Deciding What Communication Tool to Use
How Important is Price?
This is a young field with new products emerging continually. If the product you want is not available at a price you can pay, someone may write software to fill the demand.
Costs vary from free to thousands of dollars.
Usually, you get what you pay for, but not always.
Some freeware is very powerful. Often Universities develop software and make it available to other institutions for a nominal price.
What Kind of Server is Needed?
Some software will run only on a specific kind of computer operating system. Software for Unix is most common.
Most software is not multi platform. Software for the Mac is most limited.
What Kind of Client is Needed?
Technology demands are not too great. Most programs only require a computer with a modern web browser.
Lotus Notes requires a proprietary client loaded on each machine.
What Else is Required?
Most require an administrator with some technical experience to install and maintain the software.
Some require specific browsers or browsers with certain features.
No two instructors want to teach the same way. If possible, choose software that allows the instructor to customize the way the software is used. Unfortunately, the most customizable and flexible the software, the more time is required to learn how to use it effectively.
What Makes a Good Conferencing System?
Separate conferences for subject areas.
Threaded discussions within conferences.
An informative topic list.
Support for both frequent and casual readers.
Search and filter tools.
Performance - waiting for web pages to load.
User Interface - students and instructors need explanation and practice.
Every product has strengths and weaknesses.