Thing 18 – Webinars and Hangouts

This week’s Things are about facilitation, organisation, and productivity, especially when it comes to collaborating with others. With the rise of online media sharing and the growing desire to get out of rooms and on to the internet, it is now possible for groups of people to actively participate in online learning and discussions in real time.

Google+ Hangouts

Cast your mind back to the days of the ‘internet chat room’, and now imagine them with photosharing and group video calling capabilities. There you have the Google+ Hangout. This platform can operate on mobile and well as desktop devices, and is popularly used amongst academics for discussion, skills training, or professional development opportunities from higher level bodies like Vitae, or the Guardian Higher Education Network. Although video calls are limited to 10 people, 2 or more can be involved in a text-based Hangout.

Similar functionality is offered by

Webinars

An online seminar, or Webinar, can allow groups of people to talk with each other, or allow multiple individuals to talk with an existing group, as well as multimedia.

Here is a list of Webinar possibilities from Wikipedia:

  • Slideshow presentations – where images are presented to the audience and markup tools and a remote mouse pointer are used to engage the audience while the presenter discusses slide content.
  • Live or streaming video – where full motion webcam, digital video camera or multi-media files are pushed to the audience.
  • VoIP – Real time audio communication through the computer via use of headphones and speakers.
  • Web tours – where URLs, data from forms, cookies, scripts and session data can be pushed to other participants enabling them to be pushed though web based logons, clicks, etc. This type of feature works well when demonstrating websites where users themselves can also participate.
  • Meeting Recording – where presentation activity is recorded on the client side or server side for later viewing and/or distribution.
  • Whiteboard with annotation (allowing the presenter and/or attendees to highlight or mark items on the slide presentation. Or, simply make notes on a blank whiteboard.)
  • Text chat – For live question and answer sessions, limited to the people connected to the meeting. Text chat may be public (echoed to all participants) or private (between 2 participants).
  • Polls and surveys (allows the presenter to conduct questions with multiple choice answers directed to the audience)
  • Screen sharing/desktop sharing/application sharing (where participants can view anything the presenter currently has shown on their screen. Some screen sharing applications allow for remote desktop control, allowing participants to manipulate the presenters screen, although this is not widely used.)

One of the most common uses in research is to allow remote researchers to participate in a workshop or conference.

There are hundreds of providers for this service, however one of the most popular platforms is Adobe Connect. Unfortunately this is a subscription service, meaning it is not available for individual users. However, Wiggio is a free service that provides some of the same functionality through their ‘virtual meeting‘.

Task

Have a look for other providers of webinar-type platforms. Can you imagine a situation in your daily life as a researcher where you could use a one? Could it be a meeting between multiple supervisors? A workshop or seminar to your peers? A collaborative brainstorming session between research partners at different universities?

What might the limitations be?

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