Sheridan expands videoconferencing system across campus

Sheridan College is getting ready to build on its investments in videoconferencing by extending its service to new building projects and surrounding school boards.

The post-secondary school announced a three-year, $3-million agreement with IBM Canada to act as systems integrator for its videoconferencing systems, which includes products from Tandberg and Cisco Systems. Sheridan, based in Oakville, Ont., has integrated the video equipment with its voice-over-IP system, which it set up several years ago.

Trevor Hanekamp, Sheridan’s senior telecom analyst, said there had been many faculty and staff requests to the CIO’s office for desktop, multi-point and server-based video tools. Trying to assess and prioritize projects was becoming difficult.

“It turned out that it was quite a beast, this video,” he said.

A lot of Sheridan’s early work with videoconferencing was to assist staff that didn’t want to spend too much time traveling between campus locations in Oakville and Brampton. Sheridan uses rooms called “greenhouses,” for example, where staff train each other several times a week. Video has allowed some of these sessions to happen remotely.

“From there, the users have been picking this up and taking over without me training them,” Hanekamp said. Employers are using videoconferencing to conduct job interviews rather than coming to campus, he said, and departments like Student Services are using it to train managers.

Jay Fisher, IBM Canada’s industry executive for higher education and research, said Sheridan will also have access to its research team to learn more about the convergence around IP and other forms of communication.

“Right now the technology is ahead of user expectations,” he said. “Once users see what what’s possible, those expectations will increase many times over. In Sheridan’s case, we will see that quickly.”

Sheridan on Wednesday established a videoconference connection to Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board, which will allow its teachers and students to use the technology in a variety of interactive programs with Sheridan.

“Lately we’re starting to almost become a video service provider,” Hanekamp said, adding that the industry needs to make videoconference connections easier to set up and maintain.

“If you had to know what the IP address of the PBX was every time you dialed someone, you could see phoning would be a problem. That’s what video is like right now,” he said.

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