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VOIP and virtual classrooms


Using VOIP in conjunction with virtual classroom delivery of training, is good if it works. But with some virtual classroom systems you can enable the delegates to record a version of the session to their local machines. In my experience, this can make demands upon the VOIP system of the virtual classroom which negatively effects the voice quality.

Also, if you use VOIP which is integrated with the virtual classroom, when the virtual classroom service is interrupted, so is the VOIP with it. This leaves the delegates ‘stranded’ which is why I always have a normal ‘phone bridge backup in case this happens.

I work with another phone bridge provider which provides a good service compared to most phone bridge/conference call services by way of offering an ‘all you can speak’ product thereby stripping out all of the variable, price per minute services on the market. For example, for one phone bridge number we pay only £39-95 per month no matter how many conference calls we make per month on that number.http://www.allconferencecalls.co.uk .

Alternatively, you can use Skype with a virtual classroom. I have used some good services which combine phone bridge with Skype ( http://www.hidefconferencing.com/) so you can enable your delegates to use either VOIP or a normal phone line in a session. This is quite cheap to use and it also has good chairperson controls to mute everyone if there is a lot of background noise and to control the questions being asked so that the trainer can keep his course on track.

 

The trainer must set the rules at the beginning of the course to say when he/she would accept questions live and when he/she would answer them through the usual Q&A tools in the VC. To me, this sounds like a case of poor virtual classroom preparation by the ‘training company’ and the trainer.

There are large financial benefits to be gained by using a virtual classroom system compared to a ‘bricks and mortar’. If we were not using our partner status with Microsoft, we would only be paying £100 per month for an account with one of their service providers in the UK for Live Meeting 2007. Add this with our ‘all you can speak’ phone bridge service (when we are not using VOIP) then the cost benefits are easily seen over a traditional classroom. A traditional classroom in the UK can be rented per day for about £250 to £300 for a non-technical classroom.

The virtual classroom makes business sense as long as the product is sold correctly and, to re-iterate my earlier comments,any virtual classroom course needs to be run in a very particular way to ensure that the learning value is not lost.

If you would like any further input and advice, please do drop me a line. I have run virtual classroom based courses with my own business, for the UK largest IT training company and also for Hewlett-Packard over the last three years and I have a lot of experience in how to run and manage them.

will@arryawke.co.uk

 

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