Brian Fodrey, Assistant Dean for Information Technology, UNC-Chapel Hill School of Government, was one of 14 members of a campus committee that examined Carolina’s web-conferencing use and issued a report in February 2016.
Made up of members from the University’s information technology community, the committee was formed under the direction of Information Technology Services and the Information Technology Executive Council (ITEC) to take a more in-depth look at how, why and what web-conferencing tools were being used across the campus community.
The committee members from ITS were Suzanne Cadwell, Director of ITS Teaching & Learning, and Candace Reynolds, IT Project Analyst/Manager.
Q: Why was the committee asked to study Carolina’s use of web conferencing?
A: The University has increased demand for and use of web conferencing. The committee sought to provide project stakeholders with the information necessary to make informed and strategic decisions and formulate next steps towards finding efficiencies in web-conferencing services.
Q: What do we really mean when we say “web conferencing”?
A: For the purpose of this report, the committee defined it as “a form of real-time communications (RTC) in which multiple users, all connected to the Internet, see the same screen at all times in their web browsers.”
Q: What did the committee discover?
A: While each school or department has similar expressed needs and expectations for web-conferencing services, in many cases they use different and often varied solutions in an autonomous fashion. Other institutions, however, offer more hands-on support. Whether through central IT, at the departmental level or via support contracts with a product or vendor, they provide product orientations, user training and formal technical support, including after-hours support.
Q: What did the committee recommend?
A: The committee made four recommendations:
Centralized Support. Centralize support through group purchasing for web-conferencing tools or renew efforts to offer broadly valued product(s) that a majority of campus units will embrace.
Tiered-Solution Offerings. Central IT and/or strategic partners must find a way to support web conferencing as a critical tool for small-group collaboration without reducing opportunities for faculty, staff and students to leverage these same tools for other needs.
Flexible Solutions. Anticipate and prepare for future web-conferencing services and expectations that will scale with the growing need and diverse user population.
Training and Awareness. To successfully implement and support web-conferencing tools, offer training materials to campus users through existing channels, and promote these tools to campus in a way that users understand the offerings and the available support options on campus.