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Author Topic: Can Skype be effectively used to tutor physics online?  (Read 6395 times)

Offline PmbPhy

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Does anybody here have experience using Skype? I want to know whether it can be used effectively to tutor students in physics online. Any thoughts?
« Last Edit: 09/03/2015 09:36:29 by PmbPhy »


 

Offline David Cooper

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Re: Can Skype be effectively used to tutor physics online?
« Reply #1 on: 09/03/2015 16:48:54 »
It ought to be possible, but it would be much more useful to have some means of sharing screens with each other rather than using webcams. Ideally the bandwidth needed would be kept low by only sending instructions to send the changes rather than sending copies of the whole screen, thereby limiting the amount of data sent to just a fraction more than the audio. I don't know if such a service is available anywhere.
 

Offline PmbPhy

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Re: Can Skype be effectively used to tutor physics online?
« Reply #2 on: 09/03/2015 18:13:41 »
It ought to be possible, but it would be much more useful to have some means of sharing screens with each other rather than using webcams. Ideally the bandwidth needed would be kept low by only sending instructions to send the changes rather than sending copies of the whole screen, thereby limiting the amount of data sent to just a fraction more than the audio. I don't know if such a service is available anywhere.
Visual communication provides a human touch that sometimes can't be conveyed with just audio. That's what I'm going to try to evaluate when I find someone willing to be on the other end. I'll pay all the costs of course. I just have to find someone willing to help me evaluate it.
 

Offline alancalverd

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Re: Can Skype be effectively used to tutor physics online?
« Reply #3 on: 09/03/2015 19:02:31 »
I have regular conference calls with Skype, including screen sharing. Video is a bit limited by bandwidth in this neck of the woods but screen sharing + audio is excellent for technical stuff. Happy to be a guinea pig!
 

Offline David Cooper

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Re: Can Skype be effectively used to tutor physics online?
« Reply #4 on: 09/03/2015 22:59:45 »
How does the screen sharing work in terms of data usage? If nothing changes, for example, is nothing sent? I'd find it difficult keeping within my data limits just with audio, so if it uses the same again for screen sharing it's probably not much use.
 

Offline alancalverd

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Re: Can Skype be effectively used to tutor physics online?
« Reply #5 on: 10/03/2015 00:13:05 »
Curiously, not a problem here. I have the slowest "broadband" in the civilised world but unlimited data. This could be a limitation on Pete's plan for world domination/education.
 

Offline PmbPhy

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Re: Can Skype be effectively used to tutor physics online?
« Reply #6 on: 10/03/2015 05:05:40 »
I have regular conference calls with Skype, including screen sharing. Video is a bit limited by bandwidth in this neck of the woods but screen sharing + audio is excellent for technical stuff. Happy to be a guinea pig!
Great. Thanks Alan. Please tell me what I need to do in order to set my system up.
 

Offline PmbPhy

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Re: Can Skype be effectively used to tutor physics online?
« Reply #7 on: 10/03/2015 05:08:53 »
Curiously, not a problem here. I have the slowest "broadband" in the civilised world but unlimited data. This could be a limitation on Pete's plan for world domination/education.
I have a brand new very fast computer and the fastest broadband speed around. I have download speeds up to 105 Mbps and upload speeds up to 20 Mbps!
 

Offline alancalverd

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Re: Can Skype be effectively used to tutor physics online?
« Reply #8 on: 10/03/2015 13:25:48 »
Easy! I know it works - just finished a conference designing a new facility for treating hyperthyroid cats using shared Word sketches and Skype.

1. Get Skype, put a few bucks into the account, and play with it until you are comfortable with phone calls and text messages. I use an aviation-type headset with a noisecancelling mike so I can concentrate on the conversation without being called away to eat or walk the dog.

2. I don't have a webcam (far too ugly, especially with a headset, and it eats into audio bandwidth) but we pre-load photos and scanned drawings for our calls.

3. When you call someone on Skype, click on the "+" button and open the "share screen" function. It's particularly neat if you are using a Mac but probably a bit faster in PC Windows. 

Try me! I should be around after 2230 UTC or any time tomorrow before 1800 UTC. 
« Last Edit: 10/03/2015 13:30:03 by alancalverd »
 

Offline PmbPhy

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Re: Can Skype be effectively used to tutor physics online?
« Reply #9 on: 10/03/2015 13:46:03 »
Easy! I know it works - just finished a conference designing a new facility for treating hyperthyroid cats using shared Word sketches and Skype.

1. Get Skype, put a few bucks into the account, and play with it until you are comfortable with phone calls and text messages. I use an aviation-type headset with a noisecancelling mike so I can concentrate on the conversation without being called away to eat or walk the dog.

2. I don't have a webcam (far too ugly, especially with a headset, and it eats into audio bandwidth) but we pre-load photos and scanned drawings for our calls.

3. When you call someone on Skype, click on the "+" button and open the "share screen" function. It's particularly neat if you are using a Mac but probably a bit faster in PC Windows. 

Try me! I should be around after 2230 UTC or any time tomorrow before 1800 UTC.
It's the video that I'm interested in, not the audio. It will aid tutoring if I can draw and show diagrams to the student as we go. Otherwise it will take much more time and they'll end up paying for that time. I want to make it efficient for them.
 

Offline David Cooper

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Re: Can Skype be effectively used to tutor physics online?
« Reply #10 on: 10/03/2015 18:06:37 »
3. When you call someone on Skype, click on the "+" button and open the "share screen" function. It's particularly neat if you are using a Mac but probably a bit faster in PC Windows.

