Grace Amsden, Editor-in-Chief
The original Pierce College telephone system, Avaya Definity, was installed in 1992. The district has acquired a new system for communication between employees: Microsoft Lync.
All communication through the system is computer based and users must sign in to use it. Calls can be made by searching any faculty member, finding the contact information in the search bar. Calls can also be made to public numbers outside of Pierce.
The features of Lync extends beyond making calls. Webcam use, instant messaging, video conferencing, document sharing and the ability to leave voicemail are other facets. Users can limit their calling availability by selecting available, do not disturb or away, though there are other options.
The systems were put into Pierce offices as a means of staff communication.
“It’s a great collaboration tool,” Art Watkins, district information technology manager, said.
Watkins, who made the decision for implementing the systems, says he recognized the need for stronger communication at Pierce. He says the original phone system was becoming outdated and the support was getting expensive. Finding individual phone parts became difficult. Some parts required searching across the United States.
“It was time for us to move into the 21st century,” Watkins said.
Watkins became interested in Lync because of its functionality and integration with Microsoft products and Outlook, the faculty email. In addition, Watkins estimates the system is about $200,000 less than other communication systems.
The funds for the new systems was granted to Watkins from administration in Nov. 2013. Joint Base Lewis-McChord was the first Pierce College site to acquire Lync in June 2014, and then the Puyallup and Fort Steilacoom campuses followed.
For communicating, headsets are hooked up to sync with the system. If an incoming call comes through the computer, the user picks up the headset to hear the person on the other line.
Staff can also choose to have a desktop phone designed to function with Lync instead of using the headset.
The phone requires a login for use. If a call comes through the computer, the user can pick up the physical phone to talk in lieu of a headset.
The tutoring center at the Puyallup campus utilizes Lync, yet doesn’t use headsets.
“I’m a ‘germaphobe,’ so I ordered actual phones for all the computers in here, so we don’t use headsets in tutoring,” Kristen Morgan, program support supervisor for the tutoring center, said.
Morgan says Lync is convenient for making video calls to staff members across campus.
“The supervisor of Fort Steilacoom and I will collaborate on a lot of things, so it’s nice to have video chat; it’s really convenient,” Morgan said.
Morgan said the system sometimes has problems, such as when a staff member forgets to sign in or out of the system or if the computer momentarily stops working.
“It’s really challenging because when the network’s down, you don’t get any phone calls,” Morgan said.
An original Avaya phone may be placed in offices if the network goes down or in the event of an emergency.
The computer labs on campus are other places using Lync. Student lab assistant Breanna Harris, who works in the College Center lab, says the system is self-explanatory.
“We mostly do instant messaging if we need to talk to someone,” Harris said.
Staff members in the Office of Student Life, The Puyallup Post newspaper and the library are among other places using Lync.
The installations are near completion at the Puyallup campus.
“By the end of fall quarter, I expect it (the installation) to be completely finished,” Watkins said.
Eventually, a further computer update will transition Lync to the system Skype for Business, a rebranded version of Lync. The program was renamed in April 2015. Though the graphics might appear differently, Skype for Business carries the same features as Lync.
Various computers on campus currently have Skype for Business, but Watkins said once the servers are all updated, it will change from Lync.
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