Web conferencing connects students, lecturers and staff at their computers wherever they are located, via the Internet. Anyone with a computer and Internet access can be invited to join a web conference session, even if they are not based on campus. Participants communicate in real-time through audio, text chat and video, and interact via a shared whiteboard space. Sessions can be recorded for later viewing.
Web conferencing has a growing role in higher education, for example:
- enabling real-time online lectures, tutorials, support and group work for students in different locations;
- improving communication and community building between staff and distance students;
- allowing staff to use a virtual office to consult with students;
- involving guest speakers and external experts in lectures;
- assisting academic and support staff on different campuses in coordinating their work with students; and
- connecting staff for participation in broader professional networks.
Blackboard Collaborate can be used for web conferencing and virtual classrooms with features such as two-way audio, multi-point video, interactive whiteboard, application and desktop sharing, rich media, breakout rooms, and session recording.
The service allows users to communicate with peers by voice, video, and instant messaging over the Internet. Phone calls may be placed to recipients on the traditional telephone networks. Calls to other users within the Skype service are free of charge, while calls to landline telephones and mobile phones are charged via a debit-based user account system. Skype has also become popular for its additional features, including file transfer, and videoconferencing
Rather than exchange emails with someone when you'd rather just get an answer instantly it is possible to use Gmail's chat features. The contacts you're already emailing the most show up in your Quick Contacts as themselves it is possible to save your chats.