Phone system upgrade includes video calling

Keesha Kneeland demonstrates the video chat capabilities of her new office phone.
Keesha Kneeland demonstrates the video chat capabilities of her new office phone.
Keesha Kneeland demonstrates the video chat capabilities of her new office phone.

The first few rounds of faculty and staff are getting used to an upgraded phone system that will soon be installed in all offices across the Arkansas Tech campus.

The upgrade allows someone in one Tech office to video call someone in another office, assuming both persons have the upgrade.

The new system, called Cisco Unified Communications, has several features in addition to video conferencing abilities, including voice dialing and an easier way to set up conference calls. The voicemail on the phones can be set up so the recordings are sent to a user’s email inbox, allowing users to sort through voicemails along with their regular email messages.

The old system used traditional phone lines, with each phone user having a separate, seven-digit phone number. The new system will have a phone number for each department, with each phone user having a four-digit extension. Instead of being wired with traditional phone lines, the new system connects to the campus computer network and uses the same type of cables that computers do for their connectivity.

The Office of Information Services, which is in charge of the phone system roll-out, has already installed the new systems across the departments located in Rothwell, Browning and Brown Halls. Several other departments in other buildings have had their phones replaced, and all phones should be updated by the end of the 2018 fiscal year.

Keesha Kneeland, an administrative specialist in the Office of Admissions, said the video calling helps with interoffice communication.
“It’s just like we’re right there in the office versus us talking on the phone and that person is behind the receiver,” Kneeland said. “It makes it more personal.”

Colleen Bennett, a project/program specialist in the student accounts office, said the video capability started helping her communicate with people across campus the first day she had it.

“I had spoken with multiple people multiple times when we were in our old building, and I never knew what they looked like. Then we moved over here and the first day I saw them and I was like ‘oh, now I have a face to put with it,’” Bennett said.

“I see it as an improvement. I think it’s more personable . . . It lets me connect better with the whole Tech community and the different people that work in different offices that I normally wouldn’t have that connection with.”