This is a message I sent in last October to some colleagues, with whom I was trying to find out a suitable solution (that is, feasible in our Colombian context), for some synchronous meetings we were having.
A few days ago, I had the chance to talk with Alvaro Quiroga about Ustream and, after reading an e-mail from him today, I decided that it makes sense to go public about this message. Anyway, my knowledge about theses tools has improved in these months, but I still think that the analysis makes sense.
So, here it goes:
- Bandwidth will always be a problem for a group of participants [in Colombia]. We have to live with that.
- Because of bandwidth, there is no tool able to accomplish everything we need. If we have low bandwidth, there will be either loss of information (worst case scenario) or low quality (best case scenario).
- From my own experience: Even if all the previous testing goes well, there are about 90% of chance that things will go astray when we go live. [Oh, gee... ]
- Screen recording (if done) must be done by someone with VERY good bandwidth (I would say someone in the US [This made sense because of the people involved in the activity, back then]).
- For the translated chat [we were doing real time translation for non-spanish speakers], it would make sense to use the Moodle chat [we were using Moodle for asynchronous discussions]. That way, we could get the people to get into Moodle and the chat would be recorded automatically.
- Must check if people connecting from MoE [that is, Ministry of Education]have access to technology. A lot of firewall restrictions.. [this was our situation, but it probably happens everywhere]
- A decision must be made about how complex do we want the tool. Best case scenario is Elluminate [Or Wimba, or Adobe Connect, as I know now], with everything in one place. If we don't get that, what is acceptable? Only Audio (skypecast, phone bridge)? Audio/Video? Text chat??? I would go with best case scenario (all-in-one tool), and my second option would be audioconferencing. [Now, it's clear that this kind of decision must be made for ANY tech steward, right?]
[So I proposed a few plans, with the knowledge I had back then]
Plan A: Elluminate. [This probably applies to Wimba and Adobe Connect as well]
- Best option in terms of set-up and scalability.
- Recording is easy
- Integrated chat/presentation
- Moderation (Makes it easy to mute participants' microphones).
- Similar to WizIQ, so maybe the learning curve won't be that horrible.
- Requires Java [We don't have Java installed everywhere. In fact, all around the country we have machines that won't run Java, because of their memory or processor. This applies also to Wimba, I'm not sure about Adobe Connect]
- Low Bandwidth behavior: Transmission stops, until buffer is filled again. [I'm still not sure about this. Later tests showed a very good behavior when faced with network congestions. The voice, for example, is played faster until the client gets synchronized with the server.]
Plan B: Skype (The U3S choice: Ustream, Skypecast, Skypechat, Slideshare... LOL)
- Tried before with at least 15 people (at MoE).
- Does a better job adapting to different bandwidhts
- Moderation [Obviously, you can do that with Elluminate]
- No chat (could use skypechat, it's not that difficult)
- No presentation (could use slideshare, and voice-synch like Nancy did)
- No video (could use Ustream, and get the recording online at once)
- Low bandwidth behavior: Transmission degrades, information is lost.
- Recording is not easy, unless you arrange all the screens in the desktop and use Camtasia.
- Should we try this set-up? Skypecast/Skypechat/Slideshare?
- Mental note: We could invite participants to help with these tests. Let them see that technology is not to be underestimated when planning CoPs, and it takes a lot of time... [This is not a good strategy by default. Most people are not really interested in fighting with technology. They just want to use it quickly, and they want it to be reliable]
Plan C: Moodle Plugin (Asterisk is a company that have free voIP products. Some of them are Moodle-integrated).
- Everything in one place!! [Remember, we were using Moodle. Then again, both Wimba and Elluminate have now Moodle integration]
- Can use the Moodle chat right away...
- People could leave voice-messages to each other from inside Moodle. [This works only with Asterisk. I'm not sure if Wimba offers this (Voice Tools, maybe?)]
- Need a lot of testing (haven't tried it before), so there could be ANY problem.
- If part of the intention is to expose people to technology, this would leave them tied to Moodle. Is that ok? [Better, would that make sense??]
That was it. After October, I remember I saw somewhere (courosa, maybe?) the same U3S setup described, so I guess it wasn't such a crazy idea after all.
Now I'm thinking about what other things I should try and make public, even after some time. The first in my list, clearly, are my reflections on EduCamp Colombia...