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WebSwami's rave review in HLT Magazine *fluency & webcam

 
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WebSwami



Joined: 10 Aug 2009
Posts: 3

PostPosted: Wed Aug 19, 2009 6:13 am    Post subject: WebSwami's rave review in HLT Magazine *fluency & webcam Reply with quote

Dear ESL Cafe Community,

We are very pleased to let you know about a recent independent review of WebSwami, which should be of interest to ESL Directors and Teachers who are currently using an LMS like Moodle, or wanting to improve their current language teaching technology:

England, June 9, 2009 - “In terms of a web-based language lab (not including live-teaching synchronous features) nothing competes with WebSwami”, says HLT Magazine.

With extra synchronous tools currently in development and expected to be released soon, it looks like the future is bright for WebSwami!

WebSwami was recently reviewed in Humanising Language Teaching Magazine, an online publication from Pilgrims English Language Courses. The article was written after the author, Ilhan Incay, an English teacher from North Cyprus with a strong interest in CALL, had completed extensive testing of the system.



The author was impressed with many of WebSwami’s features including the user-friendly design and navigation and incorporation of one-click webcam recording, saying that, “WebSwami leapfrogs all the competitors with WebCam recording, which allows a much more fun and personal approach”.

The full review can be found here http://www.hltmag.co.uk/jun09/pubs01.htm and more information on WebSwami at http://www.webswami.com.

You can now offer your students engaging recorded roleplay simulations anytime/anywhere thus maximizing talking time to help accelerate fluency and build confidence. For instructors this is a system which is not only packed with convenient short-cuts and tools, but is also fun to use! To directly arrange a demo of the system please contact Peter Day at info@webswami.com.


About HLT
For over a decade HLT has hosted contributions from well known authors such as Jeremy Harmer, Peter Grundy, and Tessa Woodward, Carl Rogers and Howard Gardner. HLT deals with areas such as error correction, the creative teaching of grammar, attentive listening comprehension, motivating speaking activities, teaching vocabulary effectively, creative writing, using music and fine arts in the classroom, group dynamics, dealing with difficulties and preparing students for tests.


About WebSwami
WebSwami is the first language teaching system of its kind to integrate direct webcam recording for course development, online activities and instructor feedback – all at CD quality over the internet. It is also the first online system to include a pitch measuring spectrograph (rhythm & stress included too), to greatly improve pronunciation of any language. Other features include many easy-to-create interactive activities, including video matching and real-time conversation simulations in addition to integration with leading LMSs such as Moodle.


Kind regards,

Gavin Ng
Lead Developer, WebSwami
www.webswami.com

"WebSwami goes well beyond the functionality of Moodle" - UK Moodle Partner
"If only we'd had WebSwami when we were young. It should be in all the schools!" - Asia-Pacific HR Vice-President, AIG
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matbury



Joined: 08 May 2007
Posts: 30
Location: Brighton, UK

PostPosted: Tue Sep 08, 2009 8:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

You can get most of this functionality from free web services. Skype is pretty good and there's a Skype module for Moodle that makes it easier for tutors and learners to swap contacts and get in touch. The newer versions of Skype include all kinds of conferencing, file sharing, screen sharing, chat, voice messaging, etc.

I've also developed a side block for Moodle that shows members of a course when other Skype account holders are on-line.

Site URL: http://skype.com/


There's also another new free service that uses Jabber's IM protocol for communicating between different IM services. It supports Yahoo!, AIM, MSN Messenger and GoogleTalk. It's called TokBox and you don't even need to install any software on your computer to use it. You can setup web conferences and send a link to as many people as you like. They don't even have to have a user account to participate. They also supply a number of developer APIs so that it's easy to create custom TokBox clients for your site for making web conferencing, video blogging and VoIP calls with the exact functions and appearance that you require.

Site URL: http://www.tokbox.com/

API docs: http://developers.tokbox.com/index.php/Main_Page

With so many great services going for free, why pay?
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WebSwami



Joined: 10 Aug 2009
Posts: 3

PostPosted: Wed Sep 09, 2009 5:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Matt,

Thanks for your comments, however I think you may have missed most of the functionality of WebSwami and both the convenience and advantages it gives both students and teachers.

matbury wrote:
You can get most of this functionality from free web services. Skype is pretty good


Here are just a few things that you can't do with skype and tokbox you but you can with WebSwami+Moodle (and future LMS integrations):

    - setup recorded real-time roleplay simulations (Question & Answer / Instant Translation etc..) when students and teachers are not online at the same time linked to your learning platform to save teacher time and give students extra practice.
    - setup and control oral testing for 100's or even 1000's of students simultaneously in a lab or distance learning environment
    - link a video message to specific activity and mark their progress in real-time.
    - create highly engaging interactive activities like video-matching
    - protect video content using direct permissions of the school's learning platform
    - show voice-graphs for pre-recorded or microphone recorded video to guide students for pronunciation


Learning Platforms are now de rigeur in education, and WebSwami offers a level of convergence "built for language learning", the utilities you named don't offer. Of course there are many more features in WebSwami than need to be listed here.


matbury wrote:

They also supply a number of developer APIs so that it's easy to create custom TokBox clients for your site for making web conferencing,


This is an often quoted and slightly misleading benefit of open-source software. It is never easy for schools to develop their own plugins without heavy support of a developer that will maintain the product.

