Tech Review 10 – Video Calling: Zoom

Overview:

This week we are looking at the tools you can use for free video calling. Skype has become synonymous with video calling, but is it the best option? In this review, we pit Skype against a newer programme called Zoom. At a first glance, it seems like just another video calling programme, but when we started using it, we realised that it’s actually quite different (and better) than Skype. The main focus of this review will be on Zoom, and we will be using Skype as the baseline to compare it to.

What you need:

  • A laptop, tablet or mobile. We tested Zoom on an iPad and a laptop to see what the differences were (available for iOS and Android).
  • A webcam and microphone. Most newer devices have these built in, but some older ones don’t, so you might have to buy a separate webcam and microphone.
  • Wifi/internet connection
  • Zoom account (to set up an account click here)

Pros:

  • The main pro, when compared to Skype is that it consistently works. Everyone has had the experience of being on a Skype call and it being glitchy or cutting out, or the sound going (often during the most crucial parts of the conversation). However, with Zoom, it worked every time, even when calling differing numbers of people and across different distances.
  • Each meeting has a unique ID number, which can be used to send an invitation to the participants. There is also an option to schedule meetings, which can be saved on your calendars. This is a far cry from Skype where emails have to be sent in advance and callers end up hanging around waiting for someone to remember their password or connect to the internet.
  • There are many options within the call, including the ability to either leave or end the call. During the call, one person is designated a ‘host’ which gives them enhanced options (the host can change within the same call if desired).
  • There is a gallery view which allows you to efficiently see more than one person people on the same screen.
  • There is an option to raise your hand! This brings up a small cartoon hand at the bottom of everyone’s screen, indicating that you wish to speak. This is a brilliant feature that brings a sense of civility to the proceedings and is a polite way to manage conversations without interrupting or speaking over other callers.
  • There is an option to share screens. When we started looking at sharing screens we realised that there was an option to share control of the screen. This means that two (or more) people can both edit the same text, similar to Google Docs. However, where this departs from Google Docs is the ability to still see and talk to each other while editing, making this a truly collaborative experience.
  • Another function was a shared whiteboard where you can jot down ideas while you are chatting.
  • You are able to record conversations and video calls. If you have been recording, the call is automatically saved to your drive. This gives you an audio file, as well as a compressed and a high-quality video file. If you do not want to be filmed during your conversation, there is the option to forbid recording.

Cons:

  • We thought long and hard about what the cons of Zoom could be, and the best that we came up with is that Zoom is not as ubiquitous as Skype and therefore all your contacts are unlikely to have it already installed on their computer. However, signing up to and downloading Zoom is very quick and painless, and an option to do this is included in any meeting invitations that you send out.

General Feedback:

We love Zoom. Not only did it work exactly how it should as video calling software, we also discovered the amazing feature of sharing content and sharing the control of editing, allowing for collaborative remote working. Zoom combines all the best features of using a collaborative programme (like Google Docs) and Skype, with added stability and a more intuitive user interface.

It is clear that the design of Zoom was based on the actual needs of the present user (such as the ‘raising hand’ option) rather than Skype whose features are nearly identical to when it was first launched. Considering how long Skype has existed, and how widely used it is, we assumed that there would have been a resolution of most of the early problems, but what we realised is that the quality of the service provided by Skype was far worse than we anticipated.

Score:

    • Price – 4/5  (there is a free option, but for calls with more than 3 people that last more than 40 mins, you need a paid account)
    • Ease of use – 5/5
    • Efficiency – 5/5
    • Effectiveness – 5/5

Overall score: 19/20

Tech Review 9 – Video creation and sharing: YouTube (Guest Blog)

This week’s review is guest written by David Mansell, Digital Learning Coordinator at the National Football Museum, Manchester (@footballmuseum; @NFM_Learn; @sivisscientiam)

Overview:

This week, we will be looking at sharing video content through YouTube. This platform is a versatile tool to share internally or externally produced videos. Online video is hugely popular with today’s internet users. Cultural organisations are increasingly looking to video to educate, inspire, and document their activities. This capacity can range from ad-hoc commissions of videographers as part of funded projects, all the way to staff and volunteers producing videos in-house with dedicated equipment. Whatever your means of production, YouTube is a good home for content, especially content that needs to be distributed multiple times across a variety of channels.

