"How to" Guideline series is coordinated by Helen Mongan-Rallis of the Education Department at the University of Minnesota Duluth. If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions to improve these guidelines please me at e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Created by Helen Mongan-Rallis. Last updated: November 1, 2012
Skype is a free, cross platform Internet based audio and video conferencing application (peer-to-peer Internet telephone). Skype can be used to make free "phone calls" from one computer to another, anywhere in the world. In addition, it can be used in place of a telephone to call regular phone numbers instead of another computer, but this service (called "Skype out") does come with a fee (which is still cheaper than many long distance phone charges). To learn more about what it is, you can read about it on Wikipedia. Here are the basic steps to follow to create and account and get started:
Once you have downloaded Skype, launch it and set up your account. These steps below are the key ones. For more detail on each step, I have provided a link to the relevant section within the Skype help documents. These consist of screen shots showing you each step, and then at the top of the page, arrow and "next step" command to take you to the next screen shot that will walk you through all you need to learn. I recommend using those guides for details. What I provide here is merely an overview.
Once you have added people to your contact list, you can now call them:
Note: If either one of you (or both of you) has a slow Internet connection and you try to use video, the quality of the audio and video may be quite poor. In that case, I recommend that you do not use video (as that takes much more bandwidth), and just limit yourselves to using the audio only.
Skype gives you the option to call just using audio, or you can share video (so that others see a video of you), or you can also share your computer screen.
The screen sharing option is very helpful when you want to show the person/people on the other end how to do something. This makes it an invaluable online education tool, when the instructor and student are not in the same location, but the student needs help learning how to do something.
For example, if I was talking to you on Skype, and you wanted to learn how to upload a video to YouTube, what I could do would be to share my screen so that you could watch me actually uploading a video to Skype from my computer. As I demonstrated the steps, I could continue to talk to you, explaining what I was doing as I did it. When we were done, I could then stop sharing my screen, and you could share your screen with me (as we can't both share screens at the same time). Then you could go to YouTube and I could talk you through the steps, guiding you what to do... "First click on that link that you see there. Now, in the window that you see that just opened, click on...." etc etc.
First of all make sure that you have the latest version of Skype downloaded to your computer, as earlier versions do now allow the screen sharing option.
Connect to the person you are calling by clicking on the video or audio call button.
If one or both of you has a slow connection, the audio quality can be compromised when you are also sharing your screen. What I do then is phone the other person (if I can phone them without it costing a lot! So I wouldn't do this for an international call!) so that we can talk over the phone while I show them on the Skype screen whatever it is I need to demonstrate. If you do this, both of you should mute the sound on your computers so that you aren't hearing audio both through the phone and Skype.
Return to the Index of How To Guidelines