Last night I was able to stress-test some web conferencing programs with an animation student who was overseas in the UK and eventually we found something that worked rather nicely.
I have a pretty good idea of how to make this all work and keep it affordable for students and flexible enough for people's schedules so that they don't have to give up their current education or take on part time jobs or sell their organs. ;P
So it's time for a FAQ and an ORQ (Other Relevant Questions) to answer everyone's questions about the online mentoring service I wish to provide. I'll update this journal as necessary and link it in my future journal footers.
- FAQ 1: How will I be able to hear the melodious ring of your voice?
Skype seems to have improved its networks over the past few months and the sound quality was surprisingly good without perceptible lag, even overseas.
- FAQ 2: But Drawing is a visual thing! Now what?
I'll be using Adobe Connect to send desktop and camcorder imagery to Adobe's servers, which will then be able to broadcast to as much as 15 people simultaneously. Adobe Connect was once known as Macromedia Breeze. Not only can participants view the imagery I send, but at any time, I can allow other participants to present what's on their computer screen for assessment and critique.
- FAQ 3: Do I have to install any weird software?
Skype. (PC | Mac | Linux)
A Flash-enabled web browser.
When you log into the conference room, you'll be asked to install the Adobe Connect plugin.
A pressure-sensitive drawing program like Photoshop, OpenCanvas, Sketchbook Pro or ArtRage. I highly recommend ArtRage. The Free version is all you'll need for whatever I teach. The evaluation version of Sketchbook Pro lasts 15 days, but when the time expires you can still use many of the basic features and still save. Autodesk says there's a Linux version available.
- FAQ 4: What if I'm using a Mac? How about Linux?
Skype and Adobe Connect are both available for Mac OS X and Linux! Photoshop, Sketchbook Pro and ArtRage are available for Mac OS X, and there's the free GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP) for Linux.
- FAQ 5: What about hardware?
I strongly recommend getting a headset mic as the quality is much better than standing mics. Logitech makes some good affordable ones. I'm using a $20 headset that's designed for gamers.
I also suggest using headphones instead of desktop speakers or stereo systems because your mic may pick up feedback which may then be amplified to all other participants. screechhh!
A WACOM or Aiptek drawing tablet. I'm using a WACOM Cintiq, but those are often prohibitively expensive. You'll have to shop around, I'm afraid.
- FAQ 6: What are your rates?
All listed prices are in $USD
1 Participant: $10/hr
2 Participants: $18/hr
3 Participants: $24/hr
4 Participants: $28/hr
5 Participants: $30/hr
A typical conversation tends to run about 2-3 hours.
- FAQ 7: How do I pay?
You'll need a PayPal account. Skype Prime Beta will handle the tracking of the amount of time used, and handles all the PayPal stuff.
- FAQ 8: All set up. Now how do I contact you and get started?
The button below shows my current online status. If it says: "I'm Online!" then it means I'm logged into Skype and available to teach! Also, you might want to check out the webcam image below, which is updated every 30 seconds. I promise never to traumatize you by parking my insectoid body in front of the camera while nekkid.
Just click to get started.
- FAQ 9: I'm still not convinced. How do I know this service is worth it?
Call me anyways and show me some of your work. We'll talk for a while with the meter off. If you feel you're learning a lot of useful things and that you'd like something more regular, then we'll find a way to schedule online meetings at a rate you find economically reasonable.