New cloud-based videoconferencing platform comes to UC Berkeley

The UC Berkeley Information Services and Technology division announced Thursday that the campus will offer free videoconferencing services to students, faculty and staff through a platform called BlueJeans.

The campus is testing the platform during a three-month trial period that began July 8. The BlueJeans platform allows up to 25 people from around the world to communicate face-to-face over video from any wireless electronic device, including smartphones and tablets. It also connects to other videoconferencing applications, meaning Skype and Google Plus users can call each other for free via BlueJeans.

“Our goal is to make a video call as simple as a telephone call,” said BlueJeans CEO Krish Ramakrishnan over a BlueJeans face-to-face video call. “You can use it for whatever purpose you think you need to use it for.”

For the pilot period, UC Berkeley paid a small, fixed fee for students and faculty to test BlueJeans until Sept. 30. If the pilot period elicits a positive response from students and faculty, UC Berkeley will make plans to establish a permanent service deal.

Students may be able to attend and participate in lectures remotely with BlueJeans if they are not physically able to attend class and the instructor chooses to broadcast the class online.

“If you have a study group and can’t make it, you could still study with your friends online,” said Timothy Liu, a UC Berkeley alumnus who graduated in 2010. “I did do research at Cal, so I think it would be useful. More often than not, the professor is busier than the student, so remote collaboration might be helpful.”

Visiting professors who are unable to physically travel to UC Berkeley can also broadcast virtual lectures through BlueJeans, and students can view the lecture by logging into the virtual meeting room. Professors can also easily reach out to alumni for fundraising, and job interviews can be scheduled more easily and more frequently.

“You’re taking something that has always been done within the four walls of a room and making that more accessible,” Ramakrishnan said. “Two months ago, a researcher connected from Antarctica and showed off his research over BlueJeans.”

Users do not need to sign up or download an application to use the service. All they need is a Meeting ID and a passcode to join a meeting on the BlueJeans website. Signing up on the BlueJeans website is required, however, to host a meeting.

According to Ramakrishnan, BlueJeans exchanged a similar service with other universities, including Cornell, Yale, MIT and Carnegie Mellon universities, all of which have signed up for longer-term use of BlueJeans. Ramakrishnan said that executive MBA students at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania use BlueJeans to complete their group projects amid busy schedules.

Contact Lydia Tuan at [email protected]