- Join – often called ‘federation’, it allows the two different systems to talk to each other, so that somebody on Skype can chat with somebody on Lync & vice versa
- Lync – Microsoft’s service for unified communications for businesses – instant messaging, video calling, voice calls, conference calls, remote screen sharing, presenting etc
- Skype – Microsoft’s service for unified communications for consumers – instant messaging, video calling, voice calls, conference calls etc
In the words of the Skype blog, it’s about ‘Connecting the Living Room to the Board Room’, but in education I see it as a way of connecting the student’s home life to their institutional one. This is because most students are using Skype at home for making and receiving voice and video calls, and instant messages. And then within the institution (school, TAFE, university) it’s most likely that you’ll be using an ‘enterprise grade’* system like Lync for the same job.
Typical education scenarios using Lync and Skype joined together
The way that we’ve joined Lync and Skype together means that you can now use the two systems together to let people talk more easily. For example:
- You could allow students stuck on a homework assignment to fire up their Skype to IM chat to a support teacher on Lync – and your Lync system will record the whole conversation for you (whereas if they do it on Skype alone, you’ve got a completely ‘off the record’ system)
- Parents or students could use it to ‘phone’ school without paying for a call. That would be handy for something like absence reporting (how about parents reporting their child is sick by IM’ing the office?)
- You could even extend the ability to have an informal teacher:parent meeting through Lync, when parents (and students?) are at home on Skype (and when video calling comes along, that becomes even more useful)
- How about letting prospective students chat with your university/TAFE Admissions Office on Skype? With international students, you might potentially be saving them significant cost, as well as improving the service you offer them.
The connectivity we’ve announced so far allows you to have instant messenger and voice chats between the two systems, and the next priority is video calling (think of the positive possibilities with that).
And here’s more details about the settings you’ll need to set in your Lync system
If you’re using Office 365 for Education, it’s simply one tickbox in the admin page
* What do I mean by ‘enterprise grade’: In your institution systems, you want to be able to track all of your conversations, and keep archives of things like instant messenger chats. You’ll also want to be able to link your voice communications through your existing organisational systems (eg your existing switchboard phone numbers). And you’ll need to be able to manage the whole thing centrally – like adding, suspending and deleting users. And finally, you’ll want to integrate to your other systems, like email, CRM and collaboration services.
That’s what Lync allows you to do – manage the whole experience end-to-end, in the same way that you manage the rest of your IT and telecoms.