Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Online Collaboration Tools: Cost-Effective Solutions For Online Teachers

Sponsored Links

Online collaboration tools and technologies are increasingly going to shape and model the communication, learning, working and social experiences we will be able to create in the near future.

Photo credit: Andres Rodriguez

New modes of learning, sharing and hooking up with partners, team-mates and colleagues will completely replace the time-consuming, long and boring practices we use today in our real, physical world.

Without interrupting the work-flow and focus of attention of the individuals we get in touch with, we will gradually extend and mesh our close physical connections with the ones of people and teams working at thousands of miles of distance from us.

While you may have been hearing and reading about such things already for quite some time, you may not have had the time and opportunity yet to look, experience and test some of the innovative, cost-effective technologies that will make such revolutionary transitions a reality for everyone.

In association and with the support of the LANCELOT Language Research Project funded by the European Commission under the LEONARDO DA VINCI, Language Competence II programme, during the last 12 months I have been given the opportunity to research and bring together the very best in terms of online real-time collaboration tools which can be used to enhance, extend and amplify your communication reach when working at-a-distance.

Here is a first partial collection of such research presented in the form of a few short focused mini-guides, originally prepared for online language facilitators who need to navigate the vast sea of collaboration tools and technology options now available to them.

  • Screen-sharing

  • Collaborative Writing

  • Whiteboarding and Live Annotation

  • Web Presentation

  • Instant Messaging

  • Online Video Publishing And Sharing

While these introductory short guides intend in no way to be final and fully comprehensive references for the different application scenarios covered, you may find these quite useful in helping you rapidly identify the most appropriate tools to consider for your personal online collaboration needs.

Collaborative Writing Tools


Collaborative writing tools are those technologies that facilitate the editing and reviewing of a text document by multiple individuals either in real-time or asynchronously.

Online, web-based collaborative writing tools offer great flexibility and usefulness in learning groups and educational settings as they provide an easy means to generate text exercises, research reports and other writing assignments in a full collaborative fashion.

Collaborative writing tools can vary a great deal and can range from the simplicity of wiki system to more advanced systems. Basic features include the typical formatting and editing facilities of a standard word processor with the addition of live chat, live markup and annotation, co-editing, version tracking and more.

Documents generated with such tools are always accessible to all the editors and can be easily downloaded and exported in standard word processing file formats.

Tools and services compared

In this mini-guide the following tools and services are compared:

  • Zoho Writer
  • Writeboard
  • Google Docs & Spreadsheets
  • Near-Time
  • Socialtext
  • Quick Doc Review
  • EditGrid
  • SynchroEdit
  • PleaseReview
  • Coventi Pages
  • Gobby
  • ACE
  • Groove

Access the full Collaborative Writing Tools Mini-Guide

Screensharing Tools And Technology

Photo credit: Screen Stream

What is Screen Sharing?

Screen sharing is generally understood as the technologically-empowered ability to transmit the contents of your computer screen to one or more remotely connected Internet users.

In other words screen sharing allows you to show PowerPoint presentations, Word documents, images and any other software running on your computer while remotely connected users see in real-time what you see on your screen.

Traditionally screen sharing has been long referred to as application sharing, to define more specifically the ability not just to show specific applications to other connected participants but the combined ability of screen sharing with remote control.

So while the terms "application sharing" and "screen sharing" mean two different things they are increasingly used in interchangeable ways as many of the new tools and online services integrated them both, and companies prefer to use terminologies that make more immediate sense to the end user.

Screen-sharing generally requires abundant amounts of bandwidth and therefore it is best used when all participants are on a rather speedy internet connection.

Key advantages in using screen sharing tools to present materials to others are generally the ease of use and immediacy that this approach provides. On the other hand, screen sharing key limitations are the need for a good Internet connection to achieve effective results.

Screen sharing also does not fare well against Web-touring/Co-browsing and PowerPoint dedicated delivery tools. These generally provide better display and performance while using less bandwidth.

Tools and services compared

In this mini-guide the following tools and services are compared:

  • Vyew
  • GoToMeeting
  • Glance
  • Persony
  • HelpMeeting Presenter
  • eBLVD
  • ezMeeting
  • Netviewer
  • WebBrush
  • Shareitnow
  • BeamYourScreen
  • GoMeetNow
  • GatherPlace
  • WebEx MeetMeNow
  • BLive
  • RealVNC
  • ISLlight
  • Network Streaming
  • GoToAssist
  • Spreed
  • ScreenStream
  • Bosco Screen Sharing
  • SkyFex
  • AOL Instant Messenger Pro
  • Unyte

Access the full Screen Sharing Tools And Technology Mini-Guide

Whiteboarding Tools And Technology


What is Whiteboarding?

