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Free collaborative tools for elearning

There are more and more collaborative services that claim to be web2.0 and dedicated to individuals and small companies. Here are four of them: free and with similar features to the most famous virtual classes.


SparkAngels claims to be the first online coaching service. It is a collaborative tool limited to two people: a user and his coach, the SparkAngel.

VoIP communication and instant messenger allow the two people to communicate. The service makes it possible to access the desktop from distance and to guide the user through popups for instance. Technically there is no need for any communication port but downloading may be required (Java Webstart app).

The aim is to tackle digital exclusion to give a solution so that " skills among certain types of population may be shared with other people unfamiliar with technology". The thing now is to develop places where those people get access to computers and benefit from the solution.

There is a professionnal offer too, it is possible to customize the application with personal logos instead of SparkAngel ones. Darty, a French company, chose their solution last month and proposes a distant DartyBox support. DartyBox is a French box to provide internet connexion, VoIP and video ;)

Widgets should soon be available to be inserted in websites to facilitate the relation between users and SparkAngel.

Combattre l'exclusion numérique en s’adaptant aux besoins de ses utilisateurs à venir avec des services qui les aident à s’approprier la toile


update of January 2011: Salesforce.com Acquires Dimdim. The GPL version is always available, but it's not sure that we can benefit of new enhancement. If you have an interest for DimDim, stay tuned :)

A true virtual class. Slides import, desktop and applications sharing, audio and video communication, multi-users instant messenger, invitation by mail. DimDim may be integrated with Moddle and Sugar CRM.

The DimDim license is GPL, hosted on sourceforge. Important features are currently on development phase: quizz, recording, links with Outlook and Google Calendar and so on.

Uncommon: the official website explains that "The Dimdim open source edition is meant ... for usage in Non-Critical Environments ... The Enterprise Edition is a much more stable, scalable and reliable piece of software which is fully supported and certified by Dimdim, the company. The Open source community supports the Open Source edition".

The company provides you with professional services regarding technical bugs and helps you with the tool.

The Dimdim open source edition

dimdim, une classe virtuelle open source



I read about it on elearning.fr, Elluminate provides a Java virtual class limited to 3 users but free! The look and the features are similar to the Centra Symposium virtual class. I used Centra for five years, here is a screenshot here. Except for its old looking, it seems to be a complete solution and the company offers professional services.



Streaming Rooms

Streaming Rooms provides free virtual rooms to organize your online meetings.

You can publish one or more video feeds: perfect if you want to aggregate videos from different users in a meeting! Only communication is based solely on chat, there is no password protection, no possibility to publish diaporamas, no download zone... it seems the virtual class is dedicated to individuals only.

I found out that Jessy Cyganczuk, the streamingrooms developer, has built up the application in one week end, before going on holidays. Today he is concentrating on other projects :D

The service, that points out functionalities of an open source framework - CakePhp, makes me think that:

  • it is necessary to test thoroughly any new 2.0 tool before considering it is worthwhile

  • the development for 2.0 tools is not always time-consuming

Organiser vos rendez-vous en ligne

One last word...

It is more and more common to get services with paid subscription to turn out free. Functionalities indeed may reveal restrictive but individuals or small companies should find themselves interested in them.

As far as I'm concerned, I prefer that solution to those relying on advertising! What's more, a free service along with a commercial offer guarantees its perennity.

What do you think of it?

Publication Date: 2007-10-28

Tag: Open-Source services video-conference web2.0 elearning virtual-classroom

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