Ross uses high-definition business class and large-scale classroom conferencing to significantly increase personal productivity, complement action based learning, and improve organizational efficiency. Productivity gains and organizational efficiency are achieved when remote team members are able to meet and collaborate using voice, video, and data, all in real-time. Key to this form of communication and collaboration is the ability for all participants to see, as well as share and edit, presentations, sketches, and documents, providing instantaneous feedback.
Our higher end solutions rely on Internet Protocol video conferencing (IP VC), which is video conferencing over a high-speed, high quality of service Ethernet network. There's also a number of alternative options you can run right from your own computer. We'll review all of these options below.
Audio/Video Conferencing in Ross Classrooms
If you've ever wanted to bring in a special guest speaker, or invite a prominent guest or corporate leader to speak at your event, only to find out that they're unable to make the trip, you'll be pleased to know that the classrooms in the Ross Building have built-in video conferencing capability. The technology is very high quality, the experience is outstanding, and the technical logistics are all handled for you by our staff.
In-room video conference is available in each of our classrooms in the Ross building. We do require that you pre-schedule with Computing Services by contacting Ross Classroom Support, but your conference can be initiated and controlled from the Ross Lectern in your assigned room. Depending on the type of event, you may also request that our staff manage your videoconference and control the camera(s) for you, from our Audio/Video Control Room located on the second floor.
Each room is already equipped with a fixed pan/tilt/zoom camera mounted on the rear wall. Built-in ceiling mounted speakers and lavalier and ceiling mounted microphones complete the experience. You can host a videoconference with that single camera, giving the remote site a view of the white boards and lectern at the front, or you can choose to have three additional cameras temporarily mounted to show various angles. (If you choose to use additional cameras, your videoconference must be controlled in our A/V Booth.)
Dedicated Audio/Video Conferencing Locations
While desktop, laptop, and web conferencing solutions are perfect for many situations (see below), sometimes you need a true-to-life image with the highest quality sound and a suitable, private location to use. For example, an event like this could be an interview through the Office of Career Services, a meeting with a corporate dignitary, or research being conducted between faculty at different universities.
Ross has two available solutions to meet these needs. One solution takes the form of a portable unit equipped with a large monitor and a dedicated Polycom Videoconferencing System, and the other takes the form of a dedicated videoconferencing room located in the lower level of Ross, which comes equipped with a Cisco TelePresence unit.
The two portable units are on carts that can be moved to most locations around the Ross complex, and both use video conferencing technology from Polycom and are equipped with one flat-panel monitor. We have one HD unit and other standard definition unit. Either of these can be requested by contacting Ross Classroom Support.
The permanently integrated solution in R0430-B, Cisco TelePresence, is an impressive, vivid, and very large solution that is intelligent enough to "know" who is talking and switch the camera to show only that person. The idea behind Cisco TelePresence is "full immersion." The room is as close as you can get to truly being "face-to-face" with someone as if they were really there.
There are many great pieces of software out there--many of them free--that make use of your computer's webcam and microphone. We'll list a few below. With these, you don't have to rely as much on the availability of Ross equipment in order to host your own videoconference. In most cases, all you'll need to do is get the person's contact information and reserve a quiet room to use. Your computer or, in some cases, even your mobile device, can do the rest.
As a UM Faculty/Staff/Student, you have access to a free BlueJeans account. A BlueJeans account is only needed to schedule and host meetings. Others, such as U-M students, can join BlueJeans conference without an account.
Google Hangouts is an instant messaging and video chat service developed by Google. Hangouts allows you to have conversations with two or more people at once, and do things like share the screen or collaborate on shared documents together. This is perhaps the "easiest" option of the web-based solutions because you already have an account thanks to UM's partnership with Google. Therefore, you don't have to sign up for a new service or waste time entering in a bunch of information before you can get started.
All you need to do is log in to your UM email account and click the icon in the upper-right corner that takes you into Google+ (this icon will be a + symbol next to your name). From there, use the drop down menu to open Hangouts, and choose the person you'd like to connect with from your list of contacts or type in their email address. A small text-based chat window will appear, from which you can click the "Video Call" icon to launch a video session. Once you've successfully connected with the other person, either of you can then add more people. Note that a Google account is needed for all parties who wish to use Hangouts.
Hangouts is also available on mobile devices. Search your device's respective App Store for the free Hangout or Google+ app to get started. Log in to these apps with your UM email address.
Skype is an instant messaging client by Microsoft. We include it here only because it is wildly used and very popular. You'll need to download and install the free Skype software onto your computer, or go to your mobile device's app store if you wish to use it on your mobile device. You'll also need a Microsoft account to use the service, although you do have the option of logging in with your Facebook credentials as well. With Skype you can conduct video conferences, text-message, and share files with one another. You can also share your screen. Unlike Google Hangouts, Skype also allows you to make calls to real phone numbers.
Skype is free, however for certain premium features there is a small fee associated with the service. You'll need to weigh the pros and cons and decide for yourself whether or not Skype's premium features are worth the investment.