Features

Typical Features

The features shown below are the bare essentials and will be found in all web conferencing platforms.

Audio

This is an essential aspect of web conferencing as it allows the host/presenter to communicate with session/meeting participants. One way or two way audio is available in most web conferencing packages. Audio can be delivered via the internet (voice over internet protocol - VOIP) or by a phone bridge (audio conferencing). Most applications will have some kind of 'wizard' to test audio settings.

Video

One-way or two-way video is offered by all web conferencing platforms. This is a very bandwidth-intensive feature, which often limits its use to participants using broadband connections. Using live video throughout a session can be very distracting; you should use it judiciously. If face-to-face interactions are critical, consider using a traditional classroom approach instead.

Chat

Text-based chat allows the participants and presenter/trainer to communicate with one another through text messaging. Private messaging allows participants to signal difficulties without disrupting a session. Often, chat discussions (or transcripts) can be saved as text files and used after the event is over. Participants who are more reserved are often more likely to interact when text chat options are available. Questions can be “parked” to be answered later – either during or after the session. If you have a co-facilitator, they can monitor the chat to identify and fix technical problems without interrupting the session. If you happen to be using a subject-matter expert, they can monitor the chat pane in order to answer content-related questions that may be out of the scope of the current discussion or activity.

Whiteboard

Roughly the online equivalent of a traditional flip chart, whiteboards allow speakers/trainers and participants to post ideas. The primary difference is that many whiteboards allow multiple people to write at the same time. Images can be placed on prepared whiteboards (often in the form of Power Point slides) ahead of time or pasted during the session. You can use the whiteboard for anything you would use a flip chart or marker board for in a traditional classroom/presentation/meeting setting, for example, you can capture participants’ ideas in flip-chart style.