Videoconferencing | News

Jefferson County Schools Take Videoconferencing Mobile

A Colorado school district has gone public with details about its use of video conferencing via mobile devices and PCs to attend meetings, deliver remote classes, practice language skills, and other purposes. Jefferson County Public Schools adopted Polycom video products in 2009. The original goal was to reduce employee travel among the district's 150-plus sites. Since then, the district has grown to 185 sites, and "Jeffco" staff and faculty have held 10,000 video conferences, according to Steve O'Brien, director of data center operations.

The district, which serves about 86,000 students in Denver and the surrounding communities, runs a robust bring-your-own-device program and has issued almost 3,000 iPads to employees. O'Brien said users have adopted Polycom's RealPresence Mobile app on their mobile devices and RealPresence Desktop software on their PCs. The district also provides six conference rooms and one technology-rich classroom that have Polycom HDX Series gear installed for group meetings.

According to O'Brien, recent trends say the mobile app is the most popular among his users. Over the course of three days, slightly more than half were using the app on an iPad; slightly less than half were on a desktop. "Virtually everyone who taps into our video conference network was using video right in the classroom or the office. They don't even have to go down the hall."

Because the Polycom software integrates with Active Directory and everybody has a login account in Active Directory, setting up a video call is "no big deal," O'Brien added.

In the classroom teachers have tried out the Polycom software to allow their language students to practice speaking with students in France and Spain. It has also been used by recruiters from distant universities to connect with students at high school career centers. One teacher used the application while overseas to connect with his class. And another used the service to defend his doctoral dissertation with a panel located in Lincoln, NE. "The process was seamless," said Daniel Price, a chemistry and physics teacher. "There was no lag in communication in terms of audio or video."

One manager, the district's director of construction management, conducts her meetings by video, which saves six department employees from having to drive in to district headquarters. When a school librarian job opened up, the district held interviews with out-of-state candidates via the Polycom software.

O'Brien said he expects use of the video collaboration application to continue increasing. "We spent the last couple years focusing on how to deploy video. Now we're focused on where. And with the advent of mobile devices, that pretty much means everywhere."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.