"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 hrallis@d.umn.edu.

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Guidelines for Skype

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:

To download Skype and set up an account

  1. Go to skype.com
  2. Click on the download button. This takes you to a screen that provides more information about Skype, along with a button to download the application --> click on the download button --> this takes you to the download screen that is compatible with your computer --> click on the "download now" button and follow the directions for installing it on your computer.

Setting up Skype

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.

  1. First you need to set the name that you will use for yourself on Skype. I prefer to use my real name as it makes it easier for my friends to find me online.
  2. Set password (at least 4 characters)
  3. Sign in and get started
  4. Set up your Skype profile (enter as much or as little information as you like). This profile helps your friends find you online.
  5. Add contacts to your account (these are the people who will be in your Skype address book and who you will call using Skype). If you don't know the Skype name of people who you would like to call, you can search for them (in the Skype "search" box). If they have used their real name, then you will find them. Otherwise you will need to email them (or contact them in some other way) to find out their Skype name

Making Calls

Once you have added people to your contact list, you can now call them:

  1. Make sure that you have an internal or external microphone on your computer, and that it is working
  2. It is a good idea to use headphones rather than your computer's speakers to listen to the person with whom you are talking. Reason: if you use speakers, it creates an echo effect for the person on the other end, making it harder for them to hear you.
  3. Launch Skype --> this will open the Skype window
  4. On the left side of the window is a list of your contacts. Click on the icon and word that says, "Contacts"
    Note: When a person in your contact list has Skype turned on and is available to talk to you, the icon next to their name will be green and have a check mark in it.
  5. To call a contact, click on their name. This will put them at the top of the list on the right side of your Skype screen. Then either:
    1. click on the phone icon if you wish to call them just using audio (not sharing video of you)
    2. click on the video camera if you have a web cam and want them to see and hear you.

      screen shot showing contact list

    3. This will call them, and you will hear the sound of a phone ringing. The person on the other side will have a little box pop up on their computer letting them know that you are calling them, and they can click to answer.
    4. Once the other person answers, you can begin talking!
    5. To end the call, click on the red button to hang up the call.

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.

Sharing your screen with others

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.

Why would you want to share your 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.

How to share your screen

  1. 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.

  2. Connect to the person you are calling by clicking on the video or audio call button.

  3. When you connect to the person and are ready to start sharing your screen, then:
    1. Click on the icon to share screen, files, and contact (it looks like a little computer screen with an arrow pointing to the top right corner)
    2. This will open a drop-down menu giving you the choice to send a file, send contacts, or share your screen. Select "share screen." [Important: Only one of you can share your screen at a time, so if the other person is already sharing her/his screen with you, and you try to share yours, the option to share your screen will be greyed out. So the other person needs to stop sharing her/his screen, and then you can share yours]

      screen shot showing icon to click on to share your screen

    3. Next another little box will open, asking you if you want to share your screen. Click on "share screen."
    4. It takes a little while (time varies depending on the speed of your connection), but you will then the other person should see you your computer screen in their Skype window.

What is sound quality is poor?

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.


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