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Beyond Distance Learning: Making the Most of Video Conferencing at UMass Amherst

January 08, 2015 by

by Iris Chelaru, University of Massachusetts Amherst

UMass Amherst faculty and administrators often use video conferencing outside the classroom for events, outreach, advising, or cross-group collaborations. With high quality video and audio, flexibility across computing devices, and the ability to accommodate groups without the constraints of a physical location, newer video conferencing tools, such as Fuze, have been in use for a number of recent initiatives on campus.

Campus Engagement, Research, Collaboration & More

Online video tools enable activities that would otherwise require considerable expense and logistical coordination. A case in point is the Chancellor’s interactive open forum completed in spring 2013. Using video conferencing, this online forum allowed members of the University community to learn more about the strategic planning process and engage with senior administrators without going to a specific campus location.

Simple, easy-to-use video conferencing has made collaboration truly portable. Tools that include screen sharing have enabled members of the University community to collaborate with colleagues from other departments, campuses, or institutions in real time, with minimal effort or technical support.

Webinars, Conferences & Other Events

Live video communication has been ideal for conferences and other events where presenters and audiences may be scattered around the globe.

In spring 2013, UMass Amherst hosted the Inaugural Kurogo Higher-Ed User Conference with representatives from 15 major Universities. Using video conferencing, Phil Chatterton, Director of Digital Media Technologies at the University of British Columbia, actively participated in a panel discussion on Mobile Governance from his office in Vancouver, Canada.

More recently, UMass Amherst Libraries hosted a presentation on Myriad Genetics and Biomedical Patents, successfully webcast to the UMass Medical Center in Worcester and to individual participants on the Web.

Information Sessions for Prospective Students

Using video conferencing as an outreach venue is not only cost-effective, saving time and traveling costs, but also positions UMass Amherst as a technologically advanced ‘destination of choice’ for prospective students.

In fall 2013, UMass Amherst’s Isenberg School of Management used video conferencing to host several information sessions for its MBA program. “I watched from my iPad. Really impressive. Slides, chat, audio and video simultaneously on iPad. […]. About 25 prospects in person and 125 logged in online,” noted Mark Fuller, Dean of Isenberg School of Management.

Office Hours & Advising Sessions for Current Students

Video conferencing as an extension of the classroom is just as transformative as its in- classroom use. In 2013, UMass Amherst faculty used video conferencing tools to hold office hours and advising sessions, schedule dissertation defenses, or connect students with alumni for networking and career advice.

More than 10 years after launching its first video conferencing facility, UMass Amherst continues to use the latest online video technologies to enhance learning and collaboration, maximize resources, and control operational costs. The new innovative ways in which faculty and administrators have used video conferencing outside the classroom speaks to their resourcefulness as well as the wide-ranging potential of these tools.

Fuze video conferencing is available in pilot at UMass Amherst as part of a system-wide initiative led by the UMass President’s Office.

This article was originally posted to UMass On the Move by Iris Chelaru on Dec. 16, 2014.

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