I'm looking for anyone who already has a video conferencing program. Please give a brief description of your department and how it uses video conferencing. You might also include a description of the equipment you use and if you are happy with it.
Jesse, I work for a municipal, five station department that has used teleconferencing for about the past 7 years. We use the system for meetings and trainings so our engine companies can stay in their response areas. We have a system made by "Tandberg" that some of us have nicknamed the "Hindenberg". The system had many ongoing issues for the first 1-2 years. It is working better now but still has occasional problems. The screen sometimes "checker boards", like it is updating the picture but cuts in and out. The cameras seem to suddenly stop working. Sometimes when the system connects you will only have voice and no video. Sometimes the system will not connect at all.
When the system works our biggest issue is the loss of good face-to-face communications. There is a one or two second time delay when you are asking questions or having a discussion. It hinders the discussion and creates frustration for some people. The other issue concerns the main classroom where the "brains" of the system are. There are numerous receivers in the classroom to pick up on people's voices. When someone talks, sneezes, coughs, or if there are loud sounds outside, the main speaker's voice (or the audio from a video) are dimmed at the other stations. This creates some loss of information and again creates frustration for some people.
I think that overall the system has allowed us to get classroom training without leaving our stations and in the end provides better customer service. The level of training is not as good as a normal face-to-face classroom setting, but is pretty close. Once you work through all of the bugs and technological gliches they work adequately.
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