Differences Between Scopia and Lync

So you now have both Lync and Scopia installed and are probably wondering what the differences are, when should you use one versus the other to teach a class or run a meeting? They are similar but not identical programs in terms of features and uses. For some courses I use Lync, for others I use Scopia. I may even use Scopia one week and Lync the next to take advantage of the features I need for a specific session. Most likely though you will develop a “favorite” of the two for your classes and your style of teaching and just go with it. It is probably better that you get very comfortable with one product, even if it doesn’t do everything the way you would like, rather than be uncomfortable with two products. Keep in mind, however, that your students aren’t so lucky. They will likely have to learn both products to effectively participate in classes since instructors, not students, dictate the technology used in class.

First let’s talk about what both products have in common. They allow you to run synchronous classes or meetings on Windows and Macintosh machines. Both allow you to show your desktop (or let others in the group show theirs’). Both work with a webcam allowing the speaker to be seen by the group. Both require a solid internet connection to work, particularly to either show a screen or send video. Both support relatively high quality audio usually transmitted through a headset. Both have the leader send out a meeting invitation with directions on how to join. That, however, is where the similarity ends.

Next, I will discuss the unique features Lync has that Scopia does not have. After that I will discuss the unique features Scopia has that Lync does not have. That way you can make an “informed” decision as to which product is most appropriate for you.

Lync features:

Meetings can be scheduled through Outlook Calendar and can be inserted in student’s calendar.

The audio quality is extremely high eliminating the requirement that everyone use headsets (Microsoft invested heavily in echo cancellation technology)

No software needs to be installed if the participant (but not the leader) wants to participate in  the meeting through their browser. This is very useful when conducting non class “webinars”. You can run your own webinars using Lync and have people watch in their browser and call in on the phone, much like GoToMeeting or WebEx, the difference for you between Lync and GoToMeeting/WebEx is you get Lync for free.

If someone is away from their computer they can still listen and talk to the class by joining the meeting through their telephone connection. They won’t see anything but they can hear and speak. This can also be helpful for those with weak Internet connections where the audio would typically break up. Related to this you can run “audio only” conference calls with your students where the student has the option of calling in on their phone (there is a toll free number for those out of the area), or using their computer and internet connection to participate.

The shared desktop is extremely clear on the other participant’s machines and people watching the desktop can actually see the mouse move

A person can give control of his or her desktop to another member of the class. This can be very useful if someone on a weaker Internet connection needs to show a Powerpoint or website, OR if they are having trouble with their machine and need a technical expert to “take a look” at it. If, for example, someone with a weak connection must show a Powerpoint, they can have a friend in the class put it on their own machine and turn control of that machine over to the student presenter. Then the student isn’t sharing his desktop, he is controlling someone else’s for the duration of the Powerpoint. This reduces bandwidth needs for that student dramatically.

Sessions can be recorded, stored as WMV, and then sent to John Norfleet to be posted on the streaming media server (much like we do now with Voice over Powerpoints…it is basically the same technology, both made by Microsoft). Scopia sessions cannot be recorded.


Ok, so why not use Lync for everything? What does Scopia give us that Lync doesn’t? Well, lots of things.

Scopia meetings do not have to be setup in advance and they can be setup by anyone who wants to send your meeting announcement out. All students need is your permanent room number, the URL, and the date/time of the meeting.

Since there are no accounts, students can meet with each other in the public room in Scopia. No such capability exists for students in Lync, unless the student leader has a Lync account and knows how to setup meetings.

Scopia allows you to throttle back bandwidth on both Macs and Windows machines in the event a person has a weak connection.

In Lync ONLY the active speaker can be seen in the video window, however, in Scopia EVERYONE (up to 16 participants) can all be seen at the same time. This makes Scopia a much more social experience.

Scopia makes it extremely easy to share your desktop and, if you are on a Windows machine, you can draw over what you are sharing to make points. You cannot see a person’s mouse nor can you give control of your desktop to anyone else, but anyone in the group can share their desktop, they do not need “rights” to do so, as you do in Lync.


Let me draw an analogy that may clarify things a bit. In the School of Nursing we have FH 140 as a large lecture hall and we have GH 501 as a small seminar room. In FH 140 typically the instructor does most of the speaking and everyone’s eyes are on her. She likely shows a Powerpoint or website on the screen at the front. Participation by students tends to be more limited. Often times the session is recorded for playback later.  Now let’s look at GH 501. It is a small seminar room where people sit around a table facing each other. The type of communication is much more interactive. Papers may be exchanged but rarely does a person do a formal presentation using anything like Powerpoint. They have fewer people attending and the sessions are typically not recorded. Often none of the technology in the room is used. Think of Lync as like FH 140 and Scopia as GH 501. If your class is largely lecture like the kind you would do, face to face, in FH 140 and it may be recorded, Lync is your obvious choice. On the other hand if your meeting or class is a seminar where everyone participates relatively equally and it is actually the participation that drives the meeting, then Scopia is your obvious choice. In short the interactivity is better in Scopia, the more formal presentation is better in Lync.