Virtual Classrooms, Virtual Field Trip (VFT)

    • Janine Lim says:

      Yikes, Jason! That’s a long list! No wonder it’s hard to find out if the person you’re talking to means the same “flavor” of VC that you do! 🙂 Thanks for commenting!

  3. Another contributing factor is when people learn about the technology, much of that learning is “on their own” and whatever terms they find are the terms that they begin using. It is context/community dependent–meaning that if the people that you work with call it ITV, you will too. In K-12, it seems that much learning evolves in communities of practice and the newbies will adopt the language of the group…and all different groups have a different terminology.

    I have nothing but anecdotal observations to support this theory and would love to hear others’ thoughts.

  4. GREAT ponderance!! Katy ISD ventured into the Adobe Connect world last school year. I really wanted to hate it. I really wanted to be able to draw clear, distinct lines on why H323 VC was better. I am struggling in that arena and am quickly becoming a fan of Adobe Connect for multiple reasons….not to leave my H323 behind.
    ***Adobe Connect allows our students a Skype-like chat with a willing author. Skype is not allowed within our district.
    ***Our second teachers and administrators have been less than eager adopting H323 due to limitations in equipment, bell schedules and rigorous curriculum. I think that Adobe Connect will be more easily adopted.
    ***I can centrally manage more connections through Adobe Connect than H323 VC because of the limited capactiy of onsite staff who BELIEVE they need onsite support because there is something difficult about the equipment.

    In training staff this summer in our “ConnectIT” session, I explained to teachers that the tool doesn’t matter. Begin with the project expectations and we’ll choose the tool that will work best for the project. In some cases H323 video conference cart is the ONLY option. In other cases Adobe Connect is the ONLY option. In most cases, it doesn’t matter. What matters is the priorities of the learning.

    • Janine Lim says:

      Thanks for sharing your experience, Linda! One thing I’ve wondered about with the “webinar” tools is – are you doing two way video? or just one way? Can the author see the students? How is that part working? I would love to hear more about how things are working out for you – and how your projects/collaborations work with Adobe Connect….

  5. […] First things first, on our journey here to understand the technical aspects of videoconferencing. Definitions! This is an area where there is a lot of confusion in K12 education. […]

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