Those who can't do... teach online.
February 23, 2009 1:23 PM   Subscribe

I would like to teach one-on-one computer classes from home (over the Internet). What's the state-of-the-art re: live screen casting?

Yes, I know nothing beats being in a room with a real teacher, but I'd like to give this a try. I have 20 years of teaching experience. I teach design and programming topics. I've been waiting for the time when I can say, "You live in California and I live in NYC, but I can still teach you Actionscript programming..."

Years ago, when I first wanted to do this, the tech wasn't ready. I have a feeling it is now. Am I right? Is it finally achievable for me to share my screen in close-to-real time with another Broadband user?

How much would this cost? How could I make it easy for the other person to set up, etc.?

I own a Mac, but I'd like to teach both Mac and PC people.

PS. I know I could make video tutorials, but that space is glutted. I'd prefer to offer live training in which my student could ask questions, etc.
posted by grumblebee to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
In our neck of the woods, we use GoToMeeting. Their fact sheet says it handles both windows and mac connections. We're a PC shop so I can't comment on the Mac experience. The PC experience has been quite acceptable for us and our customers.
posted by plinth at 1:33 PM on February 23, 2009

Another vote for GoToMeeting. We use both Macs and PCs, and while it's a little quirky on the Mac (the console appears to PC users as a little black box on the side of the screen) it gets the job done. However, at $600 a year, it may be a little on the pricey side.

There are also free tools, with which I'm not as familiar, but that may do the job for you. I'd recommend trying them out in your likely configurations (Mac-to-PC, Mac-to-Mac) and seeing which is easiest to use. Here's a list from a librarian's site that may help get you started.
posted by ad_hominem at 2:24 PM on February 23, 2009

At my old job we used webex. The client is a cross-platform java app. It also does video and audio.
posted by damn dirty ape at 2:33 PM on February 23, 2009

I really like Adobe ConnectNow, because the person on the other end doesn't have to download any special software.

It lets you do screencasting from either your screen or the other participant's, and you can send text messages to one or more participants. For audio, I used the phone.

It's currently in free. Technically in Beta, but I've found it stable enough for client work.

That said, I've also used ConnectNow and WebEx when I worked for a big company, and think they're both good ... but expensive, and both require the person on the other end to install a small bit of software.
posted by CruiseSavvy at 2:47 PM on February 23, 2009

Er, I meant to type: "I've also used GoToMeeting..."
posted by CruiseSavvy at 2:49 PM on February 23, 2009

Oh, if you want free without the hassle of working around firewalls or anything you can use Crossloop and do a support session.
posted by damn dirty ape at 2:50 PM on February 23, 2009

CrossLoop is free, and works pretty well....
posted by xammerboy at 2:51 PM on February 23, 2009

A second vote for ConnectNow. If you'll be charging for the training, you might want to look at the full version of Connect Pro: It has practically every feature you could want, and as CruiseSavvy pointed out, it's nicest feature is that your customers won't have anything to download/install - it runs through Flash Player, so as long as you're training someone in the 99% of folks who have that, they will already be set to go. Connect Pro has almost every imaginable pricing scheme available.
posted by robhuddles at 3:33 PM on February 23, 2009

I've used dimdim before and been happy; it lets you stream both your desktop and participants webcams, plus it's free. No funky plugins.
posted by jenkinsEar at 5:39 PM on February 23, 2009

I've been using Elluminate to pretty decent effect for the past couple of months. It's free for three people or less. Both client and server requires Java via web browser. Whatever you end up using, I suggest testing both the server and client software on a few different setups/screen resolutions. I've had some pretty frustrating meetings with my clients not being able to see what I was working on because they weren't maximizing windows, looking in the right place, etc.
posted by funkiwan at 5:49 PM on February 23, 2009

I've taught in classrooms since 1996, and I've developed eLearning since 2001, but I've also tried live screen casting, most recently with GoToMeeting and Adobe ConnectNow (which is free for up to three people -- you have to go Pro, I believe, if you will be holding larger classes). A very fast Net connection is a very good thing to have, and cheap long distance or VoIP is crucial.

No matter what software you use, you may find that your teaching style isn't a good match for it, at least not right away. It's one thing to hold an hour long meeting this way, but running a full class may be more exhausting than a regular classroom session. As you tire, you may find yourself drifting into behaviours that no longer fit your environment: for example, I sometimes find myself slipping after a few hours and pointing to elements on the screen with my finger. That doesn't work too well for the student, I've been told.

One day we may have the equivalent of a holodeck to teach people on, but those of us who have a large kinaesthetic element to our communication style may feel somewhat frustrated until we adapt to the current software options. Get some friends, colleagues and guinea pigs to play with you a couple of times, at least, before running a class.
posted by maudlin at 6:46 PM on February 23, 2009

Here's a third endorsement for Adobe's Connectnow. I've been putting it through its paces over the last two months and I love it. It's nice because it can fit the skill level of the user. I've done trainings with people who were not technically skilled and it worked as a simple tele-conference. I've also used it with expert learners and took advantage of it's bells and whistles, you can send files through the interface, use a webcam, request control of the other users' system, etc.

It's free for up to three people at the moment . . .
posted by jeremias at 7:25 PM on February 23, 2009

I've used pretty much everything - WebEx, GotoMeeting, Adobe Connectnow, LiveMeeting (and "EasyAssist"), etc. There is nothing I truly "love" (well - the Microsoft products are very polished - but not cross-platform) - but I don't use these for teaching/training sessions - mainly for live troubleshooting

On of my favorite tech authors (and all-around nice guy) recently blogged about his experience doing a lecture using Skype & Mikogo - here.
posted by jkaczor at 10:10 AM on February 25, 2009

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