In recent years, video calls have become an integral part of our lives. With the help of video chatting products we communicate with our colleagues, families, and friends while maintaining the social distance due to pandemic outbreak.
For the edtech industry the video conferencing functionality has now been widely applied across many products and organizations, and if you're wondering how to integrate video conferencing API in an already existing product, this article will provide you with all the necessary information.
Today we're going to explore the benefits of video conferencing API integration, main challenges of the process, as well as touch on some practical peculiarities of adopting this technology.
Benefits of Integrating Video Conferencing Functionality in Edtech
The development of a video conferencing software from scratch is quite a complicated process due to lots of protocols and compliance requirements that you and your team need to take into account. From introducing the basic security practices (like meeting ID, password, waiting room) and to more advanced ones (such as encryption and secure live captioning) — all this needs to be considered in advance if you want to create your own solution.
However, if we consider integration of video conferencing API for educational product — such solutions commonly come with all the built in security protocols and standards that can be automatically adopted by your product as well (without a need to develop this functionality from the ground up).
Lots of video conferencing APIs come with the extended AI and ML capabilities that can greatly benefit your edtech product. For example, by analyzing the average number of participants, length, and duration of the meetings, AI can generate predictions as to the apps you might need during a meeting, and come up with some schedule recommendations that would work for all participants.
This could save a great deal of time on contacting each and every participant to figure out which time would be most relevant for them in cases of video conference reschedule.
The prominent example of the use of AI, facial recognition, and computer vision is Cisco's Cognitive Collaboration platform that heavily relies on voice commands, utilizes personalization tools, and allows to manage large video conference calls with ease.
One of the most obvious advantages of integrating video conferencing with your edtech platform is that it can help you save up on the travel expenses. With video conferencing functionality you can connect with stakeholders, clients, and users from anywhere and hold face-to-face-like meetings. People don't need to book hotels, flights, or spend hours travelling to the needed location to meet each other.
Even though — in a broad sense — the video calls can't completely eliminate the need for live meetings, they allow for making more organized collaboration and giving all involved parties more control over their work schedule. Here, video conferencing has a significant impact on small trips that are less significant but still occur on a regular basis and devour a great deal of the company's budget. Such trips can be easily replaced with the video conferencing tools.
Higher Conferencing Quality
There are lots of vendors providing video chat solutions today on the market, and the next logical question may arise in that regard: 'Why do I need to spend time and other resources integrating video conferencing into my product if users can simply use Skype, WhatsApp, or Facetime?'.
While your users can still opt for third-party products there's one major issue with the listed above options — they are all generic, meaning they were developed to appeal to large audiences at once. In other words, off-the-shelf products may be good for holding a video call with a colleague, but will they be able to handle an hour-long online exam for 30 people?
On the other hand, when integrating video conferencing API into your product, you put your requirements first, and thus can fine tune connection quality, add video recording feature, branding elements, generate performance reports, etc.
In the same fashion as it is with the quality of the video, edtech video conferencing API integration can give you more freedom in terms of scalability. With built-in custom video conferencing functionality you don't need to adjust your product every time it experiences a steep workload increase.
This aspect is extremely important for the edtech products since there thousands of users can interact live on video in real time. Eventually, if the solution won't be able to maintain a consistent level of performance during the peaks, the loading times will increase and UX will consequently worsen. In order for that not to happen, product owners need to ensure they have reliable technology in place.
Process of Video Conferencing Technology Integration
Even though the logic of video conferencing API integration always stays somewhat similar, in practice for each integration there will be differences depending on the vendor. Thus, we cannot provide you with a 'one-size-fits-all' answer; however, we can show how video conferencing technology works — using the '1-to-1' communication example.
This will give you a general understanding of APIs and SDKs components and what to look for during your next integration. So, to make video conferencing technology work in your product (let's consider app as an example), you need three components:
- Video SDK account credentials
- Server App
- Client App
The first part of the process is creation of the meeting room:
The second part is connecting users (clients) to the meeting room:
- Client requests the access token:
- Client connects to the meeting room:
- Client connects to the meeting room via Video SDK interface with the help of access token.
- Video SDK checks the client's access token and if it's valid, establishes a client-room connection.
In the same way the connection process goes for the 2nd, 3d….N client too.
