Thursday, April 24, 2008

Investigating web conferencing applications (updated 8th May)


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)
The dimdim environment is very easy on the eye and non threatening to participants, it appears to work smoothly with file transfer note being too delayed. There is a limit of 20 people per room which is probably enough for most general uses. We were very impressed with the look of the interface, the only problem that we hit was that pdf files were re sized to the landscape rectangular main window which made the pdf's very difficult to read - especially as we use pupils assessment material which is often handwritten.

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."


6 comments:

Andrew_Mikogo said...

Hi Mr. H,
I read your web conferencing blog post today, and thought you would like to hear about a truly great web collaboration tool.
I'm one of team members at Mikogo - the free online meeting tool. With Mikogo (http://www.mikogo.com) you can organize free screen sharing meetings with up to 10 participants in any one meeting.
The best thing about Mikogo is that it is completely free - no catches.
Furthermore, for no cost, you get all the Mikogo features including: remote control, file transfer, application sharing, switch presenter, pause transmission, password selection, and more.

Now that there is a Mikogo Skype Extra, its even easier to have free screen sharing meetings while you chat with the participants for free: https://extras.skype.com/1610/view

Check it out. It takes just a second to learn, and a minute to master.

Regards,
Andrew

Technoguide said...

Thanks for your review of Dimdim. Wanted to let you know that Dimdim is integrated with Moodle and ships inside each Moodle download. Have fun, and thanks again.

Steve

Anonymous said...

We use a great service by Batipi at http://www.batipi.com...

Mr Harrington said...

Thanks for the heads up on Batipi - I would like to know if it has any Moodle or Drupal integration?

Jagdeep. S. Pannu said...

Hi Mr. Harrington,

Thanks for writing about WiZiQ. Moodle integration is also available for the Virtual Classroom on WiZiQ.

Jagdeep Singh Pannu
For WiZiQ

Andrew_Mikogo said...

Hi Mr.H,

I just wanted to quickly let you know that we released a news story regarding Mikogo and Skype. You might be interested to check it out along with the Mikogo Skype user guide web page with screenshots and video tutorials. Mikogo with Skype provides a free easy-to-use solution to Web collaboration.
I hope you enjoy it. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me.

Cheers,
Andrew
The Mikogo Team

Blog Archive