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Videoconferencing - The Next Best Thing to Being There
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by Garret Yoshimi

Just a few short years ago, most meetings were only conducted face-to-face. For an organization as large as the University of Hawai‘i, with campuses located across the state, this usually meant systemwide meetings were often full-day (or longer) affairs. Participants needing to travel between islands, or even across town, often spent more time traveling to and from meetings than in the actual meetings themselves. Meetings involving out-of-state travel were often multi-day events due in no small part to the chore of crossing multiple time zones.

While technology isn't quite to the level of Star Trek's "beam-me-up-Scotty", business class videoconference systems can effectively support multi-site meetings. Once an organization embraces the use of videoconference-enabled meetings, many routine, administrative meetings can be conducted via videoconference, eliminating the overhead of traveling to and from a meeting location. While face-to-face meetings remain the preferred choice for many, a high quality videoconference-enabled meeting is a great alternative. ITS offers assistance to University departments interested in conducting business meetings, including guidelines for videoconference operations, selecting equipment and establishing suitable network connections for videoconference uses.

University departments interested in purchasing their own videoconference devices for installation into their conference rooms to conduct videoconferences of administrative activities can contact ITS for consultation at vcs-setup@hawaii.edu

A Multi-point Control Unit, or MCU, allows several locations to participate in the same meeting. ITS manages an MCU to enable multiple location videoconferences to support the University's community. This service however is not available for Distance Learning (i.e. credit course delivery). In order to help ensure a high quality meeting experience, this ITS managed service offering includes required testing for all participating locations, recommendations for technical support, and MCU monitoring to ensure the service meets the expectations of meeting participants.

Currently in its fourth year of operations, the ITS managed MCU service has already supported over 400 multi-location videoconference sessions. While typical sessions include between three and six locations, the ITS managed service has included sessions with as many as 30 participating locations from around the world. To schedule the MCU service, departments should contact itvscheduler-l@hawaii.edu or call 956-2724.

Further information about videoconferencing and the ITS managed MCU service may be found on the web at www.hawaii,edu/dlus/videoconference

Another Option For Bringing People Together

The Meridian Integrated Conference Bridge is an all-digital, password protected, audio-only bridge that allows up to 15 people in different locations to communicate with each other. The conference bridge has the ability to connect individuals located on the neighbor islands, on the mainland US, or in another country, as long as one of the conference bridge participants is a faculty or staff of one of the campuses across the UH system.

Participants dial a pre-assigned phone number, enter a password, and are prompted to "speak their name." A conference can begin five minutes before the specified time. Individual participants may leave a conference at any time. Conferences can be reserved in 15-minute increments from a minimum of 30 minutes to a maximum of 12 hours. The current minimum configuration for a conference is four ports which can be expanded to include 15 ports; with plans of eventually broadening the service to include up to 60 ports.

To find out more details on this service call ITS Telecommunications at 956-6033 or visit the Conference Bridge information page.
 
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