Moodle Web Conferencing

January 18, 2008

Best Web-Conferencing Software for Moodle?

I just read a post on Moodle where the debate is about the "best" Web-conferencing software for Moodle. This post was actually intended for the same forum, but before posting, I read in the "Post Length" section that it is not a good idea to write a long post in Moodle forums. So I decided to put this on our blog with just a small entry on the forum and a link to this post. Here is what I have learned with my short experience of Web-conferencing systems.

Is there a "best" Web-conferencing software?

Every software has it's own unique features and nuances, and every individual has personal tastes and preferences; so we cannot really pinpoint which one is "the best". Another thing specific to Web-conferencing software is that everyone will not have the same experience using the same software owing to variables like:

  • Internet speed; slow speed leads to problems like audio lag, video problems, whiteboard lag and synchronization problems
  • The learning curve because everyone has their own pace.
  • Microphone, headphone and audio settings because it is very hard to configure sound on some PCs or some users find it hard to tweak - now that is the PC audio panel, headset etc, and not the Web-conferencing software that I am pointing to.
  • Attendees using speakers instead of a headset. This causes the presenter's sound to reverberate down to all attendees. Technically it is quite simple to comprehend why that happens. Simply put, the presenter's sound gets fed back through the attendee's microphone and it bounces back again through the same attendee's speakers and in through the mic again, out to all attendees, and back through the speakers again and goes into an indefinite loop. So a classroom protocol needs to be followed to get the best experience.
  • Attendees talking at the same time in full duplex audio systems. Now that is an invitation to a bad experience again and I would again like to point to classroom protocol. After all, a brick and mortar classroom can sound quite chaotic too without protocol.

These are just some quick points that come to my mind. There are numerous subtleties that are hard to list in a post like this, which some users might attribute to Web-conferencing software behavior and hand down a quick verdict.

So how do I choose what works best for me?

Most of the currently available software more or less satisfy what users would want from Web-conferencing systems but what really separates one from the other, which help users choose what they want are factors like:

  • Interface: Everyone has individual preferences.
  • Feature set: minimal, useful and usable OR multiple, redundant and hard-to-use. Marketing guys like me will always go around shrieking ourselves hoarse promoting our stuff, but users know best what works for them.
  • Orientation: Specific to education, commercial training or generic meetings? Again the user knows what s/he wants to use it for.
  • Installation: Desktop or web based? (individual preferences based on experience)
  • Associated features and benefits: For example, WiZiQ's virtual classroom users have extra options for blended learning like the content library, which offers users the ability to upload, share and access presentations and PDF documents; networking options to meet up with other users having similar interests; and a public sessions archive to access recordings delivered by experts etc.
  • Costs: Not everyone wants a free facility, and similarly, everyone cannot pay.
  • Irritants: roadblocks to usability.

Again the above is not a comprehensive list and is the result of a quick recollection. The list can go on and on because every online session brings along scenarios for attendees, which they might not have encountered before, with so many variables at play. So I believe that it is very difficult to tag any Web-conferencing system "the best". Every user has to determine what works best for her/him.

Our Live Class plugins for Moodle

We are trying hard, and we believe we have gained ground to overcome roadblocks and provide Moodle users a free and most user friendly virtual classroom. Your comments and feedback are most welcome as always, as this is what has helped us evolve into what we are today.

And yes, the Live Class modules for virtual classroom integration in Moodle are now available!

On WiZiQ

Modules and video tutorials: http://www.wiziq.com/downloads/moodle/

On Moodle

Activity: http://moodle.org/mod/data/view.php?d=13&rid=1113

Block: http://moodle.org/mod/data/view.php?d=13&rid=1114

The Moodle LMS can be downloaded here: http://download.moodle.org/

Jagdeep Singh Pannu

December 17, 2007

Collaborating Online on WiZiQ - Our Latest Video

Here's our latest video; this provides an overview of the latest features and benefits of WiZiQ's virtual classroom:

We would love to hear your feedback.

 
 

September 21, 2007

Using WiZiQ's Live Class Modules with Moodle

Using the Free Virtual Classroom with Moodle

The Online Virtual Classroom on WiZiQ is a free alternative to expensive conferencing software, and has audio and video, chat, whiteboard and multiple document sharing support. This collaboration tool can be used for synchronous online sessions with Moodle. Teachers can connect globally with students using this tool. To use the virtual classroom, Moodle administrators can now download WiZiQ's Live Class modules for Moodle and install these modules in the Moodle installation on their server.

Users can simply activate our "Block." and launch an "Activity" right from within Moodle. How-to video tutorials are available on the downloads page for Moodle here:

http://www.wiziq.com/downloads/moodle/

On Moodle

Activity: http://moodle.org/mod/data/view.php?d=13&rid=1113

Block: http://moodle.org/mod/data/view.php?d=13&rid=1114

Current Limitations

The modules have been successfully tested on Apache, PHP and MySQL installations but currently do not support Microsoft IIS servers.

Highlights of the Virtual Classroom

  1. It is free, both for teachers, and students.
  2. It works with Flash and so no downloads for students or teachers whatsoever.
  3. Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint files, and .pdf, .swf, .jpeg and .gif files can be uploaded to the Virtual Classroom. Animations are supported in .ppt and .pps presentations.
  4. Presentations from the public content library on WiZiQ can be imported into the Virtual Classroom for reference.

Designed for Education

We have kept only the educational user in mind while designing and developing the Virtual Classroom. We deliberately offer less, but more useful features to keep things simple.

You can see our latest video on YouTube here, and you can join a live demo session (see upcoming), or view a demo recording (see archives) by Mark Cruthers, an AP History teacher, here.

Opinion

"Yeah, now we can even integrate WiZiQ with Moodle as an 'Activity Module'! This is the one learning tool really missing in Moodle! WiZiQ to the rescue! I love it :)" Zaid at ZaidLearn.

"One product proposed by two of our distance education teachers is a new plug-in/add-in called WiZiQ.  The product is a “synchronous distance education system” and allows teachers and students work in a collaborative environment (audio, video, whiteboard, etc.).  Tests so far have gone better than ever anticipated!!!"  Barry stewart at the Prairie South Moodle Tech Blog.

"It is just amazing. Now I only can hope that my employer chooses Moodle for the school learning environment." Leena on Passionate Teachers at Ning.

Jagdeep Singh Pannu