Communicating with Skype

This week, we’re going to talk about Skype, a global communication tool that currently accounts for 8 % of international calling minutes worldwide.  Most people have heard of Skype, but I find that many people haven’t actually used it.  Skype technically started as a VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) which originally only allowed voice to be transmitted from one computer to another.   Over the last few years, however, it has evolved into a one-stop online communication tool.  Besides allowing voice communication, Skype now supports video chat, text chat and also screen sharing.  You can even use Skype to call people’s home or cell phones. The application is really easy to use.  And, best of all, it’s FREE.  Or mostly free.  If you call Skype to Skype, it won’t cost you anything.  If you use Skype to call a traditional phone number, however, Skype will charge you.

Skype has tons of applications in our classrooms.  Besides offering chat functionality to communicate with students or colleagues, Skype can be used to bring in guest speakers from a distance.  Imagine bringing in a national speaker who lives in California, but is communicating to your class on campus through Skype. Instructors can also use Skype to have students practice communicating in a foreign language or roleplaying a counseling session.  I’ve also seen teachers use Skype to pair up their students with classrooms from other cultures.  I’m sure you’ve seen the commercial where Ellen Page walks into a room and the students talk about going on a virtual field trip to Japan.  The students are using a Skype-like device to collaborate with students on the other side of the world.  Again, this isn’t some future classroom.  This is today.

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5 thoughts on “Communicating with Skype

  1. Thanks for posting all of these notes. I’m just getting around to this. I was wondering about the use of SKYPE. What are the negative aspects of using this program and are you able to do multiple people at one time? Thanks

    • The main negatives for using Skype is that it only supports video chat for two people. You can phone conference with up to three people, but chat is only two (check out which supports up to six people in video chat.) Another negative is time. If you want to do this with students, you’ll have to schedule time to video chat with them and have one on one meetings with them. I did this with an online class recently and ended up dedicating three or four hours talking to students through Skype. I didn’t mind doing it, but instructors should be aware of that as they develop Skype-related activities in their classes.

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