I looked through the information provided for the different vendors that supply software for synchronous classes. Since, at this point, I’m not interested in a complete LMS I looked at GoToMeeting. I have used this as a participant and have found it to be easy to use and participate in across different platforms. I decided to look at it from the point of view of a host. I used the program on my iPad and wanted a program that would be easy to host in that environment.
I looked through documentation on how to host a meeting. I didn’t find anything specifically for the iPad but the directions were fairly easy to follow. It seems to be very easy to mute and unmute different members of the meeting as well as to present material on a shared screen. I tried importing a picture, a document, working on a website, and annotating on the screens while I was talking. It was very easy to use all of these functions in GoToMeeting. I was able to record the meeting but am still trying to figure out how to retrieve the recording to playback at a later time. The directions for this step don’t translate well to the iPad.
Using GoToMeeting would be a very easy way to share a discussion with a class. The program has functions so that students would easily be able to comment and write on the shared screen. I know the sessions can be recorded and saved for later viewing because I have viewed recorded sessions myself. The controls are easy to use and the initial set up of the meting is simple. It is also easy to change screens as you are in the meeting. I stopped recording each time to change screens but there is no need to.
I can see using the program when introducing a new program. I use a lot of specific programs when teaching both Earth Science and Environmental Science. Giving a list of directions is helpful and I’ve also shared YouTube videos. Being able to show students exactly what I want them to do would make the lessons much easier for the students. I found that the students I saw in my classroom and could demonstrate how to use the program figured out what to do much faster than my online students did.
An example of that is when I introduce my students to a website for the first time. When I was trying to share a website in GoToMeeting I was unable to have it find the link and go to it but I went to the website with screen sharing on and the program continued to record what I was saying. I want to retrieve that session so that I can see exactly what was saved from the session. I often use Puffin browser on my iPad because it allows flash programs to run and I was making a demonstration of how to use Google earth engine to show time lapse changes. I don’t know if the problem was because it was trying to run the program in Safari, which doesn’t work, or there was another problem with how I was trying to access the website. I suspect that I wouldn’t have a problem if I was working on a desktop or laptop. The program is finicky about running on different platforms at the best of times.
This would be a great way to introduce a topic and to go over concepts that I want to make sure the students understand completely, like the difference between erosion and weathering. It would be very easy to have everyone submit pictures and determine what they show. The annotation aspect would make it easy to show where there is movement so that the difference between the two terms is clear.
I can also see an advantage in using this platform when demonstrating a lab and going over the results of labs that the students have done at home. For a situation like that you would probably want to mute the microphone for everyone but the presenter and teacher until the initial explanation is done so that distractions are reduced. That seems to be very easy to do in the GoToMeeting platform.
I feel that all of the platforms can probably handle a simple meeting like this equally well, some may have a slightly larger learning curve. I feel that having an element in an online class where teachers and students can interact in real time would be beneficial to everyone. Now I’m going to try to retrieve my recordings or try again if I still can’t do so.