This morning I got to test out live the dimdim web conferencing application which went live earlier this month, following a long period of beta testing. The reason for the test is that currently in our online professional development environment which is a Moodle Virtual Learning Environment. We currently use a 'wimba' tool called 'Virtual Live Classroom' for synchronous online teacher training. Wimba tools are built to fit into the Moodle environment, and Live Classroom enables the online mentor to their share their desktop environment and files with participants.
However the past year has seen the growth and development in this area, dimdim is an open source application ( runs from browser either standalone or from within a VLE) which allows :
- video conferencing
- desk top sharing
- File sharing - powerpoint and pdf
- an interactive whiteboard ( which can be locked)
Other applications that are of merit are :
The Gong Project from Hong Kong University of science and Technology - they have an additional snazzy tool that I might try out called 'nanogong!'
Unfortunately in the literature the Gong Project does own up to the fact that there is a lag in audio due to all audio routing through their servers in Hong Kong however you can run it from your own servers ( at a price I guess)...
WiZIQ which allows quite a range of file and flash sharing, it allows more people in a room, it is a free application as well and is being developed, having changed technology from Adobe Flash to Adobe Flex recently.Another web conferencing application that I have used before, as part of the 'When Night Falls again' session of K12Online 07 is of course Elluminate.
Elluminate has great application sharing capabilities, including desktop sharing and breakout rooms- of course it is not free ( the V Room for 3 participants is however if you wan to give it a go) but again has Moodle integration as do the others above. It requires a download which some of the others do not - but is much more powerful with more features ( it depends how many of them you actually use!)
I have long been a fan and advocate of Flashmeeting a UK based web conferencing application as many people will know.
Flashmeeting is good as a standalone web conferencing application again requiring no download - it is limited to either a whiteboard session or web cam session but you cannot toggle between each as far as I am aware with ease - it is easy to use and uses a small amount of bandwidth as only 1 person can talk at a time. Unfortunately Flashmeeting doesn't stack up against the newer and more capable competition quite as well as expected - it scores on its simplicity which going back to the beginning dimdim seems to have matched to some extent.
It all comes down to looking at your priorities, how do you plan to run your online classroom, what tools are essential to the environment and for us and others how are they integrated into VLE's - you pay your money ( unless its a free open source of course!) and make your choice, one thing is for sure the applications here are only a step along the way and this year there are undoubtedly others out there waiting to give us greater scope in online learning.
Following a comment from Andrew at Mikogo, which you will find here I was pointed towards another open source application called Mikogo It looks cool though as yet I have not tried it out - will do over the weekend - Wow how many more will appear??
One more to make a late appearance following a comment left today (8th May) is Batipi which is a paid for hosted service.
" We help you to plan, and host online presentations and training. Whether you need to schedule a video conference with the management team, plan for your next upcoming webinar, or create memorable sales presentations, our event consultants are standing by 24/7. Experience the difference, experience Batipi."