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Monday, November 19, 2012

9 Ways Students Can Host Peer Tutoring Sessions Online

During my last year as an undergraduate studying history and political science I got my first taste of teaching by running short tutoring sessions for freshmen who were in U.S. History 101 courses. In those days tutoring had to happen in the university library or in a vacant classroom. Today, thanks to web conferencing tools, students don't even need to be in the same country in order to tutor each other. Here are some good tools that students can use to host peer tutoring sessions online.

The Obvious Options
Skype is probably the most obvious option for hosting an online tutoring session. The screen sharing option makes it easy to talk and show diagrams or other images to aid explanations. The limitation is that for group video conferencing you need to have a premium Skype account.

Last week Google announced that Google+ can now be activated inside Google Apps for Education domains. This means that students within the same domain can host Google+ Hangouts. In a Google+ Hangout students can video conference, text chat, share documents, share their screens, and use third party apps like Concept Board to host online collaborative brainstorming sessions. Outside of a Google Apps for Education domain students who are 13+ can host Google+ Hangouts to use for peer tutoring.

The Lesser-Known Options
Live Minutes is a service offering free hosting for webinars. It takes less than thirty seconds to set-up a webinar on Live Minutes. To get started just click "start sharing" and a meeting space is created for you. That meeting space is assigned a URL that you can share with the people you want to join you. Live Minutes offers a good selection of tools that you can utilize to share ideas with others. You can talk to each other using either the Live Minutes audio or by connecting through Skype. Live Minutes offers a collaborative whiteboard for drawing. Uploading images and documents for others to see and comment on is also an option. And in the future Live Minutes will allow you to share videos during your webinar.

Any Meeting is a nice service for hosting and recording live webinars without installing any special software. When using Any Meeting as a webinar host you can share your screen, use your webcam, and use text chat all at the same time. As the webinar host you can invite others to talk to the group using their webcams. You can have up to six webcams active in a webinar at any one time. You can record all or part of your webinar for free too. If you have people that just want to participate in the audio aspect of your webinar, they can call in using the phone number and access code assigned to your webinar.

Meetings.io is a registration-free tool for hosting online video conferences. Meetings.io allows you to have up to five people in a room. You can start using Meetings.io by simply clicking on the blue "Get a Meeting Room" button. When you click that button Meetings.io will create your room and assign it a URL to share with the people you want to video conference with. Once the room is created just allow Meetings.io to access your webcam and you're in business. You can make your room public or private after it has been created. If you do want to register on Meetings.io, you can. Registering on Meetings.io allows you to create a personalized room with a URL chosen by you. That room is yours to use as many times as you like.

Meetingl is a free service for hosting video conferences. A Meetingl conference room can be created in less than a minute. To create your room just go to the site, click "New Room," name your room, and send out invitations. To broadcast your video and audio select "allow" when you're asked if you want to grant Meetingl access to your computer. Mettingl is flash-based so you and your conference participants will need to be on a laptop or desktop computer.

Join.me is a free service offered by Log Me In. Join.me allows Mac and Windows users to quickly share their screens with each other and work together. To use Join.me you do need to download the Join.me client. Once you've downloaded the client you can start sharing your screen with anyone you like. Just give your nine digit access number to your collaborators to give them access to your screen and to converse with you. Use Join.me to share a slide presentation and chat or share scientific calculator on your screen and explain to students how to solve an equation.

VSee is an alternative to Skype for hosting a video conference and sharing your desktop with others. Just as with Skype, you can hold multiple party calls and share your screen with another person. Where VSee tries to differentiate itself is in the quality of their calls and connection speeds. VSee offers HD video for clear call quality. For mobile users, VSee claims to use 50% less bandwidth than Skype.  Sharing files through VSee is a simple drag and drop process of just dragging your file onto another person's video window during your call.

Big Marker is a free service for conducting online conferences. Big Marker is a great option for conducting online tutoring sessions, brainstorming sessions, and other online presentations. Big Marker allows you to create your choice of a private or a public online meeting room. If you make your room public anyone can join. If you make your room private you have to give participants a password to enter the room.  Once in your Big Marker conference room you can share screens, chat via text, chat via audio, or turn on your webcam so that people can see and hear you. Your Big Marker conference room comes with a white board that you and your participants can write and draw on. As the creator of a Big Marker conference you can control who can and cannot be heard or seen in the live audio and video chats.

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