Skype is previewing a new service, Skypecasts, which allow you to host large calls–with up to 100 people participating. It looks like the process involves setting up a Skypecast on a subject of your choosing (you can browse the directory to find ones that others are hosting), choosing a time and duration for the event, tagging it with appropriate keywords, and waiting to see who joins in.
Since I believe Skype conference calls are still limited to five users (someone correct me if I’m wrong), this potentially allows the hosting of much larger conversations. Of course, the most immediate use I can imagine at UMW would be to Skype class conversations.
The information page on this new feature mentions you can choose to run your Skypecast as an “open discussion” or a “one-way broadcast” (with Q&A at the end). As the host of the event, you can mute users as you see fit, and partcipants can request the microphone (so, we’re not talking about 100 people all talking at once). Oh, and if a user is particularly naughty, you can eject them from the Skypecast.
Right now, when you host a Skypecast it’s public, so the classroom potential may be a little way’s off (unless you’re willing to have non-students present in the “room”). But, it will be interesting to see what Skype does with this new feature once its out of preview. . .