Hello all. I'm looking to do some research into the various synchronous platforms that are out there. I know there's a lot and I have first-hand experience with Wiziq and also Blackboard Collaborate (Elluminate).
If anyone has any feedback on other platforms that would be useful in the context of tutoring, please reply to this thread.
Adobe Connect, GoToMeeting, Webex, BigBlueButton (you need to host this one on your server - it is open source and free for the software itself) are a few of the others.
Adobe Connect - I am a huge fan of most of Adobe's products. Adobe Connect is about the only one I have some reservations about. I am in Adobe Connect meetings pretty regularly for Adobe eLearning training. I have seen a higher than what I feel is normal level of audio problems from participants in these meetings. I have even had to leave sessions before because the audio had so many sound drops that I couldn't get enough to piece together what the presenter was saying. That has been my main reason for steering clear of that one in our project. It isn't impossible that the audio issues are related to the main speakers that lead many of the ones I attend signing in from India though. Maybe the internet infrastructure from the hosting presenters is somehow to blame. Many sessions have been OK for sound, but the percentage of times there are issues for participant's is too high in my opinion. I also dislike the dark theme in combination with not being able to see other participants. It always makes me feel like I am in a closet with people and the lights are turned out. I know they are there, but I cannot really get a sense of how many are in attendance or who they are.Maybe I have gotten spoiled on Collaborate's participant's list. It is easy to feel like you are there with other participants when you can see them in the list. It feels more welcoming and friendly that way.
It has been long enough since I tried Webex and GoToMetting to give a fair review for those. Technology changes so fast that what I experienced in trying them a few years ago may not apply any more. Those two have been around for a while, so I would think they would have some stability and sophistication enough to test them for use.
BigBlueButton would be an interesting one to test if you already have a server for an LMS anyway. With it being open source and free, you cannot beat the price if you already have server space and server-side expertise. So far, we are happy with Collaborate, but if push and shove happened and we were priced out of using it, I would give BBB a try in our project (we already have server space for Modle, so it would only be a matter of getting past the setup hurdle).
A word on Collaborate - I think a lot of people found the shift when Blackboard took over Elluminate to be a bumpy ride. The closing of Elluminate's community hub, dropping of the office level tier, and the buggy new version that came out missing lots of favorite tools all wrapped in very little communication so the changes were a shock have really disillusioned many users of that platform. However, I still think it is the best one out there. So long as they don't skyrocket the prices (worrisome with that drop of the office tier) we are going to stick with Collaborate.
Thanks for the reply Tammy. I actually plan on sticking with BBC for my main service. The problem is that, for tutoring, I've used Wiziq and they're skyrocketing prices for no/low improvements in the product.
I've looked at Big Blue Button and I may have to give it a second look for larger scale implementation in the future. Another option I've thought of is getting a handful of vRooms.
Ultimately, I'm looking for something that multiple tutors could use that won't be cost prohibitive to me.
hello, I am a college junior studying ELementary Education and I just so happened to have stumbled across your discussion concerning live tutoring sessions and web-conferencing and it caught my interest. I just recently completed a tutoring field experience and i was wondering what the pro's where to doing it online versus the old school way of using paper and pencil and actually having the tutee meet the tutor and a common place to have their session. i can completely understand the convenience boost this would provide, but i was also wondering if there are other beneficial aspects to using technology in this way?
If your organization has Google Apps for education (free) you can install the AnyMeeting app (free for educational users). This version allows for 6 people in a web conference and offers screen sharing. Might work well for tutoring.
Skype is a fantastic communication tool that would allow someone to tutor through the instant messaging dialog box under the video. In addition, one of the parties can share their screen, which allows the other viewer to review files found on the computer. All in all, it is a great method of communication and education, and it is free. The Skype program has a website for educators and Skype can be great for language learning.
Regardless of the medium for communication, tutoring in purpose will always be better than synchronous systems. I would ask, "Why are you trying to tutor from a distance?" "What purpose is it serving the student/learner?" Please clarify.
I can jump in on the why part. I am a home school mom and there is a huge market for home school families in online education options that let the parents be parents act as contractors of their children's education. They don't have to accept a teacher they are assigned and instead get to shop around to find a teacher and curriculum that meets the needs of their children. If they are comfortable teaching a subject, then they do. When they are not comfortable with a subject they look for a local or online class. When a student struggles in a subject. they will give extra support themselves or locate a tutor to give them special one-on-one attention to find the gaps and fill them.
There are several million home school children in North America and Canada making it a market that many are starting to realize is out there. In past years, we home schoolers have provided our own support systems with local co-ops for local classes through to ealry pioneering in running online course co-ops, but considering how many contacts that I have had in the last year from companies that want to understand the homeschool market (from Collaborate through to even Adobe) the business world sees us now. We are finding many many more options opening up every year from K-12 online classes to being accepted into college programs designed for middle through high school. Home school families actively look for online course options.
I run an online home school course co-op. It has been around for about the last 6 years. When we first began, when I asked the live, online class option students if our course was their first online course, about 99% said it was. Now, it is rare for a high school student to only be taking courses from our co-op. Most are taking courses from a wide variety of online providers from formal institutions to entrepreneurial teachers that have left the public school system to begin their own online course and tutoring business.
I think the thought to close on is a reiteration of the fact that home school parents are contractors of their children's education and they see themselves as such. They love the convenience of online courses and tutoring, especially considering that most have several children that they would have to juggle and chauffeur with local classes. They are actively looking for providers of online options. It is a market that is far from saturating and the need can get a business up off the ground relatively quickly if you tap in to the home school communication stream to get the word out. Just be sure to have your legs under you before taking too big a bite. The most common mistake that I am seeing right now are people that try to get a whole online school up and running full tilt in a year and they take a full load of students before they have even built their materials. Start small and expect to have to invest some learning curve and course building time in the first year.