Saturday, December 18, 2010

Distance Teaching in Genealogy

Experienced genealogists constantly receive requests for help to teach others how to do family history research.  Teaching is nothing new to them.  We all do it if we can.  The time spent helping others is just a way of paying it forward or paying it back.

Over the years, my audience has extended to reach around the world.  Extended cousins and friends don’t all live within a 50-mile radius of my home.

I’ve used a number of different software packages to aid in the teaching process across the distances.  Most of them have failed to provide a stable platform or have increased in price to the point of being retired.  After all, we typically aren’t being paid to teach and commercial packages can put a hole in our research budget.

Mikogo is my choice of desktop sharing now.  It is free, stable and always seems to work. Coupled with Skype or Google audio calls, teaching folks in faraway places is a snap.

A plugin version of Mikogo is available for Skype, but I don’t like it.  The desktop image is extremely low-res and is basically useless.  Instead, install the standalone version of Mikogo and your students will be delighted with the clarity and crisp response of the image on their screen.

If you don’t have two monitors on your computer or if you have low bandwidth, don’t launch a video call, just voice.  If you do, the bandwidth requirements of the video connection and the Mikogo broadcast will almost immediately swamp your connection.

To start, go to the Mikago site, download and install the application for your Microsoft or Apple operating system. There isn’t a version for Linux at this time.

Before you launch Mikogo, be sure to close all applications or pages that you don’t want others to see, otherwise they will see everything on your screen.

Upon launch, you will be asked what type of a connection you want.  Chose to share your screen.

When you start the session, the session information screen will launch.  Send it the URL and session ID to your students via e-mail.  The first time they use Mikogo, they will need to download a small executable file which is the screen viewer for Mikogo. 

At least one attendee must sign into the session within 15 minutes of its initial start or it will close.  Tell your students to go to the site at, fill in the session ID number and their name. Up to 25 participants can be in any meeting.

Minimize the session window on your machine and start your class. 

Click on the Mikogo icon on the bottom right of your screen to access the whiteboard, swap presenters, send files, etc.

You’ll want to practice with the tool before you teach your first class so you can master the tools and learn how to stage the programs and applications you’ll use in your classes.  Perhaps your spouse will enjoy listening to your practice sessions on another computer.

After the practice sessions, you’ll be ready to teach your first class; even when they are far away and the snow is up to your knees outside.  Your students will be impressed with the quality of the video in your presentation.  The rest is up to you.



Using Mikogo



DearMYRTLE said...

Thanks for the heads up, Lee.
Ol' Myrt here has been paying $39-$49 per month for GoToMeeting's maximum 15 attendees. That number works fine when the majority of my meetings are one computer to one computer, where the distant society sets up in a roomful of attendees.

I'll test this out and compare the resolution, lag time, etc.

If you'd like to try comparing with my, I can arrange that.

Myrt :)

Harriet Sernaa said...

Thanks for the detailed explanation of the benefits of and how to use Mikigo's pc remote access software. So Mikigo's software is not cross-platform? Also, are there security concerns when using this type of program?