A few more words on Google Talk to bring Folks up to date on my explorations.
First, it really does help if each speaker wears good quality headphones – so that the incoming voice does not enter into the other person’s microphone that causes a two-second delayed echo.
Google Talk allows for file sharing. I have exchanged pictures.jpg, word.doc, slides.ppt, and clickable URL that can open up a shared view of a website. I am keen to try out video.imp on Google file-sharing in the next few days. Then with patient slow clear discussions not only cooperative but also collaborative group learning was achieved. Santa Claus might like to know that such VoIP guidance can enable the listener to take an online test with surreptitious fraudulent help from others. We tested it out and the results were perfect. Cooperative learning was achieved by one sender of ppt talking through the content using text-messaging and voice. Collaborative learning was achieved by one person suggesting a potential hypothetical way forward and the other – as well as the speaker – testing this out to see if movement towards a common goal was viable. Then from that stage co-exploring how to move on to a next stage closer to the common goal. All transfers of materiel and all text-messages are archived ; only individual own voice recordings would be necessary in order to produce complete archives of the learning transactions. All this was free of cost, and to a far extent, I believe, a virtual classroom. At least it would be effective for a tutorial, technology skills instruction, and collaboration on ways to proceed with asynchronous media. Accordingly Google Talk is effective in and for distance education, and for open education. In particular with respect to open education, Google Talk would be effective for online tutorials and tutor-student discussions - what may be called 'open-office-hours' when anyone can log in to chat, text-message and file-share to and from each other. Ideal for example for the tutor to comment on a student's essay and get a response from the student in turn (though I hope Santa knows this might not be authenticatable). The advantages would certainly include the any-where aspect, and while the time must be pre-set for both student and teacher to be online at the same time, either could be in pyjamas at the time in a different global time-zone, so this I think would mean the any-time aspect is reasonably fulfilled too. The free-of-cost and superb audio and file-sharing qualities of Google Talk makes this a great distance learning tool. Would this be more convenient than the chat feature in WebCT ? - this would depend largely on whether or not you have the several hundreds of thousands of dollars per year for the WebCT licence. If you do, then WebCT would have the integrated capabilities for such chat to be logged against each student and into their e-learning portfolios, as well as into the tutor's e-teaching portfolio - both of which would clearly be advantageous in mega-universities with thousands of tutors and millions of students.
As far as Google University is concerned and the offer by Google to allow a university to put their own branding on the media, I am not at all convinced this would be acceptable to the institutional authorities just yet. WebCT has been an expensive option with costs being raised year by year, and anything ‘free’ might be viewed with some incredulity. However, I have not reviewed Google University yet, although I find the sponsored hits on Google Search more than annoying nowadays – appearing not only at the top, but intermingled with research results with very tiny words alongside saying sponsored. A flexible and highly adaptive approach to adopting technology seems to be the most recommendable way forward. At the moment Google Talk is really great.
All Best Wishes