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By Jane Himmel, Associate Director, Center for Distributed Learning
High fuel costs and concerns for the environment are causing many of us to reduce the number of trips we make for errands and work. We are fortunate to live in an age when technology makes it possible to conduct many business activities from remote locations when necessary. One type of technology that may be overlooked is web conferencing. Meeting organizers often book campus conference rooms for meetings when other options that do not require attendees to be physically present would work just as well.
Wimba Classroom is a web conferencing tool that supports audio (using VOIP[1} or telephone), video, application sharing, and other interactive features for online classroom environments. Although Wimba was designed for online classes and blended learning situations, it serves business needs equally well.
For meetings or in training situations, presenters can upload PowerPoint presentations and share the desktop, documents, or web pages. Participants can be invited via email and do not need an account to participate. Both presenters and participants can participate via voice or text. (A microphone or headset is required for VOIP.) Those who have web cams can be visually present as well. Built-in polling and survey tools allow voting and sharing of results onscreen. An electronic whiteboard enables presenters or participants the ability to highlight or draw in the content area. Perhaps best of all, an archiving feature allows the presenter to record the meeting for future review or for the benefit of those who could not attend. Audio of the meeting can be downloaded in standard MP3 format.
Wimba Classroom is cross platform compatible, working in Windows, Macs, and Linux environments. The product is hosted on servers at Wimba.com and is available 24/7. A Support Center offers a knowledgebase as well as 24/7 email and phone support. Quick Start Training resources and demos will get you up to speed quickly on using Wimba Classroom. To sign up for a live demo in Wimba Classroom or to view an archived version, please go to http://www.wimba.com/products/wimbaclassroom/.
Part of the company’s mission is to develop software with the goal of meeting or exceeding globally recognized accessibility guidelines, as defined in Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act (U.S. Government), as well as W3C-WAI and SENDA (UK). To learn more about how Wimba Classroom meets accessibility standards, go to: http://www.wimba.com/products/accessibility/. Wimba also provides a best practices guide for presenters called Accessibility Best Practices Guide for Wimba Classroom.
Wimba is available as a standalone web product and is also available within Blackboard Vista. To request a virtual meeting space on the standalone version of Wimba Classroom, please email Mary Speight in the Center for Distributed Learning at email@example.com. (Note that Wimba virtual rooms can be reused for multiple meetings.) For any other questions or to request a demo from CDL, please email Jane Himmel (firstname.lastname@example.org).
[i] Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), is a technology that allows you to make voice calls using a broadband Internet connection instead of a regular (or analog) phone line.