Videoconferencing in Schools

Current Videoconference Options

Yesterday, videoconferencing used to be so expensive that only business and higher education could afford it. A videoconference system was typically installed in a special room typically costing $100,000 or more. Each conference call used 2, 4, or 6 special phone lines (ISDN lines) that paid by the minute; an international conference cost several hundred dollars in phone time alone!

Today, videoconferencing is affordable for the smallest school because the expensive phone lines have now been replaced by the school's Internet service (which doesn't charge by the minute). Any organization can use on of the configurations below to meet their needs.

  • Room-based systems with permanently-mounted screens, cameras, speakers, and microphones now cost from $10,000 to $25,000.
  • Portable systems that roll into your classroom cost from $5,000 to $12,000.
  • Web conferencing for education and business costs around $35 per hour per computer.
  • Free conferencing available now and under development.

Educational Uses of Videoconferencing

Schools can put videoconferencing to use in several ways:

  • Virtual visits to museums, zoos and other institutions.
  • Distance learning connections to remote teachers or students.
  • Meeting venues for teachers, administrators or students.
  • Virtual visits with individual authors, experts or friends.
  • Best Free virtual visit programs.
  • CAPE's One-Page Classroom Videoconference Resource

About the Videoconferencing Module

This module presents part of the content from a full-day workshop designed to help classroom teachers understand the videoconferencing options available to them through broadband Internet. While the focus of the workshop has been on education, other community organizations should be aware of the potential benefits they also may enjoy.

Every medical center, firehouse, police station, government center, library, and retirement center can find many cost-effective applications for videoconferencing (just replace "school" with your organization in the descriptions that follow).

The development of the original workshops and of this web resource was assisted by the generous support of the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED).

small dced logo

interconnected sculpture Interconnected ~photo by Henkster

Videoconferencing used to link institutions, but now it can link people across the world as easily as across a school district. I've had the pleasure of teaching students across the globe from my living room chair.

In these times of global competition and global warming; of energy and food crises; of frightening terrorism, genocide and war; there is no greater need than to understand each other better. Videoconferencing is the best tool we have to visit other cultures and to meet and talk with people who may look and speak in unfamiliar ways.

Videoconferencing takes your students into the world as it brings the world in to your classroom.
--Scott Garrigan