DimDim for Sharing Screens Remotely
Forty nursing students, some on-campus, some off. Forty required reference consultations. Two part-time librarians. Forty-two different schedules. One creative solution! Keep reading to learn how DimDim helps to facilitate communication between students and librarians at the University of Washington Health Sciences Library.
Librarians Joanne Rich and Janet Schnall are liaisons to the UW School of Nursing. Joanne and Janet approached the nursing faculty about ways they could get more involved in helping students improve their information literacy skills. The faculty responded in a BIG way: by requiring students in several classes to meet one-on-one with Janet or Joanne for individualized search help. Finding it difficult to schedule so many in-person meetings, Joanne and Janet asked Ann Whitney, Head of Systems at the UW Health Sciences Library, about a technological alternative. Ann suggested DimDim, a free web conferencing service.
DimDim enables Joanne and Janet to share their computer screens with students while talking with them over the phone, via text chat, or with VoIP (internet audio). Students benefit from hearing about how to construct a search while seeing an expert searcher in action and having the opportunity to ask questions. Students are not required to have DimDim accounts; the librarians send e-mail to invite them to meetings. There is very little for either the librarians or the students to install, just a 2MB plugin to enable the screensharing capability. DimDim users can share documents, presentations, web pages, and whiteboards in addition to live screens. They can also use webcams to see each other, which helps to establish a more personal connection. DimDim meetings can be recorded for later viewing. Watch this video tour to get a sense for the look and feel of a DimDim meeting.
While their results were generally positive, Janet and Joanne report that the DimDim experience has not all been smooth sailing. They experienced some delays due to connection speed. Fast-talking librarians are advised to slow down their explanations, leaving ample time for pages to load on the students’ monitors. If using VoIP instead of the telephone, it is best for both parties to have headphones with attached microphones. This eliminates feedback noise from computer speakers.
Many nursing students still choose to meet with Janet and Joanne in person, but they appreciate having the option to use DimDim when time, distance, and other circumstances make a trip to the library inconvenient. Kudos to Janet, Joanne, and Ann for being tuned in to their students’ needs and finding a great use for freely available technology.
Are you making creative use of technology to get things done at your health sciences library or community-based organization? We’d love to share your story in a future Dragonfly post. Contact Alison and tell her your ideas.