Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Guide to Online Meeting/Learning

In depth guide for delivering online learning using elluminate. http://www.jisc.ac.uk/elluminateguidance, Useful ideas whatever tech you use

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Free Online Collaboration Class

I will be running an online training session "overview of online collaboration" next Wednesday 17th February at 9pm GMT. All are welcome, it will last about 1 hour and it is free.

To register please go to the bottom of this blog and click the link.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Learning to meet together - some thoughts

Meeting with others, sharing information, sharing ideas, working together in real-time is incredibly powerful as a way to get things done. You can start a meeting from anywhere at any time and therefore:
  • be much more responsive to opportunities
  • work with the people you want to work with
An example of this for me is recently working on a project with an associate of mine at short notice with a tight deadline. If we had to meet physically then we would never have been able to do it due to other diary commitments. However my associate and I are experienced at collaborating online we both have Skype set up, alternate at screen sharing and we've used lots of different tools in the past. Getting started with a new group of collaborators is tough and even harder when it is your first time.

The key is to start slowly and build up. Using online collaboration tools are a stretch: it isn't always that intuitive and when you are real-time in a meeting it does create some pressure as the group are watching to see how things will work out! I don't advise taking too many risks during the start-up of a group or if the meeting is critical. The meeting content is the focus and the less that technology interferes the better.

At times it is still possible that the technology goes wrong perhaps someone loses connectivity, and you always need a back up plan. It is essential to deal with the problems in a way that suits the group you are working with and not just use a standard procedure.

Different people have different tolerances and I have worked with some collaborators who, when experiencing technical difficulties, wanted to get off line quickly and spend an hour of their time resolving the issues. Many others have wanted to work through with some support. Being mindful of the rest of the group this can mean either: carrying on or re-scheduling for a later time with a slight delay (or perhaps a new date).

Using new technologies can create some very different experiences some require long sign-in procedures and others are easy to drop in to. If the group members don't understand the technology then there is a need to enable them to use it. The safest strategy is to let them learn before the meeting and go through each technology on a 1 to 1 basis, you could also run a screen share training session or just jump into the software. Again this depends on the group.

One tip I would recommend is pick the tool that meets your requirement in the simplest way and highlight a simple way to use it. (e.g. if you are using a whiteboard like Scribblar for the first time with a group and they haven't had any previous experience perhaps ask then just to use the text tool to post up ideas.)

One challenge is knowing when to retreat and when to persevere when things aren't working well. My one recommendation is:- when you go from feeling some discomfort (which is ok) to bordering on panic it is best to move back to something you are more comfortable with. Don't give up though, reflect on your experience, solicit feedback from your collaborators and learn.

The great news is the more you use tools and collaborate online, the more comfortable you become and therefore the more able you are to influence others to stretch a bit further.

If you are working with a regular group you can build on previous successes and start to experiment in a safe environment. Have a go!

Monday, 1 February 2010

Review - Onehub


Onehub is essentially a workspace tool that enables people to develop their collaborative work wherever and whenever they want to.... so in that sense similar to other workspaces

There are a range of options from a free edition to fully fledged enterprise solution with your own corporate branding. The free edition is pretty feature rich (allowing version control of documents) with the main limitation being that you can only have one hub. Onehub are committed to maintaining the free version for the future.

It is a really useful workspace: looks good, is intuitive, is responsive and works smoothly. It feels robust and in my experience has good responsive support.

It is up there for me with box.net. Probably more functionality than box.net and also I didn't perceive it is more difficult for a user to get started with.

What is great about Onehub is the customisation options for the person setting up the workspace. There is a rich set of potential features and functionality and the administrator can use an amazingly simple intuitive design interface.

Onehub's ability to focus the design of each individual hub for the needs of a particular team is incredibly valuable from a usability perspective. Deploying the simplest set of relevant features enables the team to enter quickly and meaningfully to use the workspace. Later additional features can be added when/if the team requires.

