Most educators who have taught online are familiar with Wimba and Elluminate. These tools allow educators to hold synchronous meetings online where teachers can share presentations, chat with their students with text or audio and interact in real-time with attendees. Wimba and Elluminate are great tools for teaching online but can be very expensive, especially for an entire university or school district to adopt. BigMarker, however, provides a great alternative to these tools and it’s completely free. Want to create an open lecture room where people can drop in? BigMarker supports that. Want to have a private session attended by only those people you select? BigMarker supports that as well. The really nice feature is that BigMarker allows people to hold online web conferences which are open to the general public and people from around the world can attend. Looking at the schedule of upcoming conferences, there’s a variety of sessions on preparing for a bar exam, repairing computers, or designing web pages. You can browse the sessions and drop in on the ones that sound interesting. Or you can hold your own. If you’re really enterprising, you can purchase the premium version where you can charge attendees who attend your web conference.
Many people’s perception of online instruction is that the communication and interaction can only occur through asynchronous manners. While discussion boards, blogs and wikis are valuable tools for online teaching, tools like BigMarker can foster real-time, synchronous interactions and can allow teachers to take those rich discussions that occur in face-to-face environments and move them online.