This page will explore various freely available options for online communications. It will begin with consideration of some video tools which may include chat, whiteboard, desktop sharing, etc.

Video Online Tools

Guiding Questions:

Value of Video
  • How do various tools add value above live video of the presenter/participants?

Synchronous Communication
  • When is synchronous communication important to your teaching and learning practice?
  • What might each tool do to increase educational outcomes in your course?

Asynchronous/Archival Capabilies
  • Can sessions/broadcasts be recorded and archived?
  • What are the limitations on time, length, file size?
  • Are the archives hosted on a remote server?
  • May the archives be downloaded? File type?
  • May the archives be edited?

What are advantages and disadvantages of "free" tools?
  • What are the limitations of "free" tools?
  • What can be gained from a "subscription"?
  • How much does that cost?

User Experience
  • How difficult is the use and/or management of the tool?
  • What is the learning curve for both faculty and online learners?
  • How many people may participate at one time? One to one or one to many?

Technical Requirements and Support
  • Who provides user support?
  • What are the technical requirements to be able to successfully use each tool?
  • What computing platform is supported?
  • Is there a mobile version (of a particular tool) for smartphones, iPad, other devices?

Video Chat/Conferencing - (Freely available tools)


Overview of tinychat (tinychat introduction) (*Dated, but very useful. Check on current version and capabilities for possible new options.)
by Kevin J O'Shea, last edited by Brent Alan Scamihorn on Dec 07, 2009
Located on 9-13-2011 at

Review: tinychat (Creating A Free Personal Chat Room With Various Features)
Located on 9-13-2011 at

Building online learning communities with Tinychat
Personal account of tinychat test in an educational setting and thoughts about future use.
Located on 9-13-2011 at


7 Things You Should Know About Ustream

Example of embedded USTREAM channel: (Note: This is an embedded window to a ustream channel. Video will only be displayed during a live broadcast)

Live video by Ustream

Embedded recording of a broadcast

Costs for Pro version
Most faculty are looking for free tools. However, at some level, free tools present limitations and subscription becomes a topic of consideration. As of 9-14-2001, the lowest price for a subscription to USTREAM is $99 per month and likely not possible for most faculty.

Examples of educational use of USTREAM

Other Tools and Resources


The free version of Skype may be used to:
  • Skype-to-Skype calls
  • One-to-one video calls
  • Instant messaging
  • Screen sharing
This may provide an option for (one to one) online faculty office hours, quick personal consultations, etc. with one other person.

See how it works.
Short video to show the ease of making a Skype video call.

Skype Premium is required ($4.95 per month) to:
Get together with three or more3 people over group video.
  • Unlimited2 calls to the US and Canada
  • Group video calling and screen sharing
  • Live chat customer support

Promotional video to demonstrate capabilities of Skype Group Video Call

Feature list and pricing.

Teaching with Technology: Technology Tools for Supporting Communication and Collaboration,

ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2010