While COVID-19 cases subside on campus and more events are hosted in-person, Tech is currently deciding which video conferencing platform it will continue to use into the coming years outside of the pandemic.
Most Tech students will be familiar with BlueJeans and Microsoft Teams meetings, which have been the primary platforms for video conferences at Tech. These applications have been utilized for classes, club meetings and many more events over the past year, but their services have seen a decline in use as Tech transitions back to in-person functions.
Although Microsoft Teams will definitely remain as a video conference platform, Tech’s licenses with BlueJeans and WebEx, another conferencing platform, are set to expire in 2022. WebEx is currently being phased out of use as it expires after December, and BlueJeans will remain until at least May 2022.
This has spurred Tech to consider switching to a partnership with another service in the spring, with the Zoom video collaboration platform leading the pack. Zoom is very similar to BlueJeans and is used widely in education settings outside of Tech. To test this technology, Tech will hold a pilot with the program from late Oct. through the end of the semester.
“The video collaboration review committee has been thorough in defining requirements of a video collaboration service, in thinking through a migration from BlueJeans, and in considering how best to roll out a replacement for it,” said Michael Smith, senior lecturer of information systems in the Scheller College of Business, in a release from the Office of Information Technology. Smith and the other members of the video collaboration review committee have been evaluating many platforms as potential replacements for BlueJeans and WebEx.
Yakut Gazi, Associate Dean of Tech Professional Education and member of the review committee, added in the same article that the committee has already addressed the cybersecurity and procurement process, which means if the Zoom pilot goes well, they can quickly move forward with switching to the platform.
There are many specifications that the committee will hold Zoom to during its pilot, and the platform will be tested in a variety of applications around Tech.
The Zoom pilot may appear in students’ classes over the next few months, and the committee eagerly awaits the feedback from the trial. Although Zoom may be new to Tech, most students have had experience with it and the other platforms.
“I used WebEx for one class last fall,” said Akshay Karthik, CS graduate student. “We used BlueJeans for basically every class in the spring and last fall, but this semester I haven’t used it once,” said Karthik. His only experience with Zoom has been when meeting with friends because he believes it has a better screenshare function than BlueJeans, but Karthik thinks Tech should just stick with using BlueJeans throughout the next year.
“WebEx, over all for a small setting, was not good in terms of interaction and using the chat,” said Bennett Bush, a second-year EE who also has experience with all three platforms.
In regards to BlueJeans, Bush thought that the platform was very straightforward when making and accessing meetings, which he felt was something that Zoom lacks. “I’d say keep BlueJeans, don’t fix what’s not broken,” he concluded.
“I think we should stick to BlueJeans,” said Chyna McCall, third-year BIOL. “All of us already know how to use it and I feel like switching to another platform would be kind of useless when we have one that’s basically identical,” McCall said.
She has also used all three platforms since the beginning of the pandemic, and echoed Karthik’s and Bush’s sentiments of getting rid of WebEx but keeping BlueJeans over Zoom.
Feedback from students, faculty, and staff will be important to the review committee when making the decision to switch from BlueJeans and WebEx to Zoom, and the upcoming trial will offer insight on these opinions for all to consider moving forward.