IN 2005, ADMINISTRATORS AT RUTGERS, THE STATE UNIVERSITY of New Jersey, encountered a hefty challenge when major construction on a key connecting road between its largest campus and New Jersey interstates threatened to disrupt travel and create traffic headaches that summer--a project that was expected to take more than three years to complete. Fortunately, Raphael J. Caprio, vice president for Continuous Education and Outreach, had planned a year ahead to combat the commuting chaos with videoconferencing. The solution incorporated Sony's PCS-TL50 IP-based desktop videoconferencing units, which enabled more than two dozen deans scattered across five campuses to conduct regular meetings and ad hoc communications.
Videoconferencing is most often touted for distance learning, but the technology is also changing how campus business is conducted. With high gas prices, airfares, and other travel costs, as well as university matters reaching beyond the campus grounds, officials are turning to videoconferencing as an efficient and cost-effective method for meeting in real time.
Since video equipment is already heavily used for educational purposes, higher ed institutions do not have to necessarily start a business-minded conferencing system from scratch, says Joan Vandermate, vice president of marketing for the video solutions group of Polycom. "They already have a great framework to start from." She and others at Polycom are seeing some IHEs simply leverage the systems deployed in classrooms and other institutions adding a few more additional units, for conference rooms, to their existing networks.
It doesn't hurt that videoconferencing has come a long way. Early adopters experienced costly equipment, the need to install ISDN lines, and herky-jerky deliverance, says Jan Zanetis, a market development manager of education and training for Tandberg. Today's systems cost as low as a few thousand dollars, operate through an internet connection, and have high-definition video and audio. With adjustments made to suit a networks firewall settings, systems are set to go upon installation.
Lee M. Colaw, vice president of information services at Pacific University (Ore.), led the effort in July 2006 to connect Pacific's four campuses. Creative Labs' mobile videoconferencing unit, Creative inPerson, was selected. The university now has 31 Creative inPerson units, with president's cabinet members, deans, and department directors each having one. "It's just been another tool in our toolbox for increasing communications," says Colaw.
The university is based in Forest Grove but also has a health professions campus in Hillsboro, a psychology and optometry campus in downtown Portland, and an education campus in Eugene. Faculty and staff meetings often meant having to drive to a central location and rent a hotel room, not to mention being out of the office. Videoconferencing "has significantly cut down on trips. We will continue to do a lot more of that," says Colaw.
On the East Coast, the Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems at Pace University (N.Y.) is using videoconferencing for meetings involving faculty and staff from its campuses in New York City and Westchester County, which are about 40 miles apart. As Constance A. Knapp, interim dean, points out, "Every time I get on a train to come to the city for a meeting, it costs my school about 20 dollars."
The conference room on Pace's Pleasantville campus converts to a videoconference room. Knapp says the setup "affords us the time to do that, when there is no way I could travel for two hours for a half-hour meeting." Pace's network can connect up to five large rooms on five campuses, two of which are usually set up for videoconferencing. Any one of the rooms can go out of network and hook up to another location on a Pace campus or elsewhere. They were developed about a decade ago for teaching so that courses with lower enrollment on each campus could be combined, says James F. …