New telephones at UWRF to offer email, improved voicemail, video chat

Posted October 28, 2015

UW-River Falls will soon have a new telephone system that the head of the Division of Technology Services (DoTS) said will unify communication for everyone on campus.

The new phone system will bring UWRF to the 21st century when it comes to communication on campus. The current phone system, which is an analog phone system, has some components that have been around for about 50 years and at this point are showing their age. That is just one reason why the new system is being implemented, according to Chief Information Officer Steve Reed.

“What kicked this forward, or enhanced it, was the fact we had a few very critical outages, some that were affecting how we do business with students,” Reed said.

The new model is more cost effective compared to the old model and, according to Reed, the return on investment should be between 18 to 24 months.

The new phones have a variety of features for improved communication, including voicemail and email integration that will allow staff and faculty to access their voicemail from their email. Users also will be able to view email and voicemail on the phones themselves.

The phones also have a screen that will allow for video conferencing. With the video conferencing feature students can now talk face to face with a professor over a project if needed. Other features of the new phones are direct dial numbers for almost everyone on campus and the ability for those with a mobile phone to access the new phones with their mobile phones. The new phones are basically a computer, Reed said.

“Anyway that any individual wants to communicate, there now unified,” explained Reed. “Voice, video, data, mobility, all those components built into one.”

Reed explained that if a person has either a laptop, cell phone or basically anything that can connect with the Internet, that person can connect to their new UWRF phone.

One of the key points of the new phone system is how the system should give everyone on campus more of a presence. The phones can also show a person’s availability if they want.

The new phone system highlights individuals rather than a department and makes communication between individuals much easier. Reed said that collaboration between students, faculty and staff should improve due to the new system.

“Faculty can have their UWRF presence no matter where they’re at, if they’re at home, if they’re at a conference, if they’re in a different country and they need to work with students, now that is all real-time and accessible,” Reed said.

DoTS has already distributed the new phones to various buildings and departments. The new system won’t actually go into effect until the middle of November, when the phones will be activated throughout the course of a couple days.

One of the reasons why those with the new phones have to wait until November to use them, according to Reed, is that DoTS wants to make sure to keep all the current phone numbers. In order to do so the department must work with AT&T to cut over 1,100 phones individually.

Phone training will be offered for those who would like to better understand how the new system works.