1. Perry, William MA, RN

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The Internet has brought the spirit of global communication and collaboration to nurses and other healthcare professionals in ways never before thought possible. These resources are offered to expand your opportunities for discussion, reference, education, and research.


I have used MP3 files in online classes to deliver prerecorded interviews with various subject matter experts. Students are invited to post questions to the guest speakers on a Web forum area. The guest speakers agree to periodically check the forum and reply at their convenience. Although asynchronous communication allows the greatest freedom for both speaker and student, it does lack the potential for spontaneous interaction, so I offer a few free conferencing tools for your consideration.


Audio chat works well and has been around for quite some time. While there are many vendors in the marketplace, free applications are Google Talk ( and Skype ( Both of these applications allow the user to have real-time conversations over the Internet. All that is needed is a microphone and a Web connection (preferably high speed). Google Talk is available only for Windows 2000 and Windows XP, but Skype works with Windows, Mac, and Linux.


You can also send text messages and links, which are ideal for posting questions without interrupting the speaker. Skype encrypts your verbal communications; Google Talk does not.


Although synchronous audio adds the dimension of spontaneous interaction, I have also been thinking about having guest speakers via PC-based video chat. The downside, of course, is scheduling the speaker at an appropriate time, and the speaker needs to have both a camera and a microphone. Full-blown video conferencing services such as WebEx ( charge by the minute per user and can be an expensive venture, but there are a couple of Pcbased solutions I have found that may significantly enhance the classroom experience.


Eyeball chat ( is a free application (for personal use) that allows bidirectional video communication with the ability to send text and files as well as video. Another new application is Festoon (, which integrates with both Google Talk and Skype. Both of these applications run on Windows computers only. A crossplatform application that works on Windows, Mac, and Linux is iVisit. It is free for 1-to-1 communication with certain restrictions; the image size is smaller than that with their paid service.


Unfortunately, I cannot find any information on these free services about encrypted video communications that would lend them to telehealth services. The unencrypted video applications should work just fine for the classroom environment. Bring a guest lecturer from any continent on the globe into your classroom. Just remember to figure in time zones!


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William A. Perry, MA, RN