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Four Ways Cloud Video, Voice, and Collaboration Services Changed Higher Ed in 2015

Dec 11, 2015, by Ben Fineman
Tags: Internet2 NET+, Video, Voice & Collaboration

In higher ed, more and more institutions have considered cloud solutions as a way to increase the quality of services, save money, and improve efficiency. The video, voice, and collaboration spaces are particularly ripe for the improvements that the cloud deployment model can bring. Internet2 member universities have done an excellent job laying the groundwork for seamless, optimized deployment of these services through the Internet2 NET+ program – and we now have six services available, that range from video collaboration solutions to voice over IP to IP television. We are so appreciative of our members building cloud, voice, and collaboration services through NET+, and I’m pleased to say that their efforts are affecting positive change in the higher ed community. Here are 4 ways that cloud video, voice, and collaboration services changed higher ed this year:

1. Video collaboration enhanced distance learning.

NET+ now has three video collaboration services available: NET+ BlueJeans, NET+ Vidyo by IDSolutions, and NET+ Viewme, and there are institutions successfully using each of these services to enhance administrative activities, and also their distance learning programs. Arizona State University deployed NET+ Vidyo and was initially used for a single program on campus, connecting students in Tempe with research scientists and experts from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute’s facilities on Barro Colorado Island, in the middle of the Panama Canal. But this initial project was so successful, word spread throughout the campus, and soon thousands of users were using the service for all manner of distance learning applications. This adoption represents more than a ten-fold increase over traditional, premise based video solutions that ASU had deployed in the past – and is all achieved with seamless scalability due to the cloud model. Internet2 is  convinced that almost every university has distance learning needs that can be explored and enhanced through this kind of technology, and the services our members have vetted and subscribed to through NET+ are an ideal way to achieve these results.

2. Cloud voice benefited university administration.

While video collaboration has many benefits, the most critical capability for real-time collaboration is voice. For years, this component has been enabled through analog telephones on users’ desks – requiring users to be at their desks to use take calls, and necessitating dedicated communications lines. In the current age of laptops, smartphones, and fat Internet pipes this seems somewhat antiquated. Fortunately, Internet2 member universities have worked together to perform a community procurement of hosted voice and SIP trunking services, resulting in the Internet2 NET+ SIP Service from Mitel and Level(3). This service not only enables universities to get rid of legacy analog lines for phones, but also gives users the capability to take and receive calls from their laptops and mobile devices. Tulane University was one of the first member universities to take advantage of this service, and has migrated thousands of their former analog lines. Tulane’s users are now enjoying the seamless desk phone service they are used to, along with the additional access choices that this IP-based service enables.

3. Cloud IPTV improved student satisfaction.

It’s no secret that students like to watch TV. But it might surprise you to learn studies have shown that not only do 25% of students no longer watch TV at all on a traditional TV, but more than 65%  of students on-campus didn’t even bother to bring a TV to school. Instead, more and more students (60% and rising) are viewing TV content on their laptops, tablets, and other digital devices. Universities are then placed in a bind – those with “traditional” TV delivery models risk decreased student satisfaction from resident students. Fortunately, NET+ Philo is providing a robust solution that delivers television content not only to TVs but also to laptops and mobile devices – the places that the majority of students want the content. Texas A&M is an early adopter of the NET+ Philo service, and their first semester has indicated students are very pleased to have it.

4. Cloud mass notification enabled greater safety and convenience.  

Every university has some need for a mass notification system – for emergencies, if nothing else. Most of these systems rely upon SMS text messages as the core part of the service. But what many people don’t realize is all the non-emergency benefits this kind of service can provide. For example, notifications can be targeted gradually, such as notifying a specific class of a last minute cancellation, or letting students know that their registration slot has gone live. NET+ 2SMS is the first mass notification service built by our community. The service validation was led by Ole Miss, who has been using the service for both emergency and non-emergency applications. Besides checking the public safety box, their student body has come to appreciate the greater level of information and connectedness the service provides.

It is evident that cloud video, voice, and collaboration services are evolving our higher ed community in a number of ways. It has been a pleasure to manage the NET+ Video, Voice, and Collaboration Services portfolio, and learn how community members are accessing and deploying these services on campus, to the benefit of faculty, researchers, and students.

I am looking forward to a productive and exciting 2016. Stay tuned, as we’re enhancing the pricing models for existing services to incorporate community feedback. Look for new pricing models coming soon to the NET+ BlueJeans and NET+ Viewme services in particular. We are also assessing several new services in various categories and are in the inquiry phase with Zoom for their video collaboration service, Panopto for the online video platform, Lifesize for their video collaboration service, and Calendly for their enhanced scheduling service.

I’d like to personally thank the more than thirty universities who have participated in building the NET+ video, voice, and collaboration services for the community – it is because of your efforts that we’re able to collectively leverage these transformative benefits.