I'm a new graduate student and my adviser asked me to set up a meeting with some out-of-state colleagues (whom I haven't met yet) to start working on a collaboration that I'll be playing a major role in. One of these colleagues suggested a "webinar" or video conference for the meeting. I was wondering what kinds of video conference software are appropriate for this kind of situation - I asked my adviser but he's a little older and not technologically savvy. Is Skype too informal for a video conference like this? Is there another software that is more accepted among academics? These collaborators are at various institutions across the US (where I am), and are all either academics or government employees.

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    Why did this get downvoted?
    – BCLC
    Commented Apr 21, 2015 at 4:47
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    I'm not downvoting, but this sounds like an obvious case of boat programming to me. What are specific academic requirements on videoconferencing tools? I can't really think of any. So I'd say this would probably be better at Software Recommendations. Then again, judging from all the voting here, it seems like the community does not think so. Commented Apr 21, 2015 at 6:56
  • Boat videoconferencing :-) it's fair to ask "is there something specifically accepted amongst academics, but IME the answer to that is " no".
    – Flyto
    Commented Apr 21, 2015 at 7:19
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    @StephanKolassa: My first gut told me that this is a boat programming case, but after some more thoughts I think this one is not exactly that (perhaps borderline) because it's not "What kind of video conference software do you use as an academic?" but rather asking for the habits/best practices in the academia. OP even asked "Is Skype too informal for a video conference like this?" which I think is on-topic.
    – justhalf
    Commented Apr 21, 2015 at 7:46
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is not specific to academia, but applies to any form of remote collaboration.
    – gerrit
    Commented Apr 21, 2015 at 14:09

9 Answers 9


Personal anecdote: I am not allowed to install Skype on my corporate machine, for security reasons. (I'm unclear whether the issues our IT people fear are that people might listen in on our secretsecretsecret Skype calls, or whether they fear Skype might be a vector for malicious software.) So don't be surprised if someone cannot do Skype.

My company has a (likely expensive) PGI subscription. This runs in browsers, so we have less security concerns. It allows the host a lot of options and will work for larger videoconferences (multiple hundreds of participants).

I realize that this is not academic use per se, so feel free to flame me ;-)

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    This might be even more likely in academia than in corporate settings; I have been urged to abstain from using Skype for any professional communication especially because we handle confidential data related to students. Commented Apr 21, 2015 at 7:49
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    Many scientific institutions clearly within greater academia have such restrictions, such as US National Laboratories.
    – jakebeal
    Commented Apr 21, 2015 at 14:06
  • Well, it did take six months for the first downvote. Funnily enough, in the meantime our company has switched to Skype for Business, replaced all landlines with it and is essentially phasing out PGI in favor of Skype conferencing. Commented Oct 29, 2015 at 20:30

I use Skype and Google Hangouts all the time. No stigma attached. Go for whatever is convenient for everyone.

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    Do you prefer one over the other? Would you say most people are likely to already have accounts with one versus the other? Commented Apr 21, 2015 at 0:11
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    Almost every person under 50 at a university today has a skype account. I like google hangout because it allows video conferences with more than 2 people. Commented Apr 21, 2015 at 2:05
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    Skype now offers multi-way calls too. I'd ask the participants which they prefer to use, but in my experience Google Hangouts works better than Skype for this. One particular feature of Google Hangouts that can be helpful is sharing documents on screen. Commented Apr 21, 2015 at 2:09
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    And Google Hangouts has hats!
    – Dirk
    Commented Apr 21, 2015 at 6:29
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    There is also Firefox Hello, a new contender in the arena. Commented Apr 21, 2015 at 7:31

As somebody who does a lot of remote collaboration, I find that there is a distinct tradeoff between link quality and software.

