Skype is an online communications service that has both free and paid services available to
Skype users, using an internet connection. For one-on-one communications, you can sign up for
a free account, though any calls or connections to people who are not using a Skype account will
cost a fee. For group video conferencing, at least one member of the call must have Skype
Premium or a subscription to a business group video call plan through Skype Manager, which
will cost a fee.
For online classes, Skype can provide a way for students and instructors to stay connected. For
example, students can use audio or video conferencing to meet and discuss group
projects. Instructors could also use Skype to provide a virtual “office hours,” using document
sharing and screen sharing to illustrate ideas a student may be having trouble with. Many useful
features are available for free.
The most current services that are available through Skype can be found on their website.
This is an overview of some of the services Skype can provide that are useful for distance
Skype-to-Skype audio calls: calls can be made from your computer to other Skype
users. Conference calling can include up to 25 people. This costs extra if someone is not using
Skype, or if you are using a mobile phone rather than a computer.
One-to-one video calls: this allows you to use webcams to add video to your conversations. HD
video is available assuming you have the hardware and Windows operating system; otherwise,
you can use a regular video with other cameras and operating systems. If you wish to include
more people (up to 10) with a video conference call, at least one member of the chat will need
to purchase a Skype Premium account (see below).
Instant messaging: text-chat with other Skype users via computer. Mobile SMS texts will cost a
Screen sharing: this allows you to show what you are doing on your desktop, which can be
useful when teaching how to use a software program. You can choose to share a specific
window or your whole screen.
Document Share: send documents, photos or presentations of any size between users.
This is the only option that will provide group video conferencing. Premium service plan cost
about $4.99/month for a 12-month subscription
Group video calling: share a video conference with up to ten people. For the best quality, Skype
recommends that you limit calls to five people or fewer. Users with phones or mobile devices
could join a video conference with voice only.
o Use limitations: 100 hours per month, 10 hours per day, and 4 hours per individual call
session. Exceeding the limit will convert the conference to an audio call.
Support: Skype will provide Premium users with live technical support chat.
Free calls: to US and Canada phone numbers. Limits apply.
Pay to use: day passes or monthly subscriptions are available.
The following section provides a guide on how to sign up for and use Skype.
To sign up for Skype, visit http://www.skype.com/ and click on the “Join Skype” link button in
the far upper right corner.
You will have to provide a valid email address and create a unique username for Skype. As a
note, other Skype users who are on your contact list will be able to see your phone number if you
choose to enter one, but they will not be able to see your email address. Entering your birthday,
gender, and city are optional.
Note – For your Skype name, we recommend to use your email name and replace the “at” sign
with a “dot”. For example, if your email is email@example.com, use ajking.ucdavis as your
Skype name. Or if your email is firstname.lastname@example.org, use fsconte.ucdavis as your Skype
You will need to download and install software on your computer in order to use Skype from
your computer. You will need to have administrative rights to your computer in order to install
the software; if you do not have admin access, contact your department’s technical support group
to ask to have the software installed.
Your computer will also need to meet the following system requirements:
The most recent system requirements may be found here on the Skype website.
PC, Mac, or Linux computer.
Internet connection; Skype recommends broadband.
Speakers and microphone – built-in or separate. The best quality is usually attained from a
headset or handset rather than built-in microphones.
We recommend Logitech USB Headset H330 for about $30 from:
For voice calls: Skype recommends a broadband connection with 100 kbps download / 100 kbps
For video calls: a webcam. If you wish to use High-Definition video, you will need a webcam
that records HD, a dual core processor, and an internet connection of at least 512 kbps.
For group video conferencing: everyone on the call needs Skype 5.0 for Windows or Mac or
higher plus webcams, and at least one person needs a group video calling subscription. For best
quality, Skype recommends that you use a high-speed broadband connection of 4Mbps down /
512kbps up and a computer with a Core 2 Duo 1.8 GHz processor. They also recommend a
minimum broadband internet connection of 512kbps download / 128kbps upload, and a
computer with a 1 GHz processor.
Web cam – We recommend Logitech HD Pro Webcam C910 for about $90 from:
For technical support and tutorials on how to use Skype’s different services, please visit Skype’s
tutorials section of their website.
A few specific articles relevant to distance learning use on Windows include:
Calling someone who is on Skype
Calling phones/mobile devices
Starting a Conference Call
Group Video Calling
Similar tutorials on Mac computers are available at the Skype user-guides website.