Video chat and web conferencing are two other options for remote communication with consumers.
Video chat is just like a phone conversation, but with live video streaming through your smart phone or computer. You simply dial a phone number or click on a user name using an application that allows for video streaming.
Just like all verbal communication, it is important to converse in a private area to make sure conversations are kept confidential.
Benefits of video chat
Video chat allows you to communicate remotely without losing nonverbal cues, and offers many opportunities to improve the counselor/consumer relationship. For example, using video chat, counselors can:
- Communicate with consumers who live at a distance from the provider office
- Access interpreters at different locations
- Offer remote training to consumers
Video chat programs
Video chat software is constantly evolving. There are a number free video chat programs available. Most smartphones come equipped with the ability to video chat. For instance, FaceTime comes installed on all Apple devices, which allows you to quickly and easily video chat with other FaceTime users.
Some popular video chat programs include:
To use these applications, you and the person you are talking with will have to have them installed. As with all software programs, take the time to look at the security settings and accessibility features to choose the best option.
Note: many of these communication apps offer both video and texting options, which allow for multiple ways to communicate with the same app. Take this into consideration as you and the consumer set up your telecommunication method and relationship.
Technology Needs on a Computer
In order to video chat, both you and the person you would like to chat with must have video and voice capabilities on your devices. Below is a list of items needed to video chat on a computer. Although many of the items on this list are installed internally on most desktop and laptop computers, purchasing hardware will greatly enhance your video chat capabilities. All of the items on the list can be bought relatively inexpensively.
A webcam: Today, many laptops come equipped with a webcam. Alternatively, you can purchase a webcam and mount it on your computer.
A headset: Using internal speakers can create feedback or echo, making it difficult for the person you are talking with to understand what you are saying. They are convenient, and typically offer the best sound quality.
Microphone: If you are not using a headset with a microphone, you will need to get a separate microphone for your computer. Don’t assume your computer speakers are equipped with microphones; many are not.
Technology Needs on a Smartphone
The technology needs for a smartphone are minimal. You want to make sure you have a strong cell phone signal or internet connection as well as headphones with a microphone or a headset to minimize feedback.
Note: using your smartphone for video calls can quickly eat up your data package if you do not have unlimited data. This is also a consideration for the consumer.
Web conferencing allows you to talk with one or multiple people at the same time and it may or may not include a live video stream. What is unique about web conferencing is the ability to share documents, Power Point presentations, and even your computer screen with other people attending the web conference (also called webinars).
Advantages of web conferencing
Web conferencing has many of the same advantages as video conferencing. However, it also offers the opportunity to collaborate on documents with consumers who are unable to come to the VR office. For example, employment counselors could use web conferencing to assist consumers with their resume or job applications.
Web conferencing software
Web conferencing software generally requires a subscription by at least one of the users. Today, most organizations subscribe to at least one web conferencing platform. The subscribed user can usually invite other users to join the conference if they do not have subscriptions. However, all users must download the web conferencing software. This may require users to click on a link to download the conference software, which is usually prompted the first time joining a conference.
Additionally, to effectively use web conferencing software, you will need a computer, web cam (if you want to use video), headset and microphone.
Each web-conferencing platform has different accessibility features and costs, and are continually evolving. Popular platforms include:
Talk to your IT department to see if you have access to web conferencing and to learn more about accessibility features.
In general, web conferencing is less adaptable to smartphones because it is difficult to view documents on a small screen.