Video conferencing can bring wonderful expert resources directly into your classroom. Video chat applications can be used to allow your class to chat with an expert in their field, allowing the students to ask questions and interact with your guest. Video chat has been used on campus to hold an online debate between two individuals in different parts of the country and the students in the class. This brings an invaluable learning experience directly to your students without the cost or difficulty of bringing the experts to campus. Most video chat applications allow for only two-way chatting when video is involved but there are now a few that offer more participants.
Skype just launched it’s new Windows beta version that finally allows more than two people to participate in video chat. While it sounds great there are a few issues. First it’s for Windows only so you won’t be able to contact anyone who is using a Mac. Second, everyone on the call must be using the new Skype 5.0 beta 2. Third, Skype’s description reads, “This beta version comes with a free trial of group video calling. Video call up to nine of your friends” implying that eventually you will need to pay for the service. I haven’t seen anything on the web on what it will cost however. Skype is promising a Mac update by the end of the year.
If you’re interested in a more flexible video chat experience you may want to look at TokBox. TokBox offers a free service that allows up to 20 participants. It’s both Mac and Windows compatible. They currently do not have a Linux version nor do they support the Chrome browser.
If’ you’re interested in using video chat in your classes and would like some help then just contact your Instructional Technologist. In addition, TLT also has webcams available for checkout!