Colorado District Embraces Videoconferencing

Colorado’s largest school district is finding ways to spread teaching expertise across schools and save time and transportation costs with mobile and desktop video solutions from Polycom, Inc., provider of open standards-based unified communications and collaboration (UC&C).
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Colorado’s largest school district is finding ways to spread teaching expertise across schools and save time and transportation costs with mobile and desktop video solutions fromPolycom, Inc., provider of open standards-based unified communications and collaboration (UC&C).

At Jefferson County (Jeffco) Public Schools, which serves nearly 86,000 students across half of Denver and into the mountains west of the city, educators and staff members are connecting securely face-to-face through video with colleagues, classrooms and district offices on the same mobile devices and PCs they rely on every day. Jeffco has embraced the burgeoning BYOD (bring your own device) movement by welcoming employee-owned devices and over 3,000 iPads currently being used by employees.

“School districts everywhere are adopting tablet technology because teachers and students want to work and teach on the devices they use at home,” said Steve O’Brien, Jeffco’s director of data center operations. “We’re leveraging that BYOD phenomenon to put Polycom video in the hands of more teachers and staff. It’s just right there where and when they need it.”

O’Brien said more Jeffco employees are using the Polycom® RealPresence® Mobile app on their iPads and Polycom® RealPresence® Desktop software on their PCs – environments that augment the district’s six administrative conference rooms and one high-tech classroom equipped with Polycom® HDX® Series group systems. “In the past three days, 51 percent of the people who logged into a video conference were using the RealPresence Mobile app on an iPad, and 49 percent were using RealPresence Desktop solutions,” said O’Brien. “Virtually everyone who taps into our video conference network was using video right in the classroom or the office. They don’t even have to go down the hall.”

Video Collaboration Reaches a Tipping Point

Video usage at Jeffco Schools has reached the tipping point the district has worked toward since it first adopted Polycom video solutions in 2009. The goal then was to reduce the need for employees to move between the district’s 150+ schools and administrative sites, with some teachers having to make a 90-minute round-trip commute to attend an in-person meeting or teach a class at another campus. Today, four years and 10,000 video conferences later, Jeffco operates 154 schools and programs at 185 campuses. Now communicating and collaborating over video isn’t just convenient – it’s strategic.

“When you realize you can do that 30-minute meeting over video without having to spend an hour or more fighting traffic, then the clouds part and you see how this changes everything,” said O’Brien. “Once people see how this makes their own lives better, more often than not, they’re downloading the RealPresence Mobile app or asking for a software license for their PC.”

For teachers, video collaboration offers the chance to connect classrooms across the district or around the world. French and Spanish learners, for instance, can try out their language skills with students in France and Spain. While visiting family in New Zealand, one teacher reunited with his students over Polycom video and delivered a lecture so engaging that two other classes requested encore presentations. One chemistry and physics teacher, Daniel Price, even defended his doctoral dissertation using Polycom video solutions.

Tools like Polycom RealPresence Desktop also extend the reach of teachers, which saves time for instructors and money for the district. “We have teachers who will deliver a lecture to the class in front of them, but they’ll use Polycom video to bring another class in to participate,” said Brian Hughes, technology coordinator at Jeffco’s Evergreen High School. “We’re up in the mountains, so traveling between campuses can cost you a lot of time. The convenience of video collaboration is really felt here.”

The value is also evident for administrators and staff. Jeffco’s director of construction management now conducts her staff meetings over video, which saves six department employees from having to drive in to district headquarters. Recruiters from distant universities connect face-to-face with students at high school career centers, and Evergreen High relied on Polycom solutions to interview out-of-state candidates for the school librarian post. And state budget meetings involving accounting personnel from each district, once conducted in-person, today are routinely handled over video. “Everyone had to drive to Denver for budget meetings three or four times a year, but now we’ll have people from all over the state logging in using Polycom video solutions,” said O’Brien. “Everyone loves it.”

O’Brien is hoping every one of the district’s 12,000 employees eventually can access video collaboration from the platforms they use today: “We spent the last couple years focusing on how to deploy video. Now we’re focused on where. And with the advent of mobile devices, that pretty much means everywhere.”

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