What is Desktop Videoconferencing?

Desktop videoconferencing is synchronous two-way communication using real-time digitized video. It is also called "video chat" in some reference materials. Taking advantage of the internet and low-cost or free software, users can use their computers and a camera to connect to others. The first software for internet videoconferencing, CU-SeeMe, was developed at Cornell University (thus the CU in its name). CU-SeeMe was originally used by the Global School House Project. Students at sites across the U.S. and internationally used the software on a regular basis for research collaborations. Many school and individuals still use CU-SeeMe. It can be downloaded from Cornell University's web site. The technology has evolved to include audio (internet telephony), a text alternative to audio in the form of a "chat window," a shared drawing and text window (electronic whiteboard) and the capability to to share slides, files or other applications. The features available depend on the software and version of the software used. White Pines offers a demonstration copy of its Enhanced, color version of CU-SeeMe which allows you to try it before purchase. NetMeeting from Microsoft and Internet VideoPhone are other desktop conferencing packages now available.

When you participate in a videoconference it may be with a single site or individual (point-to-point), with a group (using a reflector or server) or as a viewer of an event (cybercast).

room size system
Pictured are some Long Branch students at the Washington D.C. Convention Center during an InterChange Conferencing session.

A more expensive system for videoconferencing utilizes a high-tech delivery system consisting of audio-visual components and specialized controls to deliver room-size conference capability to participants. Typically participants using these systems travel to locations where the equipment is located. Due to the higher cost, these room-size systems are usually used in more formal conferencing situations or for distant learning classes which a school system may set up. This type of videoconferencing is not routinely available for school staffs or more informal, classroom conferencing situations.

More information about conferencing over the Internet can also be found in the "Virtual Conferences" article which was published in Learning & Leading With Technology, published by ISTE in the February, 1998, issue as part of the Mining the Internet feature.

[Introduction] [Planning] [Preparing] [Resources] [Class Use]

1998 Carla Schutte, Technology Specialist at Moton Elementary School
cschutte@k12.cnidr.org November, 1998