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.
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, Ustream.tv, 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'