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'm a great fan of asynchronous communication using e-mail, discussion boards, and electronic mailing lists (such as LISTSERV), as well as collaborative tools such as Google Docs and Zoho Writer. Face-to-face meetings, however, are still the primary means of communication and collaboration in most institutions. I've spent a considerable amount of time driving across the city to attend meetings, which made a 1-hour meeting last 2 hours or more. Many times I've had a call from a clinician or student who had a question about how to use a particular application or who was receiving an error message from the application. Guiding, "diagnosing," and reinforcing using verbal descriptions and instructions can be frustrating and difficult for both the person providing support and the user with the question.


Web conferencing may be a solution to allow you to conduct live meetings, increase user satisfaction, promote understanding, and save gas! How is Web conferencing different from instant messaging applications such as Microsoft Messenger, or AOL Instant Messenger?


From Wikipedia (


Web conferencing is used to conduct live meetings or presentations over the Internet. In the early years of the Internet, the terms "Web conferencing" and "computer conferencing" were often used to refer to group discussions conducted within a message board (via posted text messages), therefore not live, but the term has evolved to refer specifically to "live" or "synchronous" meetings, whereas the posted message variety of discussion is called a "forum," "message board," or "bulletin board."


In a Web conference, participants sit at their own computers and are connected to other participants via the Internet through a software application that a "host" company provides for a fee. Applications vary; some can be downloaded on each attendee's computer, whereas others are Web-based applications for which attendees simply enter a "URL" or Web site meeting address to enter the live meeting or conference. These Web-based applications are used either with Flash or Java technology.


There are many Web-conferencing solutions available on the Internet. Microsoft Live Meeting ( and WebEx ( are two very popular fee-based solutions. They incorporate bidirectional audio communications via conference calling, a whiteboard, screen sharing, chat, and much more, depending on the vendor chosen. These applications can host meetings between two individuals or among dozens of people. If you want to explore these tools or have a need to meet with a small number of people, there are some free solutions you may want to consider. Some applications are supported by advertising, whereas others are a limited version of the full application.


Vyew ( is an ad-supported, free Web conferencing application for as many as 20 attendees used via a Web browser. They also have fee-based plans to accommodate more users and features. From the Web site:


"With Vyew you can present and collaborate using Microsoft Office files, Adobe PDFs, images, whiteboard annotations, comments, and more in a shared workspace."


Vyew supports text-based chat and offers a link to a free conference calling service. Neither the presenter nor the users are required to download any client software, so it works with both PCs and Macs.


Yugma ( has both free and fee-based services. The free version can accommodate 10 attendees and does not have ads. From the Web site: "Yugma will run on Windows 2000 and later, and Mac OSX 10.3 or later. It requires Java runtime 1.4.2_07 or later on both Windows and Mac. If you are running Windows and you have an older version of Java, then Yugma will install the required version of Java. If you are running Mac OSX 10.3 or later, please make sure that you have Java runtime 1.4.2_07 or later or run the software updates to install the later version of Java runtime."


Elluminate vRroom ( is a three-person version of a powerful and full-featured Web-conferencing application used by many institutions. It offers some additional features not available in the others mentioned previously, such as Internet-based audio and video (rather than telephone-based conference calling) as well as "breakout rooms" and an interactive quiz application.


While asynchronous communication applications like e-mail, discussion boards and electronic mailing lists are important tools, real-time communication and collaboration are frequently required for institutional meetings and user support and instruction. The increasing prevalence of broadband connectivity is changing Internet use from an information retrieval model to one of bidirectional communication and interaction. Save some gas and meet virtually!


Contributed by


William Perry, MA, RN