Using JVCS for Live Helpdesk

Zak Mensah works as an e-Learning Officer at JISC Digital Media, a JISC Advance service, which provides advice, guidance and training to the UK’s Further and Higher Education community. Zak’s role is to advise and support HE and FE the on the subject of digital media for teaching and learning. He writes advice documents, speaks at events and runs workshops on a wide range of digital media topics. Zak can be contacted on or followed on Twitter (zakmensah).

At this year’s JISC conference the JISC Digital Media had a go at using the JANET Video Conferencing Service as part of an informal helpdesk session. I was one of the question askers and thought the set up was a clever idea and worked really well. Here Zak tells us more about the processes involved and the lessons learnt.


One of JISC Digital Media’s core service provisions is to provide a free helpdesk service for the community. The purpose of the service is to answer any questions around creating, managing and using digital media. So for this year’s annual JISC conference, held in London, our team decided to provide a live helpdesk session for any interested delegates.

The JISC Digital Media team inside an Apple Macbook laptop

Instead of being an invisible bunch of people behind a website we thought it was a nice opportunity to show delegates the team who actually answer most of the questions. We decided to approach this idea with the use of a live video session. For this type of activity we initially considered Skype as an obvious choice. However with a new idea of running the live helpdesk, we thought we may as well try a new (for us) video service and so decided to use the JANET Video Conferencing Service (JVCS).

Anybody who wants to use new technology knows to test ahead of any such event where the technology is critical to the success of the session. Our success criteria would be that the service needs to be reliably available when we needed it and that it could handle the video stream across the networks we’d be using – always a concern when using a web service, especially video. We setup a test meeting with the helpful folks at JANET and were very happy with the service.

Now here it is worth noting one mistake we made, its slightly technical so feel free to skip this paragraph if you don’t use Apple computers. We use a Apple Macbook laptop for external events. The JVCS software is Microsoft Windows only, which makes sense, as Apple computers are few and far between in the community. No problem, Windows can be installed on the Apple laptop and problem solved right? Not quite so. There was some issues with the type of install we used and so the Apple operating system had to be completely removed…. effectively making it a Windows laptop.

The downside of this, which we didn’t realise until we were at the conference venue, ready for our practice run-through, was that we couldn’t use the supplied large screen TV, as the cable connectors did not function in the Microsoft Windows environment. So in hindsight, borrowing a Windows laptop would have saved this from happening.

For the live sessions, the JVCS service worked well and a range of topics were asked by conference participants, and answered, by the team members back in Bristol, before each other’s very eye’s. If you need to do live video conferencing or a similar session to ours, then the JVCS service should be considered.

The use of live video is a great opportunity providing benefits to the community, save on mass transport costs at events and provide a friendly face to your service.
I cannot stress enough just how valuable a service such as JVCS is.
For now, we are back to our regular free helpdesk service.