I am adding it to the tools I use and will be using it with a team collaboration.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

One to One - Online Meeting Plan

Activity - reviewing technologies to use for a small online discussion group

Participants - An associate and consultant

Technologies - Skype (www.skype.com) for audio/video , www.yuuguu.com for screen sharing (presenting), www.mindmeister.com for brainstorming and http://www.scribblar.com/ as a whiteboard

I was meeting with an associate to review what tools could be used to enable a small discussion group to meet together online on a regular basis.

The structure of the meeting was planned to be open. My associate is IT literate but hadn't used any of the technologies prior to the meeting. He managed to use them all however as should be expected there were some hurdles to overcome.

The call was a Skype video call and we spent some time talking about how Skype imports contacts and how the different statuses work. I found it really useful during the meeting having two screens. My second screen was an extended desktop that had Skype on it with the video call and any background applications I needed such as the Yuuguu screen share.

The big reason I used Yuuguu is the simple web invite that requires no software installing.

While screen sharing I showed a Microsoft PowerPoint presentation. I also showed a youtube video which apparently displayed reasonably well much to my amazement.

I showed mindmeister as well and then invited my associate to control my desktop and have a go. Once this had been done I thought it would be useful for us to both access the mindmap from our own desktops. This proved to be more difficult than I had hoped as an account needed setting up for my associate and in the end we decided to leave it until next time. We did have a go at using the Whiteboard tool from Scriblar which worked very nicely and allows for guest access.

This experience underlined the value of people signing up to the technology prior to meeting if you are going to use it. A way around this, as in the case of Scriblar and yuuguu, is using a technology that has guest access or very simple access.

Another factor is that I had deliberately not sent a pre-invite as I didn’t want to cause any confusion about how mindmeister worked until we met and I guess in that situation I could possibly have created an account in advance.

As we plan to take the group development forward as smoothly as possible we are planning a trial presentation where he can focus on the presenting while I manage the technology. Also I will meet 1-1 with the other group members so that they can have a degree of comfort and confidence when we meet together for the first time. Although it is possible for people to learn how to use the technology as a group it can be difficult and distract from the purpose of the meeting.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Developing a presentation

Activity - Collaborating with a colleague to prepare for a presentation
Participants - 2 presenters
Technologies - Skype (www.skype.com) for audio, video and screen sharing. www.mindmeister.com for brainstorming an outline structure

My colleague and I are presenting on developing learner centred eSystems at a conference later this month.

We were due to meet face to face but as we have at least an inch of snow on the side roads and we are in England we had to cancel our face to face meeting ;-) .... however due to our use of collaboration technologies we had a very productive 2 hour meeting online.

We worked through the different modes of the collaboration model (www.onlinecollaborationconsultant.com).

Firstly we were aware of each other being present on Skype prior to the meeting starting and from there we initiated a call. It felt good to me to be hands free for the meeting so that I could type (or draw) freely.

On this occasion we both had two screens which obviously proved really useful so we could look at two things at once. During the session I typically had the screenshare or mindmap on one screen and a document (or mind map) open on the other.

We started off by developing our planned outline using a mind map I had created on mind meister. This led to discussion via a screenshare within Skype showing some very rough drawings and a section from a book we had contributed to. There were several such mini-presentations of ideas as my colleague developed a bit of the presentation and also drew some useful (much better) diagrams. I found it really useful that we could swiftly change from one person screen sharing to another using the integrated Skype screen sharing.

We finished the session by both working on the mind map structure at the same time and agreeing that we would develop our ideas further before we meet again next week.

Some key benefits:

my colleague lives about 100 miles away and normally we would meet half way, by meeting online we saved time, money and fuel.

We also were able to utilise our own technology during the meeting to it's full rather than use one notebook. This enabled us at times to both work at the same time on different aspects of the presentation.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

New version of Skype includes screen sharing !


The latest version of Skype released on beta includes screen sharing and it is great!!

It is really easy to start and stop sharing your screen and to therefore switch between presenters.

The one downside is that to view a screen share you all need to be on the latest version of Skype http://www.skype.com/intl/en/allfeatures/screensharing/........ the good news is that it works well with Mac or PC.

If you and a colleague don't have the latest version of Skype then I would still recommend www.yuuguu.com for easy access sharing via the Web.