How to videoconference

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New technology now enables a global community to sit around the same virtual table. Yet many people still don’t know how to videoconference. Here’s the lowdown

Considering how telecommunications have evolved, the term ‘global village’ is just so last decade. It no longer feels as though we are in the same postcode as our overseas neighbours – it’s more that we are in the same room. What has brought us so close?

Among a range of contributing factors, videoconferencing is high on the list. The flexibility that it has brought to the business world cannot be underestimated. In Hollywood, for example, it has helped filmmakers such as Peter Jackson and James Cameron monitor the simultaneous efforts of crews in London, California and New Zealand in the course of putting mammoth blockbusters down on film.

But videoconferencing has more workaday applications. One of the most important ways in which it can facilitate business activity is by helping single parents return to work by enabling them to stay at home and care for their children while earning money as remote workers.

Moreover, videoconferencing opens up labour markets in isolated areas – as the technology develops, the need to commute to major population centres is reduced. That’s great news for accounting workers in the North Pennines or the Highlands of Scotland.

Another rich field for videoconferencing is e-learning. One of the UK pioneers is the South West Grid for Learning Trust, a charity formed by a consortium of 15 local education authorities. With a potential reach of 756,000 users – the majority of them students at schools in south-west England – the Grid has set up videoconferences with experts at museums around the UK, and even marine-life gurus in Australia.

Far from signalling the death of the field trip, the Grid hopes to provide students with a supplementary range of information they simply would not be able to access through occasional days out. As bodies such as the Grid trailblaze e-learning for the education sector, FE colleges teaching accountancy and other business skills are likely to follow suit.

Steven Perryman is AAT Comment's former Content Editor.

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