video conferencing for language education

When you think of online language education, you first think of a teacher and a class of language students, all talking together via a video link, right? Well, the reality unfortunately is a little different.

Unless the school or university you work for has a lot of money to invest in hardware or software (which your students are going to have to end up paying for in higher course fees) you’ll probably be teaching languages online with tools that look very much like a traditional webpage. This is great when we don’t need to talk to our students “live” , but when we do, surely we can manage better than this?

I found Dimdim recently, which allows you to create your own video conference and online meeting classroom, for up to 20 participants, for free! There are no complicated downloads for the meeting participants and no expensive hosting packages for the teacher or school. Dimdim also includes all sorts of useful features for online language teachers like a whiteboard, one to one chat and group chat as well as other handy features like a shared desktop, PowerPoint and PDF file sharing.

For those of us that want unlimited numbers of conference participants, you can even download all the files needed for free and setup your own online meetings server. You will need your own webhosting , something that many schools will already have, you may also need to upgrade the webhosting service you have to a more powerful package, but when you compare this to the prices of commercially available online meeting and conferencing packages, you are still likely to be saving a large amount. You can also then start to fiddle about with the look of your Dimdim server so that it matches your school’s identity and look.

I must admit, I have only tried out Dimdim with one other person so far, but it seemed easy enough to set up. I had hoped that I would be able to see the video of all participants, but the video broadcasting is only for the teacher. Dimdim do say they are working on a version with “Multiple Presenters,” we’ll have to see.

I did like the fact that you could choose whether to allow your students to only have audio or text chat, students can “put up their hand” to allow them to attract the teacher’s attention, the teacher can also decide how many participants can speak at one time (online lessons can get chaotic if everyone talks at once.) There are a host of other useful features, certainly too many to list here.

If you’d like to try out Dimdim with us, please feel free to come along to an online meting I have setup at 09.00 C.E.T. on Saturday 28th June. We will be discussing how you could use Dimdim with a class, and will try out several of the features of the software.

To access the meeting, simply follow this URL: http://tinyurl.com/6zlrt7

Looking forward to meeting you online soon!