Online audio conferencing and presentation services with crystal clear audio even on low bandwidth
= breakthrough tool
Free to try - Paid monthly service
This is possibly one of the most interesting tool I have ever been able to uncover recently, thanks to Kim Gregory who pointed me to it. This is a unique tool, company and business altogether, that is in its early stages of development but that looks promising and available for your testing now.
I have personally tested this tool for over a month now in all of the possible ways, to see all of its pros, cons, and areas where it could be improved. I have gone out and looked also at the alternatives to this type of tool, and unless you are looking at the expensive corporate suppliers like WebEx or Placeware, which cost above 50 cents per minute per user (and which provide at present no audio support, if not through the use of a standard phone call), there is really no alternative to this growing need for live communication tools.
I have to say, that nonetheless some limitations and areas for improvement this tool has many interesting things going for it.
It does a few simple things but it does them well. What VCOM is, is basically a virtual presentation room in which you have three panes:
a) browser window
b) text chat window
c) participants/attendees window
You can receive up to 25 people in this virtual presentation room, and as they enter you can see their screen name.
The technology supports the presenter with a nice set of moderator features. Among these I should list:
a) Ability to mute or ban participants
b) Ability to send specific files or Web pages to individual participants
c) Ability to sync all of the participants browser windows to the one displayed on your screen
d) Ability to sync participants to your browser so that you can take them on a tour.
VCOM can be well integrated with other technologies to allow effective presentations and demonstrations to be run online.
For example I see a great possible interaction with CityDesk when a special template perfectly fitting the VCOM browser window has been created. CityDesk allows HTML free maintenance of a web site by non technical people. In this case, CityDesk would allow easy preparation of presentation pages to be later navigated inside VCOM.
Key features still missing but coming in the next release:
1) Private Rooms are completely locked and controlled by passwords.
2) URL list can be input or saved to facilitate sync-surfing and Presentations
3) Application and window sharing
Once these extra features wil be up this will be a very hard to beat technology.
If you want to find out more about this tool please contact me directly for a live demo at: Luigi.Canali # masternewmedia.org
PROS: Simple to use.
Does not require people attending your web conference to have or buy any software.
Audio quality is impressive even under adverse connectivity conditions.
CONS: Marketed by its company (Champion Network Inc.) mostly as an instrument to make money through an MLM scheme. Though I have nothing against MLM, I see this service pushing the issue one way only and alienating potential customers interested in its value by itself.
Customer support is working only by email and leaves much to be desired.
Corporate identity and information is low quality and in some instances even ambiguous. Look at the Golden Web Award proudly displayed on the VCOM Central home page. Try now to find out why, when and how the company has received this award. If you are successful let me know. I have asked them directly but I have no written reply on this that can be shared.
Help and supporting information are very low quality, and do not provide full information on how features work and on why some others are not available.
Development of features and fixing of software bugs seems to proceed very slowly if at all. While I have recently discovered that VCOM is not the original developer of the underlying application technology they claim to be hard working at it.
Showing PowerPoint presentations through VCOM interface is clunky at best. Not only one would need to upload to a Web server all of a PowerPoint presentation, that has been properly converted to HTML (believe not an easy task, if you want to maintain any control on the output), but he would then discover that fitting the presentation slides in the browser window of VCOM is not an easy task at all.
Few small bugs prevent the tool from really shining, including the ability of its three separate control panes to be easily readjusted, minimized and positioned on the screen and at different resolutions.
Application sharing and Recording of session' events are features visible in the menu of the VCOM application but that remain inaccessible.
Testimonial for VCOM
Nonetheless all of the above, when I showed this tool to my colleague and friend Rozhan Idrus in Malaysia, he replied a few hours later to me with this email:
"VCOM..is an absolute brilliant
concept in real time. The interactive capabilities is astounding and this will greatly enhance learning. To be able to view material and then see, talk and write is the ultimate experience. Thanks Luigi for expanding the dream of pedagogy into the realm of possibility."
Rozhan M. Idrus,
School of Distance Education
Universiti Sains Malaysia
22800 USM, Penang, Malaysia.
Of course Rozhan has seen through me only the best and most interesting aspects of this tool, and in this light he has been positively impressed. My suggestion for all the ones that are excited and would want to try out this technology, is to go and see for yourself. I will reveal my favourite choice in this market in the next issue of MasterMind.
Live presentation and conferencing tools
If you want to find out which alternative truly exist to expensive corporate tools like WebEx, Placeware and HorizonLive, read the next issue of MasterMind Explorer at the end of October.
Find out which alternative, low-cost technologies do actually work and allow you to present, talk, chat and show web sites or PowerPoint presentations online, to your selected audience of students, colleagues or customers.
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