Monday, February 27, 2006
To Test or Not To Test
I am forever reminded of the importance of testing. Here are a few cases in point. Today I was at a school where they had 2 unsuccessful test calls. Since the school just started videoconferencing this year I felt maybe my experience would help. So I went to the school to see what I could do. It was not a routine H.323 connection but a Click to Meet site that was trying to connect to our Polycom VSX7000. I never connected before to this "different species". This was for a Read Across America conference on Wednesday and I knew time was running out. The Click to Meet site had to make the call. However, there was only audio, no video was transmitting. I knew I was in over my head and the only thing I could think of was to call Janine Lim who is chairing the Read Across America. I knew she had tested with all the participants and if anyone would know what to do it would be Janine. First I made a test call to Janine's Polycom VSX7000 to check our system was working properly. Then the Click to Meet site made a test call with Janine and she had the idea that instead of a 263 protocol a 261 should be used instead. Lucky for us it worked, The children would not be disappointed on Wednesday. Our test call had hopefully averted a disastrous connection.
Unlike two weeks ago when I attended a vendor presentation on using videoconferencing in the classroom. Here we were in a hotel conference room with state of the art videoconferencing equipment. An audience full of educators all eager to learn more about the technology of videoconferencing. A middle school at another location with a group of students and teachers enthusiastic to present their videoconferencing project. The call is made but the connection fails. The tech people go into high gear but to no avail. The problem is mystifying. They can connect to their home office but not to the middle school. So they went to plan B. You always need a plan B. There was a powerpoint which showed the project. A lively discussion about the project. But no videoconference. As I was leaving the vendor said to me "we tested the equipment with our office we should have tested with the middle school".
We have all had the experience of the technology not working as planned. I myself presented at a conference last year when I was unable to do a live videoconference as planned. I was also guilty of not testing in advance. I planned to test an hour before the event. Bad idea. A test is not a 100% guarantee that your videoconference will happen but it is a pretty high guarantee that things will work. A test can give you time to troubleshoot like today. It will give all participants some peace of mind. So that is why tomorrow, and the next day within my busy schedule I will be taking time to do three test calls.