Whiteboarding is the ability to mark-up, annotate and draw in real-time on any document, image, screen, slide or picture appearing on the screen.

It is to be noted that in the academic world, digital whiteboards that posses digital capabilities have been an increasingly popular stable of the modern classroom.

What it is being referred to here it is whiteboarding done online, with other people that are connecting at a distance and in which the ability to mark-up, annotate and draw on screen can be as useful as when needing to communicate visually in a physical classroom.

According to Wikipedia: "Whiteboarding is a term used to describe the placement of shared files on an on-screen "shared notebook" or "whiteboard"."

Whiteboarding tools are often integral part of many web conferencing, presentation and onlien collaboration tools. From WebEx to iVocalize, most full-featured conferencing tools include some form of whiteboard and associated toolset.

There is also another group of whiteboarding technologies more appropriately called "screen annotation tools", that work independently of any specific application and can be used to annotate and mark-up anything that is shown on the screen.

Tools and services compared

In this mini-guide the following tools and services are compared:

  • Vyew
  • DePicto
  • Groupboard
  • ImaginationCubed
  • PresenterNet
  • iVocalize
  • InstantPresenter
  • ConVoq
  • Adobe Breeze
  • AnnotatePro
  • WinPointer3
  • Pointer
  • ActivePen
  • SlideMate
  • VBDoodle
  • Virtual Board
  • Talk and Write
  • M2 ScreenInk

Access the full Whiteboarding Tools And Technology Mini-Guide

Web Presentation Tools And Technologies

Photo credit: Teamslide

Web presentation tools and technologies provide the means to deliver any PowerPoint-based or similar type of visual presentation to an Internet-connected audience, no matter where participants are connecting from.

Most web presentation technologies, do away with requiring end users to have an installed copy of Microsoft PowerPoint and increasingly offer not just the ability to digitally distribute such presentations but also of creating them.

Until recently, sharing a PowerPoint presentation with other people, let alone doing this in real-time, was a major challenge. The size of a typical PowerPoint file didn't make it easy to send it via email, and incompatibilities between different versions of PowerPoint made the effort even more complex for the non-technical user.

PowerPoint itself allows the saving of any presentation as a set of Web pages. But while such output can be comfortably looked at on the computer where you have created it, it is not easy at all for a non-technically-savvy person to learn how to make those web pages show up at a specific address on the web where anyone else connected to the Internet can see them too.

Some of the limitations of exporting PowerPoint presentations into web pages directly from within PowerPoint may include:

  • Animations including slide transitions, are not supported (however, animated GIF pictures do run and are supported).

  • GIF pictures might not be animated if the presentation is saved with a screen size setting of 640 x 480 or less.

  • The slide isn't scaled to fit the browser window. It stays at a fixed screen resolution based on the screen size setting selected when you published the presentation.

  • The presentation cannot be viewed full screen.

  • You cannot open or close frames.

  • The active slide title is not highlighted in the outline pane.

  • The mouse does not highlight elements in the outline pane.

  • Sounds and movies do not play.

  • Some graphics will not look as good as they do in Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.0 or later.

On the other hand newer software and web-based technologies now allow the easy-uploading of PowerPoint presentations to dedicated web presentation services and even the delivery of unattended, on-demand presentations having a custom web page address (URL). In other cases, software or web-based tools allow for the real-time delivery of your presentation to a number of attendees while integrating other complementary collaboration features.

Some of these tools integrate the optional ability to integrate live or recorded audio to accompany the presentation.

Tools And Services Compared

In this mini-guide the following tools and services are compared:

  • TeamSlide
  • iVocalize
  • Convoq
  • WebEx Presentation Studio
  • PresenterNet
  • InstantPresenter
  • OnlinePresenter
  • Vyew
  • Spreed
  • Slide
  • Slidestory
  • ZohoShow
  • vMix
  • RockYou
  • FlickrShow
  • Gliffy
  • ReplayHQ
  • Brainshark
  • Adobe Connect Professional
  • Empressr
  • SPresent
  • S5
  • HTML Slidy
  • Opera Show
  • Microsoft Producer
  • Camtasia
  • Articulate Presenter
  • QPresenter

Access the full Web Presentation Tools And Technologies Mini-Guide

Instant Messaging Tools And Technology

Photo credit: Andrew Fishbitt

What is Instant Messaging?

Instant messaging is a form of real-time communication between two or more people based on typed text messages. "Instant messages" are sent via computers that are simultaneously active and connected to the Internet, or within an organization, to a local network.

Instant messaging differs from traditional e-mail in the fact that communications can be sent and received instantly.

