In its latest beta release (version 188.8.131.52), Skype adds several new features including multipoint videoconferencing to its repertoire. While audio-only conference calls with multiple parties have been a standard function for quite some time, the final video conference tool is scheduled to allow seeing and talking to up to 10 people in real time. Considering the popularity of Skype, this new option could dramatically improve the way people communicate and collaborate, for example, in a distance education setting. Other updates addressed in this latest release include a refreshed user interface (we like it!), offline instant messaging (you’ll receive all your messages once you login), and a new area called Skype Home (to track your purchases, stay in touch with contacts, learn more about Skype features).
While these features looked impressive when we tested it, there are several things to consider before installing the new version.
- First of all, the new beta version is only available for Windows. Anybody with a Mac or running an older version of Skype on PC will not be able participate in the multi-point video conference.
- Also, it appears that Skype is trying to make this feature available for pay in the future since one can only sign up for a 14-day trial version that also limits calls to five people (including yourself). Well, we can’t have everything for free…
- Another potential downside is that the popular screensharing availability does not seem to function in the conference calls as of now.
- Finally, system requirements are understandably high (i.e. an Intel Core2duo 2 GHz CPU or equivalent, network bandwidth is 1 mbit/s).
Overall, the new Skype beta offers some nice improvements compared to previous versions in areas of design, feel, and usability. Anyone who is familiar with Skype will easily adapt. If your only reason for downloading and installing the beta is having video conference with 2-4 other Skype users, consider the limited time span (14 days trial) and high system requirements for all users’ computers. These drawbacks might limit potential implementation possibilities in your course.
For more info on video conferencing and/or Skype alternatives stop by Instructional Consulting. We can help you find what you need…