Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Tools for Schools: Live Online Conferencing

As an Adobe Education Leader, I am lucky enough to have access to a full version of Adobe Acrobat Connect Pro, a full-featured video conferencing and synchronous collaboration tool. (If anyone ever wants to see how it works, please let me know and we can set up a time for a meeting demo!)

Adobe Acrobat Connect Pro is not free, and I have yet to find a no-cost option for schools that comes close to its capabilities. However, here are a few free options that provide more than just video-calling (like Skype and ooVoo). The sites listed below will allow you to experiment with a more full-featured toolset and, perhaps, provide enough justification in your school or district for the purchase of a full-fledged system!

These are just brief overviews of the capabilities of each of these systems. Each system often adds new features, so take the time to give each of them a try and re-visit them regularly.

Adobe ConnectNow
...includes many of the features of Adobe Acrobat Connect Pro, such as video and VOIP for all, screen sharing, whiteboards, etc., but only allows three users to participate in the conference; I would strongly suggest this one for small synchronous sessions

...this tool is very full-featured, and the free version allows only 5 users and the site is ad-supported; there is an easy-screenshot feature, lots of plug-ins such as a YouTube Player, a graphing calculator, desktop sharing, and much more

...the no-cost version of this tool only allows for the presenter's video feed, and four users with voice, but does allow 20 users in the room, and includes a whiteboard, a chat area, and some screensharing

...the free version of Yugma requires registration by each of the (up to 20) attendees you host for a meeting. There is a download of Java required as well as a small client. The free version basically allows screen-sharing and chat. There is a Skype version of the client that utilizes the audio and chat within Skype as well.

...WizIQ is intended to allow users to teach within their system. It allows uploads of presentations, audio for all participants, sharing of a whiteboard, and video for the instructor

Addition (4/30/09)
...synchronous audio and the ability to share photos, files, and videos makes this tool very cool; you need to install a local client to use it, but you do not have to have an account to join a room

Photo located in a Creative Commons search in Flickr.
"Video Conferencing" by mrkimmi