What you need:

  • An internet connection.
  • Depending on where your content is stored, either a mobile device or laptop.
  • A Google account for your organisation.
  • Any relevant branding: logos, copy etc.

Instructions:

Posting content on YouTube is an easy (and fun) process. After navigating to the website, you can sign in on the top right using your Google account. If this is your organisation’s first time using the site, you’ll be prompted to start setting up your channel. Your channel is your hub from which you can post your content, and engage with your audience on the site. The layout is simple and is typical of Google’s user-friendly approach.

If YouTube becomes a part of your communications strategy, then this is worth doing with your relevant colleagues who have oversight on such things. Otherwise, feel free to add as much branding and information as you feel is appropriate. Other organisations tend to treat the site as any other digital asset, and so it is common to see their channels branded like their other platforms.

There’s a button next to the search bar for uploading content. Clicking it will allow you to select the file you want from your computer. During this process, you’ll be given the chance to give your video an appropriate title and description, as well as tagging it with relevant search terms. It’s worth spending a little bit of time crafting this to ensure that your content is accessible via the search bar.

You can also make use of some limited editing tools for making minor alterations to lighting and annotations. For those without dedicated editing software, this is a useful tool to improve the quality of your videos. For accessibility purposes, there’s also the option to add subtitles and translations, which the user can enable and disable as required.

Once you are set up, you can access some useful features:

Analytics:

Each individual video you upload allows you to view detailed audience data. Like Twitter and Facebook, YouTube provides real-time info on audience demographics, traffic sources, and playback devices. Additionally, YouTube also provides data on audience retention on each individual piece of content; so you can get insight into when you lost your audience’s attention. This is a huge bonus for creators who are looking to optimise their content for their audience or experiment with new audiences.

Sharing:

Sharing your YouTube content is as easy as clicking the share button on the video player. From there, you can access your other social media, emails, and even an embed links into your website. Sites like Twitter and Facebook allow the user to access the video on their website when viewed on a computer- the analytics are still available on the main YouTube site. You could even create a QR code using the link and put it somewhere in your venue for visitors to access more information on stories and objects.

Technology:

YouTube is at the cutting edge of online video technology. At the upper limit, users can upload videos up to 12 hours long, or 128GB in size! The site also supports resolutions up to 4K. This puts YouTube firmly ahead of other leading social networks in terms of flexibility with videos. For organisations conscious of the long-term viability of the platform, they can be confident that it has so far been ahead of the curve for technological advancements.

Community:

As well as being a home for videos in all shapes and sizes, YouTube has a thriving community who consume billions of hours of content a year. Like other social media channels, YouTube users can like, dislike, and comment on posts, as well as subscribe to channels they watch regularly. Educational content can be a great place to foster debate and engagement. For organisations looking to branch out online, YouTube is a great place to be.

Pros

  • It’s completely free to sign up and post as much or as little content as you like.
  • YouTube is an easy way to access all your video content online and sharing features make distribution easy.
  • Useful analytics reports- great for strategy writing, assessing impact, and KPI monitoring.
  • Powerful technology- whether it’s video uploaded from a mobile device or a crafted feature, YouTube has you covered on compatibility.

 

Cons

  • Setting up a channel can be a lengthy process. The involvement of other staff may be required, to be to ensure that branding guidelines are followed.
  • Content uploading can take a while depending on your internet speed.

 

Who should use this within a museum?

The platform is great for anyone looking to get their video content out there, be they museum educators, digital specialists, content marketers or anybody else with a special interest in video.

General feedback

Online video continues to grow and is a great way to get people excited about heritage. With modern mobile devices putting the power of video at many people’s fingertips, having the right tools to share and grow online is a top priority for heritage staff managing digital development. For those looking to put their video content out there, YouTube is highly recommended.

Score:

Price: 5/5

Ease of use: 4/5

Efficiency: 5/5

Effectiveness: 5/5

Total 19/20

 

David Mansell