Cisco Thinks It’s Video Chat is Better than Facebook for the College Crowd

Cisco has identified a new opportunity to promote its WebEx videoconferencing tool, this time in the academia.  The networking kingpin just revealed a new version of the platform that’s targeting this segment with better communications, more integration and a few other tweaks you may not find in the enterprise version.

WebEx Social for Higher Education is the product of a collaboration between Cisco and the four academic intuitions that are piloting the solution.  Duke University, North Carolina State University, Case Western Reserve and University of Chicago played an active role in optimizing the solution for the education sector both in terms of applicability and effectiveness.

The software integrates with the standard edition of WebEx Social and a couple of other Cisco solutions to enable instant messaging and videoconferencing. The latter supports up to eight participants, but the cap can be raised for a premium.

In addition, WebEx for Higher Education supports Active Directory Shibboleth authentication, which simplifies things a bit for the IT department.  End-users also get incentives to use Cisco’s product instead of Facebook and Twitter: WebEx is being touted as faster, more convenient and more customizable thanks to a catalog of layouts and widgets.

“We developed WebEx Social for Higher Education in close cooperation with leading education institutions, as a people-centric cloud collaboration platform that unifies the education workspace and provides a connected learning experience.” Renee Patton, the head of education at Cisco’s public sector group said in a statement. “We’re excited about the impact this solution can have on improving the quality and effectiveness of education worldwide.”

The education vertical is a very big market, and Cisco is not that first to tap it. Russian linguistics service raised $5 million from Runa Capital a couple of months ago to accelerate the growth of its install base, which already lists over four million users.