Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Available services for online discussions

Just today, Professor Anna Theresa Santiago tweeted that Vice Chancellor Josefina Tayag encourages professors to assign activities to students and/or conduct online discussions. In this line, I will talk shortly about available services for online discussions.

While there are many online services available, each has its strength. Let's take a look at some:
  • Instant Messaging
Using the Conference feature of your IM client (eg, Yahoo! Messenger, Google Chat, AIM, etc.), you can talk to many participants in a conference in near real-time.

Yahoo! Messenger or IM-only software
Strength: Number of participants almost limitless
Weakness: Text only. Sharing files available but participants need to download. Participants need to use the same system.
How to use: Assuming all your students use the same system, you ask them prior to logging in that you will be available online at a particular time. Once all of them are online, you invite them to join the online conference. You may want to set "house rules" in that particular conference as an online conference can be very unstructured.
  • Blogs
The good thing about blog is that you can talk at length about a topic (like a lecture), and then ask your students to give their comments.

Strength: Allows non-realtime interaction. Participants can respond to other participants even at different times. Allows posting of other online resources, such as online video from YouTube or online slideshows.
Weakness: Interaction not as dynamic as IM. You maybe typing a comment that someone else has already entered, so you are not able to support or respond to one another.
How to use: You create your blog. You share the particular post you want them to read, and then ask them to post their comments. Most blogs ask participants to register before leaving a comment.
  • Online forums
Also called message boards (eg, Proboards.com), Online forums allow one to post a comment/issue, then all other interested participants can respond. Your participants need to be registered (ie, like a member of an organization) to respond and leave a comment. Your participants are relatively permanent.

Strength: Captures your audience
Weakness: Not realtime.
How to use: You create a message board, and then invite your students to register. After they register, you create your first thread/topic, and students respond.
  • Online Presentations
If you use Google Docs or the UPM Post Mail (http://post.upm.edu.ph) you can upload your presentations or documents, have others read it, while you talk about it, in the same screen. People can also interact with you like in IM, also in the same screen.

Strengths: Multi-channel (text, visual and other available online resources) near-realtime communication
Weaknesses: People have to have Google Mail or UPM Post Mail.
How to use: You upload your presentation (or document) to Google Docs, then invite your participants by sharing them. People will need to log in or register using the link you send them.

Of course, you can use any combination of these.

If you have questions, just IM me.


  1. Dimdim (www.dimdim.com) would be the most effective tool for online discussion with the ability to broadcast ppt slides. But it's limited to just 20 participants for the free version. I have tried conducting online classes before using dimdim. You might want to evaluate this and post an article on it.
    -Bryann Chua

  2. In an age when event budgets are being cut and broadband Internet access is rising, webinars are becoming increasingly popular. Webinars are web-based seminars, that usually include over 30 participants and are used to conduct presentations, workshops, lectures and large-scale meetings. Since webinars are held online, they allow companies to save money on travel, catering and venues, all of which are costs commonly associated with face-to-face seminars. However, due to their large attendance, webinars need careful planning in order to be successful. This is why those planning on free webinar hosting need to take their time to ensure that they properly go through all the necessary steps which will ensure the webinar’s success.