  • Google Hangouts is the worst for audio and video quality, but is more resilient to bad connections. It will usually get something through.
  • Skype is great when there's a decent connection, but degrades badly when there is not.
  • Most paid software (e.g., WebEx, GoToMeeting) has less choppy video than Skype, but the audio is unreliable: some days it's great, some days it's crap. The audio problems seem to have to do with the phone part of the connection, not the network.
  • Given good bandwidth, BlueJeans gives the best video and audio of any I've encountered, but will shamelessly dominate your machine's network connection and processors.

Your university may pay for a license for one of the major web conference software packages like WebEx, GotoMeeting, Adobe Connect, or ZoomMeeting. You should check. These may have better screen-sharing features for slides, shared whiteboards, and the like. They all pretty much have free clients as long as some party to the call has paid for the service.

  • I'll add BlueJeans to the list, which is the best connectivity that I personally have experienced.
    – jakebeal
    Commented Apr 21, 2015 at 5:35
  • And I'll add SeeVogh to the list of commercial softwares.
    – Emil
    Commented Apr 21, 2015 at 9:59

I have direct experience with Skype and WebEx. Of these two, I have found Skype less reliable. I like the WebEx technical support.

I find that if I use the computer for the audio, there is a bit of a delay, just enough to be annoying. So I use the telephone for the audio. WebEx allows you to choose how you will do your audio.

You should buy a microphone headset for whatever you decide to use (computer or phone). Unfortunately the ones for the phone don't work with the computer, and vice versa.

Find some live webinars and the like to participate in so you can see a good moderator in action. Then practice using the software, with a friend, colleague or relative.

You can feel good about reducing your carbon footprint!


The German research network DFN is running three Adobe Connect Servers for web conferencing (see https://www.vc.dfn.de/en/web-conferencing.html). Every member of a German research organization that is part of DFN should be able to use this service without further cost. In my case, I can simply log in with my University computer account and create sessions. I can also invite external attendees as guests.

Regarding features, I particularly like the different whiteboard options in Adobe Connect for discussing academic content. Also, as this runs over servers of the research network, there's not the issue with data security that some may have when using Skype or Google hangouts.


I think the culture will vary pretty dramatically based on the university you're at. Oregon State University's email accounts are through Google Apps for Education. Because of this, Hangouts is the primary chat/video conferencing application on campus.

My recommendation would be to simply ask the people you're trying to conference with. List a couple services and ask what they're most comfortable with, if the choice isn't obvious.


Based on over a decade experience of online collaboration for business and personal uses:

  • Google Hangout was the first major name to introduce group video chat [max 10 participants]. The main advantages of it is its smart codecs, which scale Up or Down the video quality dynamically based on the internet connection performance. By this way your connection remains connected and not goes on hold like Skype.

    There are some options to record the chat without third party softwares (Hangout OnAir)

    Along with this, it has got some 1 click enhancement options (e.g. brightness adjustment, auto enhance etc.)

  • Skype has also got the group video chat option now. It is recommended in case of strong and reliable connection ONLY.

  • GoTo meeting and GoTo Webinar are getting more popular for larger participants. Webinar is used for a larger audience, you can provide them the option to speak to all or write to you (organizer only).

    GoTo meeting is more suitable when all the participants are expected to have active participation.

    GoTo solutions provide the telephonic participation for audio also. I have shared a sample registration confirmation email on PasteBin. (The actual email is well formatted not just text based)

There is another aspect of this question. Nowadays institutes are having complete solution package from different providers i.e. Google Apps for Education or Office 365 are the top most these days.

if the sensitivity of the meeting contents is high, at-least skype should not be your selection.

Zoho, WebEx, Voxeet are some other names to mention.

TeamViewer is a decent and very old screen sharing solution, it supports multiple users and the video result is very stable. It is free for non-commercial use. You can compliment it with some other audio option for best results.


Our research collaboration uses Clickmeeting http://www.clickmeeting.co.uk/ . It is an online meeting tool which does not require installation of any software and runs entirely in the browser. We've used it successfully for meetings of around 30 participants. It supports voice, camera, chat and screen sharing. We don't tend to have any connection problems, but if we do it is quick to rejoin the session.

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