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Collaborative Tools

Collaborative tools will be important to ELabs in at least two ways:
  1. Allowing the developers to collaborate with each other even though they are in separate locations.
  2. Allowing the participants (teachers, students, scientists) to collaborate, whether or not they are in separate locations.

There are lots of tools available, so the challenge is not to find them, but to find what works best for our purposes. The sections below are just general divisions; many tools fulfill multiple functions.

Shared document spaces

There are two general classes of shared document tools: wikis and Content Management Systems (CMS).

We should also mention:

wiki software

  • Based on his experience this year, Tom really likes wikispaces, which provides hosted sites free to K-12 teachers, and which is exceptionally easy to use.
  • Based trying various wikis, Eric really likes http://www.mediawiki.com
  • This developers workspace is Twiki, a very popular and well-heeled wiki environment. See this fine overview of its features.

Content Management Systems

  • Blackboard
  • WebCT
  • Sakai
  • Moodle


  • BOINC, the software framework used by LIGO's Einstein@Home project, includes discussion forums [sic],

Conferencing tools

  • EVO (formerly VRVS)

  • Skype - Skype allows text chats, voice calls, and video conferencing. Skype-to-Skype connections are free, but Skype can also connect to land lines, via services called SkypeOut and SkypeIn. SkypeOut service costs about 0.02 Euros/min, and a SkypeIn phone number costs about 10.00 Euros/year. LIGO, and Caltech sites in general, are not allowed to use Skype because it makes some computer security specialists nervous because it will find a way through firewalls using alternative ports (such as port 443, normally for https, or even port 80). That's a weak argument against it, because relying on security by port-blocking is weak security. Skype is closed-source code, so there may be security vulnerabilities the public does not know about. Eric and Mihael use Skype chat from time to time.

  • iChat

  • Pidgen

Presentation tools

  • WLAP - the Web Lecture Archive Project http://www.wlap.org - was started as a collaboration between CERN and the ATLAS group at the University of Michigan. WLAP produced a tool called Syncomat 2000, which could play streaming video using RealMedia while displaying full-sized images of slides from a PowerPoint presentation, with the slides changing at the right time during the talk. Fermilab uses (or used?) this software for recording and presenting colloquia [link?].

  • YouTube http://www.youtube.com - just record a video, upload it, and give the link out to anyone who might be interested. Publishing video content is now very easy.
  • Or upload, broadcast, embed video live from Ustream.com
Free video streaming by Ustream -- Main.EricMyers - 28 May 2008
Topic revision: r15 - 2019-05-22, AdminUser
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