There were already rumors about an update / new version of the WiZiQ classroom for a while and yesterday the teachers of the platform received an email announcing the launch in “less than a month from now”.
In this email you get an overview about the new features and a link that leads you to a demo of the new classroom.
The new features include
1. Improved Audio and Video
• View videos of four participants simultaneously
• Enjoy much improved, latency-free audio
2. Feature-rich Whiteboard and Interface
• Cut/copy/paste, group, ungroup, bring objects back/forth, or rotate the shapes on the whiteboard
• Rename whiteboards
• Change the background colors of the whiteboard
• Add a grid to the background for drawings
• Minimize or move windows within the whiteboard area
• Use emoticons in your chat
• Handle the new ‘File’ and ‘Edit’ menus
• Extend the class time and set an alert with the new timer option at any time during the class
3. New-look Media Player
• Select videos from your playlist history in the content library
Also, the new Virtual Classroom adjusts to your screen resolution automatically on launch.
Looking at the list I can see some really useful changes. First of course the simultaneous video streaming of up to four participants which is very important for conference events. This closes a big gap to Adobe Connect and hence to eduFire and Supercool School which are using this system.
Improved audio is also important and goes of course hand in hand with the video streaming. While the audio streaming was never really that bad compared to other webmeetings improvement in this field is always good and as long as Skype is still the benchmark for VoIP there is always space for perfecting.
The new features for the whiteboard are especially interesting for teachers who are using it extensively for their lessons. As my language teaching is more conversation based I never really used the whiteboard of any virtual classroom to an extend where it actually made sense for me to have all those features. But I had the chance to see George Machlan who is one (if not THE) evangelist of WiZiQ using the whiteboard to an extend that was honestly mind blowing. I am pretty sure that some of the new features of the whiteboard are directly linked to his experiments.
The new media player goes into the same direction. Personally I never used video in my classes yet but I can see some use cases for group lessons with a following discussion. As I wrote recently, Mingleverse is also streaming live videos from Justin.TV in its Mingle Rooms now and with the rise of live webcasts on the internet there might come up some new uses for this, too.
The overall design of the new classroom is a bit clearer, more conservative maybe more professional than the current version. The real test will be of course using it for a class or conference. ETCon anyone ?
All in all WiZiQ is mainly closing some gaps and adding some new features but luckily without compromising their “easy to use” philosophy that makes the classroom very popular amongst educators.
If you would like to put the new classroom to a test simply follow this link and sign in with your WiZiQ account. And if you haven’t one yet, it’s a good reason to open one.