VoIP allows users to make and receive phone calls using a high speed Internet connection, as opposed to a traditional phone line. In doing so, the telephony service typically offers users a number of features, plans, and services traditional lines cannot account for. While some service options are limited (VoIP-to-VoIP calls), others offer full range (VoIP-to- local, long distance, or mobile number). Though VoIP offers service plans in both residential and business industries, the service can also be utilized and implemented in other fields. For example, users can look to the field of education, or more specifically, college education.
Communication is vital within the educational system. Within education, VoIP can be applied to help better interaction, as well as advance course infrastructure and lead to new applications/opportunities. Aside from feature and service, all users need to enact VoIP features is: a VoIP package (service, and hardware/software), as well as a high speed internet connection. Once these necessities are accounted for, users can begin utilize the full range of services.
In regards to education, VoIP offers a number of features that are aimed at simplifying communication. While higher education allots for more independence, it also requires extensive communication between students and professors. In response to this, VoIP features are able to connect students and professors through a number of ways including: phone calls, video calls, messages, and even fax. Aside from providing this thorough interconnectivity, VoIP services can be used to implement news methods of teaching. VoIP can be used to better education in a number of ways including:
Distance Learning Course: While online classes are becoming increasingly popular with colleges, they can be further supplemented with VoIP services and technology. VoIP can be introduced into an academic program to designate classes for students who may not be able to attend classes. Students that may be geographically, economically, physically, or otherwise disadvantaged can now attain the same academic career as students who are able to be present in the classroom.
VoIP offers advanced video calling features that enable students to contact their professor(s) remotely. With that, there are a number of providers that offer free PC-to-PC voice and video calls. In doing so, academics can utilize this free service to deliver lesson plans to students via web connection. This would allow the same student-teacher interaction, without the classroom. Additionally, teachers could also use this function as a tutoring tool. If a student needed extra help, but office/classroom hours couldn’t accommodate them, users could turn to this service for extra help. Aside from teachers, students could use VoIP to communicate with one another for group projects, or to compare notes with one another.
Another circumstance that could benefit from distance learning courses is natural disasters. In the event of a natural disaster, students/professors may not be able to meet back on campus due to damages sustained. Now, professors could offer the alternative of connecting via internet connection. All this would require was a web connection. Students would not have to wait for the campus to reopen. Instead, they could meet digitally.
In the Classroom: VoIP can be used for classes that physically meet in the classroom as well. Students can use VoIP services to collaborate outside of the classroom. For example, students can work on a group project through a conference call or video call. Additionally, students can also work with other students outside the school, town, state, and even country. Professors can use VoIP to connect to other points all over the world to reinforce or implement their lesson plans.
Aside from this, having a phone in the classroom allows for greater security measures. Generally all VoIP providers include the e911 (enhanced 911) service, which connects callers to the closest PSAP (public safety answering point), which is the emergency service dispatch center that responds to 911 calls. While this method is appealing, it is not without flaws. Many schools are weary of installing VoIP because it is hard to keep a current list of where each IP phone is located—this information is necessary for e911 services. While the phones have the mobility to move to any network switch port, and log on automatically, there is nothing that automatically registers current location. As a result of this, some school councils (Texas A&M University) do not allow VoIP in residencies. Despite this potential disadvantage, VoIP phones also allow administration to more readily and easily contact professors and students in the case of an emergency.
Amongst Faculty: Aside from re-appropriating the student-teacher relationship, VoIP can also simplify communications amongst staff. School administrators now have the tools to contact staff directly using VoIP calling and/or messaging as opposed to intercom systems.
Student Body: Many schools see VoIP as a viable way to get around tricky communications obstacles. For example, Bowdoin College in Maine has actively sought to extend their college private-network phone features to student cell phones. Here, the school has made a deal with mobile provider to apply cell towers all over campus. This will allow for four bar reception all over. With this, everyone will have wireless handsets that can tie into the cellular or campus VoIP network, which will allow students to make 4 digit calls on campus. Aside from applications, VoIP offers schools tremendous cost efficiency—schools are able to take advantage of VoIP data circuits to reduce reoccurring charges associated with traditional landlines.
VoIP is able to offer a number of positives in regards to education; however, it is not without its disadvantages. Aside from vulnerable network security, converging voice and data networks allows for more physical security vulnerability over the voice network. There are also many other factors that should be addressed regarding VoIP and education. Many VoIP providers offer their services as standalone service; however, many of them allow for the service to supplement another service. Therefore, VoIP can be used in addition to whatever phone systems are in already being used at a university/school.
As stated above there are many more advantages and disadvantages to using VoIP in education. While higher education offers a number of tradeoffs in service, VoIP allows for a number of implementations that are not possible with traditional landline services.