Staff Online

Various authors, PLMedia, Feb 08, 2005
Commentary by Stephen Downes

Christian Spatzierer sent me an email yesterday inviting me to try his company's product, Staff Online, with an eye toward e-learning applications. The idea is that by clicking on a link on a web page you are put into a videoconference with a representative - which could be customer support, an instructor, a mentor, or a tutor. I tried the system, which is based on a Flash interface - this means I didn't install any software, didn't need to do anything, in fact. Using my headset (there is a text window if you're not connected for sound, and their video camera works even if yours doesn't) I chatted for a while with an Staff Online representative from the company's office in Montreal. The sound and video quality were great, though there was an echo when I spoke. The service also supports web touring, which means the representative can show me web pages while she speaks. Were I still tutoring for Athabasca University I would have traded in my telephone for a system like this in a minute (it would probably have been cheaper for the university too). The system is already being used by various community colleges in Quebec. Now it seems to me too that because web pages are used to host the connection, such pages should be thought of as learning objects, and made available through e-learning content syndication networks.
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