Skype becoming a new method of professional communication

Rachel Giesel | Staff Writer

Video-calling is steadily gaining interest in Mason High School. But the act of video-calling through webcams has progressed to use in more professional instances such as college interviews, communicating with loved ones overseas and tutoring. A common way to enact video-calling is through a free downloadable program called Skype with which users are able to hear and see the person with whom they are conversing.Senior Morgan Russell said she used Skype for the first time when she conducted her admissions interview with her first-choice college, Wake Forest University.

“It was my first time using it, which was kind of scary, because I had no idea how it worked,” Russell said. “[But], it’s really easy. I requested to talk with [the interviewer], and I introduced myself via webcam and the interview started.”

Russell said that although Skype eliminates the need to travel, she said she prefers face-to-face communication and feels her interview may have been more relaxed in person.

“I feel like I almost had a disadvantage,” Russell said. “I think anything over technology makes people feel different. I think the interviewers would be nore slack in person, but on Skype they’re more tough and gave me really critical questions. I think the interview would have been easier if I was actually there.”

But Russell said participating in a video-call rather than an in-person interview can also be advantageous: the use of Skype prevents both people from seeing the entire scene of the other’s environment. Russell said she used this to her benefit by preparing notes she could keep on her desk during the interview.

“You could be kind of cheating,” Russell said. “I had notes taken and [had] practiced interviews with my dad. I didn’t make it obvious I was looking at my desk, but I had stuff there, so it helped me out.”

Freshman Nick Hoffman said he used Skype to converse with his stepdad while he was stationed in Iraq. He said the prolonged period of time his stepdad was required to stay overseas made Facebook and AIM not enough, so Skype was an excellent answer to their communication dilemma.

“When [my stepdad] was [in Iraq], we usually talked to him four or five times a week on Skype,” Hoffman said. “He was there for over a year — 400 days — and he only got to come back once. [We] used Skype so [we] could actually see each other and hear each other’s voice.”

Although he said the use of video-calls is growing, Hoffman said has only used Skype for this purpose while others may use it for casual conversations between friends.

“A lot of people have started to use it to talk to their friends,” Hoffman said. “It’s becoming more popular. But I don’t use it, [except to talk to my stepdad].”

Math teacher and basketball coach Jere Clark said she uses Skype once a week to tutor former players or math students who have recently moved to college. Clark said she enjoys using Skype for this purpose because it allows her to show her students the appropriate way to solve the questions they may ask.

“[Teaching on Skype is] more show and tell,” Clark said. “It’s impossible explain [math] without showing it.”

But even though Clark said Skype is “fast and reliable,” she said she agrees with Hoffman that there are some difficulties with it.

“The whole webcam idea is [used] because I can’t go face-to-face,” Clark said. “It would be easier to sit there and watch what [the student] is doing so I can go, ‘Oh, okay. This needs to be fixed.’ [It can be] hard to see what they’re doing, so it’s not that easy, but it’s definitely better than talking on the phone. [Webcams] allow us to answer quick questions — maybe something basic that could help push them in the right direction.”

Clark also said that she saw Skype being used for a professional news source recently.

“I was watching CNN and they were doing the whole thing about the hurricane and tsunamis in Hawaii,” Clark said. “They actually had a reporter on Skype. So, instead of taking a camera crew [there] and paying for [the travel of] two or three extra people, they’re going to send one reporter and take a computer and [report through Skype].”