Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Free Conferencing/Training Platform?

Tomorrow I'll be meeting with our part time math coach. She is ending her first session on campus as she helps us implement our Everyday Math program adoption.

On her agenda for our meeting is our school's Web-Ex set up. That part of the meeting should be short, since we don't HAVE a Web-Ex set up.

Okay, maybe that answer won't quite fly. I need one that will. We don't have big online conferencing/training needs, don't offer any courses online. Most of the time when a vendor wants to conference with us, they have Elluminate or some similar tool. Therefore, I'm not looking for something that requires a subscription.

For the past hour I've been poking around. Since I haven't met with her yet, my best understanding is that the math coach want's to run little training sessions online. At minimum, I'm expecting she wants participants to be able to see a Powerpoint-style presentation while being able to hear her. More likely, she wants them to be able to converse.

Zoho may partially meet our need. Part of their suite is Zoho Show, an online presentation tool. Within it you can imbed meeting slides that allow the participants to actually see the presenter's desktop. I'm trying to test it right now and it isn't loading, but that is likely due to half of Singapore being online right now.

Zoho may work for the visuals, but we'd need something like Skype going for the audio. It would work best in our IT conference room where we have a conferencing phone system. However, some of the telephones at work have a speaker feature as well.

Another option for the visuals may be Google Presentations. They were announced on Google's blog yesterday. You can use it to co-create a presentation. She can also share it online. Like Zoho's tool, you invite participants to come view it. It has a chat client in the sidebar, which might work better than audio Skype for the participants. Easier for everyone to follow the discussion and there would be a transcript to refer back to afterwards.

Unfortunately, I couldn't test that one either. It crashed my computer at work a few hours ago. However, that may have been the result of huge numbers of people testing it, since it was just announced yesterday.

So, what other free options are out there? If you've used one I'd like to hear about it. I'd like recommendations of what to use, and what to avoid.

(BTW, a big THANKS to D'Arcy Norman and Chris Craft for Twittering about Google Presentations. That's how I heard about it just as I was starting my online search for such a tool. How perfect is that?)