Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Skype 3.0 beta released...distance-learning platform anyone?

The folks at Skype have released 3.0 beta.  There are some neat new features here, but nothing earth-shattering.  But that’s not to say it’s not worth looking at and upgrading when the code goes gold.  The majority of the upgrade is in interface improvements and bug fixes.

On the other hand, there is something interesting here for missionary folks.  By clicking on the “Live” tab you’re taken to an interface for “Skypecasts” which are being billed as “live public conversations.”










You can click to enter any of the available “Skypecasts” and just listen, or interact if you chose.  There isn’t really anything earth shattering about this; other programs have offered “party line” feature for years.  I don’t believe, however, that they’ve had Skype’s quality and installed user base.

Because of Skype’s ubiquity this function could readily lend itself to distance learning.  This caught my eye after reading Integrating Technology in Leadership Training by Donald Sommer Evangelical Missions Quarterly.  Sommer profiles some of the technology being used in the missions field to facilitate distance learning given the decreasing costs of communication and the increasing availability of computers and “internet cafes” around the world.  While entry into a Skypecast cannot be password protected, you can mute or eject unwanted participants.  Skypecasts are currently voice-only and there doesn’t yet appear to be file-sending functionality.  If both were added before the beta goes gold, however, Skype might make a pretty sweet.  Add something like Talk & Write , a free Skype “extra” and you’ve got a pretty powerful conferencing platform.

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