March 8, 2005
Canadian Feds considering VoIP - will higher education follow?
An article in today's Ottawa Business Journal reports that the Canadian Government is looking into VoIP, a move that some are saying could prove to be the "bellwether moment for VoIP." Veeeery interesting.
I've had VoIP phone service with Vonage at home for the past 8 months and can't say enough good things about it. The service is nothing less than excellent (who ever heard of a phone company lowering its rates?!), and the sound quality is on par with what you'd expect from a traditional land line. Oh, and I get to call Canada anytime of day with no long distance charges above and beyond what I pay for my rock-bottom cheap monthly plan.
I got to thinking about how distance students can benefit from this technology. We don't have a toll-free number at the library where I work, and students have to rack up long distance charges to talk to us. When Skype came on the scene, I was immediately excited (and still am) about the possibilities, including the fact that it's absolutely free for student to use - all they have to do is add me to their contact list. And if the Jyve presence server script ever works properly (!), then even more opportunities are available for distance librarians to 'embed' themselves at the point of need. I'll be incorporating Skype into the distance education library portal that I'm currently developing.
But think about the possibilities if an educational institution decided to go VoIP at an enterprise level. Concordia did. Besides the fact that costs would be greatly reduced, planning for the future with VoIP opens up possibilities for affordable video conferencing, or something along the lines of virtual office hours using an online whiteboard or a Breeze-like application and telephony, perhaps. I'm just scratching the surface here I'm sure . . .
There are other VoIP-ish applications out there in production. Take Video Furnace, for example. They use IP devices to direct streaming content and television, what they like to call 'video over IP'. It's not internet-based, so unfortunately no immediate application for distance students because of bandwidth requirements. However it's something to watch for. Check out how Northwestern is using Video Furnace:
It's a VoIP VoIP world!