EDUCAUSEThe Polycom team was on location at this past week’s EDUCAUSE Conference in Anaheim, California. The EDUCAUSE Conference brings together senior leaders and IT decision makers from K-12 and higher education institutions with representatives from the leading technology companies to discuss best practices for implementing technology in the classroom and the integration of the latest educational innovations.

The EDUCAUSE conference is an excellent opportunity for the Polycom team to discuss the challenges facing educators today, and the new and exciting ways that education institutions are implementing video teleconferencing (VTC) solutions in the classroom.

There are many innovative implementations and use cases for VTC in education. As we’ve discussed in previous posts on the Public Sector View, VTC can be used to expand a school’s catalogue of classes. It can also be used to improve the educational experience by opening the door to new and previously-unavailable educational content by delivering experts to students, or students to remote locations via virtual fieldtrips.

However, it was VTC’s ability to connect schools with remote students that seemed to be most in-demand at this year’s event.

In the majority of conversations that we had with educators, we repeatedly heard them discuss the need to deliver educational content to students, such as those that can’t attend classes due to being medically unable to travel to school. We also heard them discussing the need to get educational content to remote sites, such as large universities with remote campuses.

VTC is an excellent solution for this problem. Utilizing today’s advanced VTC solutions, teachers on a college’s main campus can teach students in a classroom on a remote campus. This increases efficiency since it eliminates the need to acquire an additional resource for a small population of students. It can also allow schools to offer classes in areas where an instructor simply isn’t available, such as offering niche world languages in a rural area where there are no qualified teachers.

VTC is also a solution in the case of students that are medically unable to attend class, or are otherwise unable to physically go to the school building. Utilizing VTC solutions, students can attend class via video from a wide array of endpoints, including many mobile devices and computers. If their schedule makes it impossible to attend class via video, those classes could be recorded and uploaded to a learning management system where they can be digested later.

In addition to connecting remote students to classes, VTC solutions can also connect campuses for faculty and staff. Utilizing VTC solutions, staff and faculty can meet face-to-face via video without having to leave their offices and travel. This is especially effective for large colleges and universities where campuses are spread out across large geographic areas, or meetings may involve individuals at satellite or remote campuses. By meeting face-to-face via video, that travel time is eliminated and educators, staff and faculty members can use that time towards higher-value tasks. Utilizing VTC for communication within and between campuses effectively increases productivity, drives collaboration and makes organizing meetings easier.

Despite VTC’s ability to overcome one of the major problems plaguing K-12 and higher education institutions, there was one challenge keeping many of the individuals we spoke to from purchasing and implementing VTC solutions – upfront cost. In the current economic environment, it’s challenging for schools, colleges and school districts to make large IT investments.

It was for this particular reason that attendees at EDUCAUSE were drawn to cloud video solutions. These solutions are available as a service, and are paid for as recurring operating expenses. This reduces the need for large, upfront IT purchases, and allows schools to pay for their video solutions over time. These cloud solutions also increase the flexibility of the solution, enabling teachers to utilize a wide ecosystem of endpoints for VTC, including the mobile solutions that they’re already implementing in the classroom.

EDUCAUSE provided a window into the challenges facing educators today. By implementing cloud-based VTC solutions, educators can connect with remote students, increase productivity and drive collaboration via video, and get access to this incredible technology without a budget-breaking initial IT investment.