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Instructional Design & Support

Skype

You’ve heard of Skype by now, right? It’s the “Internet telephone” service that lets you get a free account and make voice and video calls to any other Skype user, anywhere in the world, for free. But it’s more than that. In addition to free Skype-to-Skype voice and video calling, other services include:

  • conference voice calling, up to 25 participants – free;
  • voice calling from Skype to a phone and vice versa – fee based;
  • computer file sharing – free;
  • computer screen sharing – free;
  • instant messaging, a.k.a. chat – free;
  • SMS, a.k.a. text messages, sent from Skype to a mobile – fee based.

Review all Skype features.

NOTE: The Skype application is available for computers and many internet-enabled mobile devices.

Examples:

  • Skype in the Classroom projects – a community of educators who seek to connect with educators and their classrooms around the globe based on a common interest.

Educational Uses:

Skype is enormously popular with international students, professionals with international contacts, and people who like to stay connected while traveling. What can it do for you and your students? International collaborations become possible using real-time voice calling, videoconferencing, and file sharing.

  • Guest lecturers can be easily and affordably incorporated into the curriculum.
  • Student teams can work on projects together from anywhere in the world.
  • International roundtables can be created.
  • Collaboration with colleagues regardless of location is possible.
  • Student-to-student think tanks are easy to set up.

What’s not to like?

Well, the two main concerns right now are security and network bandwidth utilization.

  • Regarding security, UT’s Information Security Office (ISO) points out that Skype is capable of penetrating network firewalls without authorization. Although there is no evidence that Skype currently uses that “stealth” capability to do anything nefarious, there is the potential for abuse, and security folks don’t like it when software circumvents their carefully constructed defenses.
  • In addition, they have concerns about the potential for sophisticated hackers to employ tools that could damage computers, compromise the network, or possibly even steal data.

While there are no reports of these things having happened yet, the fact that the technologies employed are proprietary and have not been shared with security and systems analysts makes it impossible to determine the current level of risk. So, while the University does not currently prohibit or restrict usage of Skype on its network, it is possible that such restrictions could be imposed later, if any of the above concerns become security or liability issues.

Getting Started

With the benefits and risks in mind, should you try it? Is it something that would enhance your teaching or facilitate your research collaboration? The best way to know the answer is to explore this tool.

  • Download and install Skype on your computer and your internet-enabled mobile device.
  • Add friends who are Skype users to your Contacts list.
  • Explore Skype features and practice live online sessions.

Resources

 

If you think Skype would be valuable for your class, please contact OIT HelpDesk, phone 974-9900, and request a consultation.

OIT can help you identify the best tools to meet your needs, and we’ll collaborate with UT’s Information Security Office to ensure that your network collaboration and communications tools are installed and configured to be as secure and safe as possible.

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