To give you a deeper insight into the integration of video conferencing for education, here's also another example of the integration flow that our team applied at one of the recent edtech projects:
By using the Twilio Programmable Video you can also control your video applications from your back-end server via HTTP requests.
Challenges of API Integration in Edtech Product
Aside from the edtech product itself, the integration of every new API can to some extent affect the organization, its internal procedures, workflows, KPIs, data management, security, and communication standards. This means that every department or stakeholder — considered to be affected by the changes in product functionality — need to be ready for the upcoming API integration.
You should also take into account that APIs are normally not standardized, which means that if you decide to move existing API to a different edtech product, you'll need to build integration from scratch again.
Users have always been considered as the weakest links in the security chain. So even if you utilize a robust and most reliable solution you can't ignore the human factor because as the common saying goes: 'any company is as secure as its users are'.
Even though the video conferencing APIs may come with their own built-in security protocols, they cannot guarantee the complete elimination of data leaks — especially in higher education and K12 organizations where student data can be shared between multiple parties (parents, teachers, administrative personnel, etc).
Given that in the last few years for the majority of the students their bedrooms became classrooms, the data privacy became even more sensitive. Regardless of whether it is a private organization or educational facility — that uses an edtech product — the authorization protocols (i.e. who/when/how uses particular functionality) should also be considered in advance when integrating third-party video conference SDK for educational platform.
Maintenance and upgrades
Keep in mind that if you plan to use API to insert video conferencing in educational platform — you will be getting not only new functionality, but also a new component of a system to take care of. Software changes over time, and the APIs do the same. In the beginning there, obviously, won't be many viable maintenance issues with it; however, over time and without professional support the system will age and won't be performing as it should anymore.
To make sure you're all caught up, you can either use your internal resources (an in-house team) who will be responsible for API maintenance, or outsource these activities to a third-party development partner with the relevant expertise. By doing so it is possible to smooth out the possible expenses — regarding the API use — in the long-term perspective.
API availability loss
One of the main indicators of quality third-party integration in stable performance. If a platform's component starts to crash constantly or behave in an unpredictable manner, it can damage product reputation and user experience as a whole. Such basic metrics as uptime, latency, errors per minute, etc. can help your QA specialists assess the performance of your integration.
In general, it is recommended that you make the solution on/off flag dependent for cases where a provider rolls out a buggy update of API. This would allow you to 'turn off' the video conferencing feature — making it temporarily unavailable — and give your team a time to roll back the solution to the previous version or manage the problem in some other way. Yes, users won't be able to access this functionality for some period of time, but it's still better than dealing with the wrath on social media about poor quality of video calls.
WTT Solution Experience with Video Conferencing
At WTT-Solutions we consider the edtech niche to be one of our main areas of expertise, and always try to involve as much as possible into working in that direction. One of the edtech projects that were delivered by our team is LukLabs — the application that allows prospective students to go 'behind the scenes' of the educational process in the university of their choice.
This video platform lets teenagers and their families get on live video calls with current students and receive valuable insights about the educational process, life in college campus, most common challenges for newbies, etc. Users can even request a live video tour from students.
Considering that the main feature of the app is video calls, we intentionally designed the app's interface in the minimalistic style. The harmonious blend of colored backgrounds with white elements allows users to notice which information is of higher importance right away.
Aside from that, we also developed a convenient admin panel for tracking multiple indicators, introduced a handy search function, added in-app payment feature, and made sure that users get a high-quality video tool for their live meetings.
As to the technologies, our team used Amazon WS, Redux, Redux Saga, React, InversifyJS, PayPal, PostgreSQL, Braintree, and Express. Six specialists were involved in the process: 2 frontend engineers, 1 backend, 1 PM, 1 BA, and 1 QA. In total, it took 6058 hours for our team to develop this product.
Level Up Your Edtech Product
The integration of video conferencing technology for edtech can significantly improve the user experience and make the interaction with a product more comfortable. However, third-party APIs or SDKs often come with their own challenges too, so when treated poorly, the new integration can lead to significant expenses — both in time and money.
If you want to make sure that the adoption of video conferencing API in edtech app is done the right way, trust this task to the experienced team of developers. With the 5+ years experience of delivering projects in Edtech, Martech, and HRtech, our specialists can tackle any task that is coming their way, regardless of its complexity.
Contact us by filling the 'Get in touch' form in the top right corner of this page, and get a free consultation with one of our experts!