Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Excluding midwives from learning

I have been questioned about my use of Elluminate as a platform for facilitating a program of online seminars for midwives. Whilst there is no cost to midwives, they can only access Elluminate through me, which I can use because I am an employee of Otago Polytechnic. So if midwives want to organise a web conference without my 'say so', they are excluded from doing so via Elluminate.

Why do I use Elluminate?
I suppose the answer to this is... because I can. It doesn't cost me anything or the midwives who attend the meetings, but obviously because it is a commercial product it does cost Otago Polytechnic. I use Elluminate because I like it and am now familiar with it. It is tidy: it offers a number of functions such as the ability to show presentations, video, whiteboard, instant text, audio and breakout rooms all in one package.

Excluding midwives
But as Leigh Blackall has pointed out to me, there are a number of programs that are completely freely accessible that do this such as Skype,, Flash Meeting, DimDim and Yugma. So why waste my time developing resources for the use of Elluminate? Would I not be better off working with online tools that people are familiar with? For example, I could use Skype for a conference call and present my images on Flickr and incorporate a video clip via YouTube.

Where to from now?
Leigh is absolutely right to question me and I do not think I have a very good answer. Nevertheless, I am not convinced that there is a great familiarity with Skype, Flickr etc amongst the general midwifery population. So at the moment I am teaching midwives to use one tool as opposed to teaching them to use half a dozen. And considering that I am doing this in my own time, this is an important issue for me.

However, I think it is important that I keep exploring the free web conference tools that are available so that I can incorporate them into the online midwifery seminars as well as into my 'proper' teaching. I have started a page on the 'PD for midwives' wiki as a collection point for information and resources about free web conferencing.

I would be very interested to hear about people's experiences with web conferencing. What tools have you found easiest and most effective to use, especially when you are working with people who are unfamiliar with using the Internet?

Image: 'First Flight'


Merrolee said...

Hi Sarah
quick comment - it all depends on the functionality of the other tools as well - for example if midwives are hospital based and accessing these resources during worktime - would they be able to access youtube, flicr, skype etc?????? And I find Skype very contrary - up and down like a yo you when I use at home and at work.

totally agree that Elluminate means dependency on you and I'm not in favour of that either, but free tools are not always accessible tools!!!!!!

Leigh Blackall said...

hmm, you left out the transferability of skills. They don't know how to use skype or what ever, or they don't have access to it.. you teaching through that will show them a tool they might find useful for other things - transferability of skills. Merolee is right, access is not always there.. most of all with Elluminate! so our experience has been to date.

Sarah Stewart said...

I think this dilemma is an interesting one.

While I was writing this post, I was also trying to engage with a staff meeting on Elluminate. It was a complete disaster and I wasted over an hour waiting for problems to be sorted out and then the meeting didn't eventuate. It made me quite grumpy because I am on leave and I only 'attended' to add my support to the team as we are only now learning to use Elluminate.

I might add that this was no one's fault but it did illustrate the problems of teachnology.

Meanwhile, I have been trying to use YouTube in my teaching and every time I have gone to download it, I have been unable to. This may be because of the institutes's firewall-I do not know.

I see the journey I am on as one of exploration and experimentation. I am trying things out to see what works and what doesn't. What I do need to think about is lowest common denominator when working with people who have limited computer skills and access.

Claire Thompson said...

I've been using Elluminate since the fall and I really like what you can do with it. I am a BIG fan of the White board. I'm only familiar with Ustream and Skype and as far as I know they don't have the whiteboard capability. Correct me if I'm wrong, though, as I would be thrilled if they did.

I have come across a free on-line tool called WizIQ ( seems to have many of the capabilities of Elluminate. I haven't tried it myself, but maybe some of your readers can comment on it.

The thing that is nice about Elluminate is that it is soooo easy for people to access (when you're the moderator). No accounts need to be set up, no passwords. You just give the participants the link, they give a screen name, test their mic and speakers and away you go. Good as you say for folks who are somewhat unfamiliar with the internet.

I'm lucky that the province where I teach has negotiated a license so that all public school teachers and admin have free access to Elluminate. That's upwards of 40,000 teachers. Maybe the appropriate body in NZ can swing a similar deal?

Sarah Stewart said...

Gosh, thats a good deal, Claire. I must admit, I do like not having to set up an account like you do with everything else. But had a 'bad elluminate' day today so not so keen as I was when I wrote extolling the joys.

Sue Waters said...

You need to choose the simplest, most reliable, yet most functional tool that has the least barriers to using While the free tools are becoming really good, at the moment Elluminate offers the most functionality. I would be sticking with Elluminate for now

Sarah Stewart said...

Thats interesting, Sue. Thanks.

Rowie said...

although i'm not part of the midwifery community, i find your comments applicable to MANY sectors of the work-world today. personally, i uses yugma (along with skype) for my training sessions & online meetings and have found that it is very intuitive and easy for everyone- no matter what their computer knowledge level is.

one thing that i believe is that whether or not people are computer or technology savvy, technology and computers are NOT GOING ANYWHERE. as an educator (mine in a corporate environment, yours in a medical), i believe it is my duty to expose others to things that they may be uncomfortable with, especially things that have proven to not be simple trends. online services are only going to become more complicated as time goes on. so exposing simpler ones to your community now will only give them the confidence to explore other services in the future. it's more of empowerment than anything, i think.

Sarah Stewart said...

Yes, Rowie, you're saying the same as everyone else-its about transferability of skills and breaking down barriers. It fascinating to see the same issues across the professions, geographical locations and contexts. Thank you.