Benefits of VoIP Systems for Schools and Universities
VoIP phone systems are now being adopted by many individuals and small and big businesses for a number of reasons. One of the most important factors that led everyone to start relying on VoIP systems is the pandemic and the fact that it has forced us to start functioning remotely. Working and learning from home created the need for new technologies to adjust to the new lifestyle, and VoIP gave them the answer.
The most important thing that has been lost due to the pandemic is the luxury of face-to-face communication and everything that follows. So to make up for that, VoIP phone systems had to provide virtual platforms that allow people to communicate as efficiently as possible.
In this article, we will go over all the ways in which VoIP phone systems can help schools and universities deliver the best quality of education through online learning.
What is a VoIP System and How Does It Work?
Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) refers to the process of making and receiving phone calls using an internet connection instead of wires or optical fibers which are used in traditional landlines. VoIP phone systems are hosted on cloud-based servers, meaning that the VoIP providers have data centers on which they maintain all the computer equipment and servers needed to secure the connections.
VoIP started as a service that allows making and receiving audio calls and has then grown to include other forms of communication, like video calling, unlimited SMS messaging, chatting, and the many integrations with other popular business apps. This process of business communication unification under one provider has resulted in the creation of the Unified Communication as a Service (UCaaS) model. This is why you will see many VoIP providers referring to themselves as UCaaS providers; that is because of the multiple services they provide in regards to communication.
When schools and universities use a hosted VoIP system, they connect to it using the internet, which spares them the burden of dealing with any bulky and expensive telecom equipment. The only equipment and tools needed in this case are computers (desktops or laptops), compatible smartphones, and a strong internet connection.
How a VoIP Phone System Can Be Beneficial in Virtual Learning
Hosted VoIP phone systems have a long list of features that can be helpful for teachers and students in virtual learning; some of these features include:
A softphone is a software solution that can be installed on a smartphone, desktop, laptop, or tablet. This software provides users with all the features and functionality of a traditional landline. What makes the softphone better is the fact that it is downloaded as an application that can be accessed whenever and wherever you need it from your smartphone or laptop. This is a very helpful feature for teachers and professors, as they can make and receive calls, view each other’s availability statuses, check their work voicemail, reach other colleagues with one-click calls, and more.
Oftentimes, VoIP providers offer their own softphone software that customers can use for communication. Teachers can find a number of helpful functionalities in these apps, including:
- Presence: Teachers can check each other’s availability information to know when a colleague is available, at lunch, away, and so on. This can help them reduce the time wasted on trying to reach a colleague.
- In-app chat: Teachers can reach each other through unlimited in-app chat messages.
- One-click calling: Some VoIP phone systems offer tools through which teachers can call each other with one click. If a teacher calls a colleague with the one-click tool, their call will directly go through the smartphone or computer device and provide call options similar to those on a traditional phone call (like mute, hold, hang up, and so on).
Teachers and professors can use the video conferencing tool to give live lectures for students and have virtual meetings with parents. VoIP phone systems provide high-quality video calls where teachers can give interactive classes; teachers can share their screens, and students can interact by raising their hands, sending messages through the chatbox, and more.
Some VoIP phone systems allow a big number of participants in the video call, sometimes up to 500 or more. This way, university professors can easily give lectures to multiple sections at a time.
More flexibility and productivity
Traditional systems limit staff’s productivity by tying them to their desk at the office. VoIP phone systems offer users the flexibility to access their workspace from their phone wherever they want and at any time of the day. This gives everyone the freedom to work from the comfort of their home, and during the hours they are most productive.
Reducing costs and expenses
VoIP phone systems reduce the costs of real estate, electricity, expenses of phone calls, and more. VoIP allows schools and universities to create virtual offices and classrooms. In addition to that, making calls over the internet is a lot cheaper than traditional calls.
How to Choose the Right VoIP Phone System
So, how can schools and universities find the right VoIP phone system to fit all their needs? There are some factors that one should consider before choosing, including:
- Ease of Use: Your VoIP phone system should have an easy-to-use interface to make it accessible to teachers and students.
