WebEx Offers Online Meeting Tools

WebEx Offers Online Meeting Tools

By Alexis BlueUniversity Communications
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WebEx users can host online meetings with features like audio, video, instant messaging and more.
WebEx users can host online meetings with features like audio, video, instant messaging and more.

Anyone who's ever tried to coordinate a campus meeting knows how difficult it can be to get everyone in the same place at the same time.

The task is a little easier when using online conferencing services – which allow individuals to attend important meetings without leaving their desks – such as those now available through University Information Technology Services.

UITS this month announced a new Web-based conferencing service that can be used to host teleconferences, lectures, video presentations and more.

Cisco's WebEx allows multiple participants to "attend" a meeting online. Meeting-goers can talk to one another via telephone or workstation microphone and speakers, and, if their computer is equipped with a camera, see one another live.

It's ideal for bringing together UA community members who don't live in the area, such as members of UA South or the UA's College of Medicine-Phoenix, said T.J. McGreevy, UITS communications officer. 

Unlike sometimes-confusing conference calls, in which it can be difficult to know who is speaking, WebEx offers a visual system that allows users to indicate their intent to talk with an individually assigned icon, McGreevy said. Text and video communications are possible as well. 

"You want to have substantial and effective meetings and it feels like they're in the room," McGreevy said.

The program also allows users to share documents online and make interactive changes to the text during the meeting. Similarly, it's possible for one WebEx user to take temporary remote control of another person's computer, with permission, in the event that they need assistance with an application, which makes it a useful tool for technology training or support, McGreevy said.

To host a meeting, a person must have a WebEx license, which costs $40 a month after a $10 one-time installation fee. UA WebEx accounts, available at a discounted price from accounts ordered directly through Cisco, require a three-month commitment. Only one participant in a meeting needs to have a license and licenses can be purchased by an individual or campus department.

Currently there are 18 campus subscribers, and the service has gotten substantial use within UITS and the iPlant Collaborative, a cyberinfrastructure project working to unite plant sciences researchers, McGreevy said.  

The UA's 24/7 IT Support Center offers support and online training for WebEx 24 hours a day. You can learn more about WebEx and apply for a license on the UITS Web site.

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