Audio and video applications are being increasingly used to support project working across distributed project teams. This document aims to give a brief description of audio and video tools which can be used to support such collaborative work within our institutions and to summarise the main challenges to be faced when considering their deployment across organisations.
The growth in broadband is leading to renewed interest in audio and video-conferencing systems. In the past such services often required use of specialist hardware and software. However tools are now being developed for home use. This briefing document explores some of the issues concerning use of such technologies within an institution.
The Skype Internet telephony system  is growing in popularity. Skype is popular because it can provide free calls to other Skype users. In addition Skype has potential for use in an academic context:
It should be noted, however, that Skype is a proprietary application and concerns over its use have been raised.
Instant Messaging clients such as MSN Messenger  also provide audio and video capabilities. Such tools can raise expectations of student users who may wish to use such tools for their own use.
It should be noted, however, that there are interoperability problems with such tools (e.g. both users may need to be running the latest version of the MS Windows operating system). In addition the management of user IDs and setting up areas for group discussions may be issues.
An alternative approach is use of software such as VRVS , an Access Grid application. This Web-based system provides managed access to virtual rooms, etc. VRVS is intended for use by GRID users and not be appropriate for certain uses. However it illustrates an alternative approach.
Issues which need to be addressed when considering use of such tools include