It is also true - though most instant messaging uses today ignore this fact - that instant messaging does not require those very messages to be always exchanged in real-time, in each and every situation.

That means, that as instant messengers will gradually become more familiar tools to a greater number of users, it will become increasingly common to use IM also for non-instantaneous/asynchronous communications.

While until today most instant messaging application have required the download and use of a dedicated client program we are now seeing the emergence of instant messaging tools that allow access to major instant messaging networks directly from any Internet connected web browser, PDA or mobile phone.

"In early instant messaging programs, each letter appeared as it was typed, and when letters were deleted to correct typos this was also seen in real time. This made it more like a telephone conversation than exchanging letters.

These services owe many ideas to an older (and still popular) online chat medium known as Internet Relay Chat (IRC).

In early instant messaging programs each character appeared as it was typed. The UNIX "talk" command shown in these screenshots was popular in the 1980s and early 1990s."
(Source: Wikipedia)

In modern instant messaging programs, the other party in the conversation generally only sees each line of text right after a new line is started.

Most instant messaging systems allow the user to set an online status or away message, so peers get notified whenever the user is available, busy, or away from the computer.

On the other hand, people are not forced to reply immediately to incoming messages. This way, communication via instant messaging can be less intrusive than communication via phone, which is partly a reason why instant messaging is becoming more and more important in every day business and academic use.

What really characterizes instant messaging from other forms of text messaging applications is in fact the use of an indicator of "presence", which enables the user of an instant messaging applications to rendez-vous with his/her counterparties and see their availability status.

Instant messaging typically boosts communication and allows easy collaboration. In contrast to e-mails or phone, the parties know whether the peer is available.

The fact that instant messages typically get logged in a local message history closes the gap to the persistent nature of e-mails, facilitating quick, safe, and persistent exchange of information such as URLs of web pages which cannot be easily exchanged when on a telephone communication.

Tools And Services Compared

In this mini-guide the following tools and services are compared:

  • Yahoo Messenger
  • Windows Live Messenger
  • AIM Pro
  • Skype
  • Google Talk
  • ICQ
  • Gizmo Project
  • Apple iChat
  • Qnext
  • Trillian
  • Gaim
  • Ineen
  • Jabber
  • Jabbin
  • Meebo
  • KoolIM
  • AIM Triton
  • Imvite
  • WebMessenger
  • Miranda IM

Access the full Instant Messenging Tools And Technology Mini-Guide

Online Video Publishing And Sharing For Learning and Collaboration

Photo credit: (c) Padplayer

Web-Based Delivery of Audio and Video Materials

The web-based delivery of Audio-Video recordings consists in the ability to publish, share and redistribute to other internet-connected users audio or video clips.

Thanks to major cost decreases for mass storage technology and thanks to the increased amounts of data bandwidth available to Internet providers and end users since 2005 it has become feasible for anyone to publish, share and easily repurpose audio and video materials on the Internet at zero costs.

The services that allow for this to be possible act either as large public repositories of non-copyrighted, freely accessible materials or as commercial video clearinghouses which build their sustainability around contextual advertising and sponsorship models.

This situation, which may evolve further in the near future provides true miracolous benefits to anyone wanting to record, edit, or publish an audio and video clip without having to buy any commercial software. In fact users of Windows, Mac and Linux type of computers have today at their disposal a number of free or very low-cost services which allow them to publish and distribute their preferred audio and video material in a simple and effective way.

The requirements to start benefiting from these new services and opportunities include:

  • some familiarity with the basic audio and video file formats existing out there.

  • some understanding of what encoding is and what codecs are

  • understanding of screen size and resolution issues

  • basic familiarity with Windows Movie Maker (Windows) or iMovie (Mac)

  • both softwares come bundled free with every computer - nothing to buy

Tools And Services Compared

In this mini-guide the following tools and services are compared:

  • YouTube
  • Ourmedia
  • Google Video
  • Eyespot
  • Jumpcut
  • Dropshots
  • Veoh
  • Vimeo
  • Blip.TV
  • Brightcove
  • Click.TV
  • Abazab
  • Hellodeo
  • Hipcast
  • Videoegg
  • Flashmeeting

Access the full Online Video Publishing And Sharing For Learning And Collaboration Mini-Guide

Originally written by for Master New Media and originally published as: "Online Collaboration Tools And Technologies: Cost-Effective Solutions For Online Teachers"

Robin Good - [ Read more ]
Readers' Comments    
blog comments powered by Disqus
posted by Michael Pick on Sunday, April 22 2007, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

Search this site for more with 








    Curated by

    New media explorer
    Communication designer


    POP Newsletter

    Robin Good's Newsletter for Professional Online Publishers  



    Real Time Web Analytics