Video-conferencing is one of the whiz-bang things modern technology can do – real people images, real-time. But it requires expensive equipment – what if it could all be done on-line on your own computer?
FlashMeeting, developed by the Knowledge Media Institute at The Open University, started as a way of encouraging student interaction in a European learning project back in 2003 and since then has grown into a global community of more than 30,000 education and business users enabling live and on-line video communication from a simple computer. A further 20,000 people view recordings of Flashmeetings.
Peter Scott, director of KMi, explains:
Alan Fletcher and Peter Scott
FlashMeeting has just won an E-wellbeing Award 2008 in the category of Better Ways of Working. These awards are unique in celebrating the social, economic and environmental benefits of Information and Communication Technologies. This national award is presented by the UK Centre for Economic and Environmental Development, whose funding comes from National, local and European government, businesses, environmental organisations and charitable trusts.
FlashMeeting is an easy-to-use, online video meeting system that can be used from any computer, anywhere in the world, and requires only an internet connection, microphone and web camera. There are no complicated downloads and it allows up to 50 users per meeting to conduct live video and audio meetings, “text chat” and share whiteboards.
On top of that, it records everything, allowing users to review meetings at a later date and analyse the meeting content and structure with features unique to FlashMeeting.
Alan Fletcher, KMi’s business development manager, comments: “Imagine this, not only can you record everyone’s input to the meeting as video, audio and text chat, giving you instant meeting minutes, but you get analysis to see who had what level of input, mapping your meeting for group dynamic. How cool is that?”
Of course, the key environmental benefit of FlashMeeting is the reduction of carbon emissions. Since KMi began FlashMeeting, the carbon saved by avoiding travelling to meetings is estimated at hundreds of thousands of tonnes.
In a social context, the system has supported cross-community communication and enabled global interaction. It has benefited health and education communities, enabling the formation of patient and pupil groups across multiple locations. The number of new users is constantly growing, and the wider community is able to access the application and gauge its benefits by viewing public meetings.
The Open University also was Highly Commended in the Reaching the Digitally Excluded category for its OpenLearn project providing free access to selected OU course materials online including use of FlashMeeting.