John, thanks for this very useful response, as well as to the other of video-streaming. I have put up long videos (through Blackboard) for my students and usually did two versions, larger and smaller streams, so that students could choose depending on their connection.
Set up in advance, and that means adequate technical support, is also critical. And it cannot just be "on call," but available at the outset.
And a more general pedagogical note. WebEx wants the whole screen, and will sometimes take it no matter what you do. In our recent seminar, and past Webex seminars in which I've participated, I am typically multi-tasking. That is I'm checking email, organizing files, etc. I find that this is typical of my students even in a classroom setting. Each comes to the class with different abilities to concentrate, comprehend, etc. They expect, as do I, to be able to fill otherwise wasted time with "useful" activity. This suggests two things to me. 1. In a virtual classroom we will even more need to "loop back" and pick up stragglers and 2. The virtual classroom will only be irritating if it hogs my monitor. Thanks.
WebEx does want it all! I think that's a result of its being developed for business (the boss only wants you to multitask when she's not talking to you!), I've used DimDim too and it's friendlier. Have to admit that I usually have my laptop for other tasks and use a desktop computer for WebEx sessions.
You raise an important point about video - true streaming services (rather than download streaming from Blackboard and other servers) are the way to go when possible, providing true streaming using one of the streaming protocols. Besides the CollegeAnywhere consortium I'm a part of (they do hosting and licensing of content), which is where we have our courses living, we also use blip.tv to host content, and course content is usually placed behind a password. This has several advantages. 1) True streaming uses a lot less bandwidth than download streaming, downloading usually grabs whatever it can get or is allowed, and 2) the content remains protected rather than becoming part of the student's collection on their computer. The first is important for your and the students' network capacity. The second is important depending on whether the content needs to be restricted (for instance, licensed videos vs ones you make). And if students are watching the content once, they're not filling up their hard drives with videos they won't use again (but can still go back online if they want to view again, at least as long as they have access to the course). Blip.tv has a PRO version (for $8 a month - basic is free) that creates a Flash file just like YouTube, with multiple bandwidth versions, and in the PRO version adds password control and also will convert your content to MP3 and downloadable Podcast versions using their servers, which commuter students find helpful. But most will use the streams, I've found. There are other services available like this, blip.tv I've been happy with.
Thanks John, That is amazingly useful information. One of our issues (as part of a large university) is that while University tech support provides services like preparing streaming video it often takes time to get things done. (weeks, not days) Also digital rights are important.