That's the key piece of functionality that's needed rather than video, if it allows you to draw things and discuss them as you do so. I hope it's available on the free version of Skype. I've downloaded Skype but don't have anyone to connect to with it yet to find out how/whether it all works.
 

Offline JohnDuffield

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Re: Can Skype be effectively used to tutor physics online?
« Reply #11 on: 10/03/2015 18:20:35 »
I use Skype, mainly for talking to the daughter in Australia. It's easy to set up provided you have a modern laptop, but I don't think it's a all that great. You can see who you're talking to, and other things too, but somehow it's hard work. 
 

Offline PmbPhy

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Re: Can Skype be effectively used to tutor physics online?
« Reply #12 on: 10/03/2015 21:06:43 »
3. When you call someone on Skype, click on the "+" button and open the "share screen" function. It's particularly neat if you are using a Mac but probably a bit faster in PC Windows.

That's the key piece of functionality that's needed rather than video, if it allows you to draw things and discuss them as you do so. I hope it's available on the free version of Skype. I've downloaded Skype but don't have anyone to connect to with it yet to find out how/whether it all works.
That's not what I'm looking for.
 

Offline alancalverd

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Re: Can Skype be effectively used to tutor physics online?
« Reply #13 on: 10/03/2015 23:47:26 »
It's the whole point. You can put anything you like on the shared screen, including diagrams and animations. You can do "live drawings" if you want but that is often the weakest part of any video conference as the realtime compression of motion either comes out jerky or breaks up the audio. Better to use it as a powerpoint type of display with predrawn diagrams, powerpoint animations, pointers, etc.
 

Offline PmbPhy

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Re: Can Skype be effectively used to tutor physics online?
« Reply #14 on: 11/03/2015 07:53:23 »
Quote from: alancalverd
It's the whole point.
That's only part of it. I'm interested in video conferencing, i.e. live face to face talking. I want to use my webcam and monitor to come as close to being in the presence with the person I'm tutoring so I can evaluate whether doing so is worth the extra effort in doing so.

Quote from: alancalverd
You can put anything you like on the shared screen, including diagrams and animations.
I know. You already told me that so I'm well aware of it. I don't need to be told more than once. :)

Quote from: alancalverd
You can do "live drawings" if you want but that is often the weakest part of any video conference ...
I only expect that to happen with the most rudimentary things. Sometimes the most simplest hand drawing can speak a thousand words. For example; talking about right and left handed Cartesian systems to someone who's never hear the term can take seconds whereas scanning it in and sending it can take minutes. Is that really going to happen and is it worth the effort? I have no idea. That's the point of the evaluation.

However I found someone who I've known for a long time who's wiling to work with me on this.
 

Offline David Cooper

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Re: Can Skype be effectively used to tutor physics online?
« Reply #15 on: 11/03/2015 18:50:02 »
You can do "live drawings" if you want but that is often the weakest part of any video conference as the realtime compression of motion either comes out jerky or breaks up the audio.

Well, that's exactly what I wanted to know - the software isn't well designed. It should be possible to draw something and only have the details for the changed pixels sent to the other end where the other user would almost instantly see the changes. That is the most important kind of functionality, but it's hopeless if the system mindlessly tries to send the whole screen continually as if it is video and can't keep up with the little bit of actual action which needs to be timed exactly to match the audio. It's daft if it's easier to work on paper with a real pen and to point a webcam at it.
 

Offline alancalverd

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Re: Can Skype be effectively used to tutor physics online?
« Reply #16 on: 11/03/2015 23:52:08 »
Just remembered: a few years ago, "graphics tablets" were all the rage. I haven't used one for ages but they do the job you need: transferring a "pencil" sketch in real time into a window, with very little bandwidth burden. So you can simultaneously videoconference "face to face", show predrawn powerpoint slides, and sketch in real time, all over Skype.

I wanted to do this many years ago when I was interested in teaching physics to a few enthusiastic kids in several different schools, but the bandwidth wasn't available at the time.
 

Offline PmbPhy

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Re: Can Skype be effectively used to tutor physics online?
« Reply #17 on: 12/03/2015 08:19:24 »
Just remembered: a few years ago, "graphics tablets" were all the rage. I haven't used one for ages but they do the job you need: transferring a "pencil" sketch in real time into a window, with very little bandwidth burden. So you can simultaneously videoconference "face to face", show predrawn powerpoint slides, and sketch in real time, all over Skype.

I wanted to do this many years ago when I was interested in teaching physics to a few enthusiastic kids in several different schools, but the bandwidth wasn't available at the time.
Sounds perfect for my purposes.
 

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Re: Can Skype be effectively used to tutor physics online?
« Reply #18 on: 12/03/2015 09:58:34 »
Hello, I'm sorry if I may be repeating a suggestion some other user has made already. I did not want to read all the other replies... Anyways, there's this thing I used to use to chat and explain stuff to people over the internet. It's way better than skype in every aspect.
'http://www.twiddla.com' Try it!
Hope I helped...
~CB
 

Offline David Cooper

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Re: Can Skype be effectively used to tutor physics online?
« Reply #19 on: 13/03/2015 17:37:36 »
'http://www.twiddla.com' Try it!

Looks good, but it would involve an ongoing cost for at least one person. I suppose that could be recovered though easily enough if that person is doing a modest amount of paid tutoring through it. The 30 day free trial would determine whether it's the right tool for the job.
 

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Re: Can Skype be effectively used to tutor physics online?
« Reply #19 on: 13/03/2015 17:37:36 »

 

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