After exploring the different vendors in the synchronous delivery market, I still had questions about GoToMeeting. My first impression after viewing the company’s promotional material—and after hearing their ads on some of my favorite podcasts—was that GoToMeeting’s only strength was is usability and that it didn’t have that much more to offer. I wondered how the free trial compared to the free version, and whether users could save the meetings, and how secure the site was.
Both GoToMeeting and GoToMeetingfree are simple to launch and offer video and screen share. To use the free version, you click “Start Meeting,” and the browser launches the meeting. If your webcam is enabled, your picture appears in a little 1×1.5 inch rectangle, regardless of your monitor size or resolution, in the lower left-hand corner of the window, with buttons for the mic and cam. From here you can email the meeting’s link to participants or invite people through Facebook (Figure 1). There is no way to make the video larger, so this would be a bad alterative if you needed to demonstrate something in person. Also, the screen-share will not show presentations through the Web. For example, you can show an open browser window or a document on your screen after clicking “Share your screen,” but if you switch windows or launch a presentation on the Web, the participants will not be able to see this on their screens. Security might also be an issue, since your meeting is broadcast on the Internet, and Norton Security did not reassure me that the connection was secure or safe as it did in the free trial. Overall, this service is a good alternative for those not already signed up with Skype, since it offers instant video/audio chat and limited screen-share options. It is not good for much else. I left the experience a little disappointed; you get what you pay for.
On the other hand, the free trial was a pleasant surprise. Not only does GoToMeeting offer a “simple and easy to use” experience, but it also offers chat, better security than its free version, and the ability to record the session. Signing up was so simple that I proceeded to record my first session on a whim.
After you sign in, a tutorial pops up and walks you through the process of scheduling a meeting (Figure 2). I scheduled mine for one minute ahead, and invited no one to my experiment. As Figure 3 shows, after scheduling a meeting, you are prompted to click a .exe file that appears at the bottom of the browser.
It took less than two minutes to connect and start the meeting without straining a basic bandwidth connection. Unlike with my GoToMeetingfree trial, Norton Security informed me that the connection was safe.
I began recording the session as soon as it popped up, so I could test the sound and video quality and see how quickly it downloads and converts the media file. The controls are self-explanatory and easy to locate. Compared to GoToMeetingfree, the paid version offers a much-improved screen share experience. I was able to display online presentations and annotate documents on my screen. A presenter can also hide toolbars from participants and pause the screen share to make transitioning from one resource to another seamless. I imagine that it would only take another session for me to feel confident enough to use this for a course.
Once you end the meeting, the session is automatically converted and downloaded to your computer as a Windows Media Player file. I’m not sure how this process would differ on a Mac. The ten-minute session became a 6.25 MB file. From here, I could upload the video to YouTube and share the link with my class or embed the video on the class website. This proces took a few minutes, and Norton told me that the process used a sizable ambout of my computer’s processing power.
By watching the video, I could assess the particpant’s experience. The first thing I noticed was that audio quality was horrible. Although I conducted a sound check using a tool avaiable through GoToMeeting to check the volume before recording, I could not check for quality without feedback from my (nonexistant) participants. During the session, the sound broke up while still being audible. I suspect the problem is with my computer’s built-in microphone, and if I wanted to record sessions for class or publication, I would invest in an external microphone. The video, conversely, was fine, and the screen-sharing experience met my expectations.
Going forward, I would recommend GoToMeetingfree only for teachers who do not have access to another sychronous delivery market, and even then only for small-group tutoring, open office hours, or oral assessments. GoToMeeting is a viable option for schools that are not interested in incorporating an LMS or for teachers who want to expand their reach by offering video-tutorials online, either for a flipped classroom or for remediation. It is worth noting that GoToMeeting is expanding and now offers a webinar service and a training service, which both offer tools similar to the more robust Blackboard Connect. Schools interested in offering a virtual experience to students should definitely consider GoToMeeting as an option, especially if the teachers are more hesitant to adopt newer technology and might feel overwhelmed by the resources available through Adobe or Blackboard.