Due to the break-neck speed of open-source development, plugins made from API's often break with each new version and users are lumbered with modules they've spent good money on that have weeks to months of uselessness.

Very often these customizations/plugins are rendered obsolete when a developer leaves the organization (if they're lucky enough to have a coder) or grows tied of maintaining an open-source plugin . I can point to many such projects on any free open-source learning platform, and especially widely used content-management-systems.

If you don't upgrade your learning platform just to keep compatibility, you're at risk from security issues that need to be fixed in xyz system. The wildly popular Wordpress recently had a spate of hackings.


Quote:
With so many great services going for free, why pay?


We are actually partnered with several official Moodle Partners. If schools want prompt support, reliable support (telephone), and comprehensive training (screen-sharing), this can only really be had with commercial support.

If you have expertise, like yourself, then you don't need any kind of support - but unfortunately not everyone is in this kind of situation.

Obviously having independent open source developers like you, Matt, is great. Unfortunately, companies like Google and Skype and even the LMS Moodle don't specifically cater to the needs of Language teachers/learners. We offer a massive range of features that require a large team of developers and support team to give to end users that independent coders aren't normally able to offer. But it's definitely a good thing to open sourcers pushing commercial products to innovate.

It's partly why we've launched this "per user" hosting, that includes WebSwami packaged a full Learning Platform - to make features normally relegated to the LAN language lab available over the internet, and much much more affordable for tutors, language schools and schools in general.

Regards,

Gavin
Lead Developer, WebSwami
www.webswami.com

“In terms of a web-based language lab (not including live-teaching synchronous features) nothing competes with WebSwami”, Ilhan Incan, HLT Magazine
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matbury



Joined: 08 May 2007
Posts: 30
Location: Brighton, UK

PostPosted: Wed Sep 09, 2009 5:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
This is an often quoted and slightly misleading benefit of open-source software. It is never easy for schools to develop their own plugins without heavy support of a developer that will maintain the product.

Due to the break-neck speed of open-source development, plugins made from API's often break with each new version and users are lumbered with modules they've spent good money on that have weeks to months of uselessness.

Very often these customizations/plugins are rendered obsolete when a developer leaves the organization (if they're lucky enough to have a coder) or grows tied of maintaining an open-source plugin . I can point to many such projects on any free open-source learning platform, and especially widely used content-management-systems.


It looks to me like you're attacking open source software projects and other software projects and protocols here.

Skype is not open source but they do provide a stable API and there are a lot of 3rd parties marketing either free, paid for or subscription plugins. It wouldn't be in Skype's interests to change their API so that so many plugins no longer work. In fact, I think they'd more than likely get sued by the start-ups who've invested time and money in them.

If you took the time to have a look at the TokBox API, you'd see that it's based on an open protocol also used by Yahoo!, AIM, MSN Messenger and GoogleTalk, originally called Jabber, now called XMPP. This means that any applications and plugins developed for this protocol are likely to be supported for the forseeable future. Martin Dougiamas, the founder of Moodle, is himself a strong supporter of XMPP.

Also, implied in your statements is the idea that open source software develops much more quickly than closed source (AKA proprietary) software. So presumably open source projects are more likely to keep up with "the break-neck speed" of web development.

Regarding the other issue you mentioned about security:
Quote:
If you don't upgrade your learning platform just to keep compatibility, you're at risk from security issues that need to be fixed in xyz system. The wildly popular Wordpress recently had a spate of hackings.


It's widely recognised that open source software projects tend to be more secure and have any issues fixed more quickly. This was recently confirmed by an independent review commissioned by the European Union on using open vs. closed source software for government agencies and organisations (I can't find the link right now). In fact, most of the best software on the Internet is open source including this bulletin board (PHPBB), Moodle, Linux operating systems, Apache web servers, MySQL databases, PHP and PHPMyAdmin, the last five of which are the most successful and most used software on the world wide web.

Please don't attack other people's projects to further your own ends. You'll upset a lot people and I don't think it's ever a good marketing strategy to criticise the competition.
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WebSwami



Joined: 10 Aug 2009
Posts: 3

PostPosted: Thu Sep 10, 2009 12:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Matt,

The emphasis of my previous post was quite clearly to state that the free applications you mentioned simply didn't cover the depth of "Language Teaching" features of WebSwami at all, such as the ability to:

Quote:
- setup recorded real-time roleplay simulations (Question & Answer / Instant Translation etc..) when students and teachers are not online at the same time linked to your learning platform to save teacher time and give students extra practice.
- setup and control oral testing for 100's or even 1000's of students simultaneously in a lab or distance learning environment
- link a video message to specific activity and mark their progress in real-time.
- create highly engaging interactive activities like video-matching
- protect video content using direct permissions of the school's learning platform
- show voice-graphs for pre-recorded or microphone recorded video to guide students for pronunciation


Videoing is seamlessly integrated into the learning platform, there's no bolting on, or fiddling with external linking for each video recording. It makes elearning easier, more convenient and more fun.