- Scalability: Even if your school is still new, you should always keep in mind that it will grow and have more needs, so make sure your VoIP system allows scalability.
- Customization: A good business phone system will allow you to customize and adjust it according to what your teachers and students need.
- Security: You can rest assured that all teachers' and students’ data is encrypted and protected from any cyber threats.
- Costs: Business phone systems offer different plans and features; think about your budget and pick the system that you can pay for.
The Best VoIP for Schools and Universities
As mentioned before, schools and universities can benefit from a VoIP phone system in many ways to deliver the best virtual learning experience. And since one of the most important aspects of remote learning is live lectures, we compiled a list of the best VoIP phone systems that offer video conferencing features.
Ooma is a business VoIP phone systems provider that offers plans and features for all companies and organizations of any size and needs. Ooma offers four plans with different features and scalability; the Ooma Office Pro plan is their second plan, and it packs a long list of features at the best price.
Ooma Office Pro
This is the other plan for small businesses, and it is an upgraded version of the Ooma Office plan; it charges $24.95 per user per month and includes many features, including:
- Video conferencing
- Call recording
- Voicemail transcription
- Caller info match
- Call analytics
- Call through Ooma's desktop app
- 3-click provision
- 24/7 support
- 99.999% uptime with SLA
- LTE Primary and Failover connectivity
- Advanced business phone features
- Single or multi-location
Online learning and live lectures with Ooma have their own video calling features that make it the best option for your educational institution. These features include:
- Screen Sharing: The teacher can share their desktop screen and can allow certain students to share theirs.
- Chat: Students can send each other unlimited messages during the lecture in the video call.
- Mute Options: The teacher can choose to mute a certain student or all students.
- One-time and Recurring Meetings: Teachers can schedule a one-time lecture or a recurring lecture to be available as frequently as needed.
- Meet Now for Ad Hoc Meetings: Anyone can join in for a sudden unplanned online lecture using a unique meeting ID.
- Password Option: You can choose to set a password for your lecture and share it only with the students who you want to allow in the lecture.
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Dialpad offers three VoIP plans that offer features for different needs, all of which can be utilized for online learning in schools and universities. Our top pick plan with the best value is the Talk Pro plan:
Dialpad Talk Pro
This plan starts at $25 per user per month, and it includes all the features in the basic plan plus:
- CRM integration
- Unlimited meetings
- Local number supported in over 50 countries
- Hold ques
- International SMS
- Desk phone support
- Slack, Zapier, and Zendesk integration
- 25 ring groups
- 24/7 phone support
Dialpad offers specific features that are very much needed for virtual lectures, including:
- Mute Call Participants: You can be in full control of the lecture to reduce noise, have your students’ attention, and increase productivity.
- Private Conference Calls: Dialpad provides high levels of encryption to keep your lectures safe and private. You also get PINs, lobby alerts, and other features for more protection.
- Administrator Login for Meetings: You can choose to let someone schedule lectures and conference calls on your behalf.
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RingCentral is a VoIP systems provider that offers multiple plans for different needs and financial abilities in addition to specific features that can be helpful for online learning. Their most popular plan is the Essentials plan.
Call RingCentral: 888-520-8463
This is the most basic and popular plan, and it allows up to 20 users only. You will be charged $19.99 per user per month if you pay annually. However, if you choose to pay monthly, you will be charged $29.99 per month per user. With this plan, you get the following features:
- Team messaging
- Unlimited calls within the United States and Canada
- Unlimited business SMS
- Document sharing
- Toll-free and business phone numbers
RingCentral offers multiple features regarding video conferencing, including:
- Interactive Screen Sharing: Teachers can share their screen with up to 500 people; this includes sharing their desktops, files, presentations, applications, or whiteboards from their computers or smart devices.
- Breakout Rooms: The teacher can create up to 50 breakout sessions within the conference room. This helps with putting students into smaller groups to have discussions.
- One-Click Scheduling: RingCentral integrates Microsoft Outlook; this means teachers can start, schedule, and update classes without leaving Outlook.