Telephone, Video and Web Conferencing
If you haven't used our conference bridge or web conference services before, we strongly recommend a practice meeting with the actual participants before the real meeting so you can make sure you know how it all works and can help others in the meeting if they get stuck. The technology is relatively easy to use, but during an important meeting is not the time to learn how to use it.
Thayer School Computing Services offers telephone conference bridge and web conferencing services to help our community create and participate in virtual meetings. Possible uses for these include:
- Easy to organize audio conference calls
- Virtual presentations and lectures with the speaker at a remote location and viewers in a classroom with a projector or multiple viewers in multiple locations
- Virtual meetings with participants at two or more sites, including video of as many sites as have cameras on their computers (collaboration with colleagues at remote schools or companies, thesis presentations with remote committee members, meetings including a team member traveling or at home, etc.)
Telephone Conference Bridge
A telephone conference bridge is a service where people may call into a number, enter a pass code, and join each other in a multi-person/multi-site phone call. Our recommended solution for a telephone conference bridge is a free service found at http://freeconferencepro.com/ . This service allows participants to join the call whenever they're ready and from whatever phone they may have at hand (instead of having to provide a number beforehand for the meeting organizer to call). Starting a conference bridge meeting is much faster and easier on the organizer than trying to get numbers for all participants, calling them at the time of the meeting, and wondering what to do when some of them don't answer on the first try.
Having the best telephone equipment possible will make a conference call more pleasant. While the desk phones at Thayer School are excellent, they are not primarily speaker phones, and can make the user sound like they are standing in a tunnel. Please follow this link for rooms that have built in (full room) or Polycom conference phone (essentially really good speaker phones) capabilities.
Signing up for the conference bridge
Everyone can have their own private conference bridge virtual room. To sign up, navigate to http://freeconferencepro.com/signup.aspx and follow the instructions. In step two, there is no need to sign up for a portal, however doing so will provide some additional functionality, such as the ability to mute participants and view caller id information.
Using the conference bridge
To use your bridge, simply send people the number to call and the pass code to enter when they join the call. After providing the pass code, each participant will join the call.
What is a Web Conference?
A web conference give you the ability to present your computer screen, a data file (powerpoint, word, etc), your voice and camera in a live, interactive fashion with remote sites that have a sufficient internet connection (dsl, cable, etc). The communication is two way, so the remote sites have the ability to mark up the presentation and ask questions. Each site's computer becomes a portal into the virtual meeting. A site can be an individual, or projecting a computer's screen enables a single site to have many meeting participants. For audio, you can use a telephone conference bridge (recommended for most cases) that users log into separately (see above) or you can use a microphone on the presenter's computer. The main advantages of using a separate telephone bridge are:
- Tried and true technology and therefore very reliable and easy for people to use.
- Easier to enable multiple people to hear/talk. Getting participants set up with microphones can be challenging.
- If you have technical difficulties with the web conferencing (not too likely, but it can happen), people can still participate at least by phone.
In order to transmit video and/or sound, you must set up your camera and microphone (or you can use a separate telephone conference bridge for audio).
What Web Conference should I use?
We currently suggest you use Skype, but our new email and collaboration tools system may provide an alternative in the next couple of years.