Far from being a foe of open source, we have very good relations with quite a number of open-source projects.

We have also garnered comments such as the following from one major Moodle Partner, "WebSwami goes far beyond the functionality of Moodle in terms of language teaching".

Please also remember that some of our vendors are in fact official Moodle Partners who help to keep the Moodle project moving forwards.

You can see why it was pretty unfair passing off our system, just because it isn't 100% free. The cost doesn't define if a product is good. It's up to the end user to decide if they prefer something free (Linux) or commercial (Mac OS).

I am sorry you missed that the emphasis was about plugin modules and how often (often - NOT all) they become obsolete than the larger, more supported systems they integrate with. It's just a fact of life, not an attack. Just take this marvellous though no longer supported "course completion report" Moodle plugin:

Quote:
http://moodle.org/mod/data/view.php?d=13&rid=894

With many bemoaning its loss:
I'd love to see an update of the release for 1.9 that works. Instead of having to hack through PHP code.. Sad



Anyway, the topic of this forum is on language technology, so let's keep it that way. We welcome any kind of constructive comments on the subject.

Thanks,

Gavin
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matbury



Joined: 08 May 2007
Posts: 30
Location: Brighton, UK

PostPosted: Thu Sep 10, 2009 1:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

You wrote:
Quote:
You can see why it was pretty unfair passing off our system, just because it isn't 100% free.


Can you please point out anywhere in my comments where I wrote this? And can you please clarify what you mean by "passing off"? Nowhere have I ever claimed that open source or any other software is 100% free. True, you can download, install and use open source software without paying the people who developed it. You can also do the same with "freeware" software.

In my opinion, when deciding to invest in software, one of the important issues for schools and organisations is cost benefit analysis and for anyone here who is interested in investing in any kind of e-learning software system, be it a learning management system such as Moodle or Blackboard or a plugin such as Nanogong or Riffly, the overall cost of the software, administration, maintenance, providing/developing course materials and software development is a key issue. I think there are some common misconceptions about the differences between open and closed source software. Hopefully, I can put the main one straight here:

Closed source: The software is copyright and belongs solely to the copyright holder. It is illegal to modify the software without the copyright holders consent. Usually, software vendors insist that any modifications or adaptations made to software, no matter how small, are performed by its own in-house developers that they choose for you and at a price that they set. If they say they can't/won't make any changes or charge an exorbitant fee for doing so, there's not much you can do about it. Also, if the copyright holder drops support for the software, usually for financial/profitability reasons or because they want you to buy an upgrade, you're left with a lemon and there's not much you can do about that either.

The physical world analogy to closed source software is printers. Most people shop for the best printer at the best price that they can afford. There are a number of excellent, good quality printers available from a wide range of manufacturers at surprisingly low prices but, in my opinion, shopping for a printer is not the best way to go about cost-effective printing. I'd recommend shopping for printer cartridges. If you do a lot of printing, you'll see that the cartridge bills soon add up to a handsome sum, often far greater per month than the cost of the printer. Printers are generally very fussy about what cartridges they'll accept - they only want ones from the printer manufacturer and most contain special chips that the printers read to tell it if it's an original, thereby rejecting cheaper 3rd party substitutes. So if you find a cost effective source of cartridges and find a good quality printer to match it, you'll save yourself a lot of money. BTW, there are companies that have set up printer cartridge exchanges so that they can take your empty cartridges and refill them for a small fee. It's a whole lot cheaper than buying new ones!

Open source: Anyone can contribute to an open source project. Anyone can modify open source software. You can download a system or a plugin that almost does exactly what you want it to and modify it yourself or employ any talented coder to make the modifications for you. For example, one of the standard core side block plugins in Moodle shows when learners and tutors on a particular course are logged in. It was very easy for me to take that module, modify it and create a new module that performed the same functions but also included a Skype call button, making it very easy and simple for learners and tutors to contact each other with just the click of a mouse. It took me about an hour to make the changes and I estimate the development costs for such a modification on the open freelance developer market would be less than €100. I also developed another side block module that embeds the GoogleTalk widget, allowing tutors and learners to see all their contacts' on-line status. Similarly, it was very quick and easy to do and it's open source and available for free: http://code.google.com/p/moodle-googletalk/ Smile

Another advantage of open source software is transparency and openness: I provide free support for all my open source projects via the corresponding on-line issue trackers. Any issues that arise are publicly visible as are the solutions. You can see immediately how good support is for a project and what problems have already been encountered and solved and any unresolved issues. The solutions are usually made by updating the software and/or the documentation.

How many closed source projects can you name where the bug tracker is open to the public?
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