A friend asked whether I could recommend some online tools to help small groups use the Internet for Bible study. The mostly free tools and techniques I mention below would be useful for any faith community.
I’d suggest that you open a Google group for email discussion. This form of communication encourages thoughtfulness, because it takes time to compose a note and read others’ notes.
If you want to share word processing documents, presentations, spreadsheets, allowing others to add or strike stuff, use Google Docs, available off your Gmail inbox.
If you can manage to get all of the participants registered with Google.com, then you can have up to ten people in a “hangout,” which is a free video conference. Up to ten persons can participate in hangouts.
If your participants are willing to pay a little for a phone conference call, then you can use join.me for your audio and visual connections, allowing the convener to show his/her computer screen to all participants, and connect your viewers by voice using the Join.me audio telephone conferencing rates. It works out to about $5/hour–much better than driving long distances to get together in person.
Skype audio calls are free, and you can have as many as ten or so on a Skype audio call without problems. Skype is free, but again you have the organizational task of getting everybody to install it. And of course, everyone has to have a webcam or a mic to transmit with. But, if you don’t want to pay anything for your group audio connection, then Skype is a good way to go. Here is a CyberKenBlog post to explain how to use Join.me and Skype for absolutely free online meetings:
If the convener wants to share a lesson online by way of a presentation program like Power Point, use the free presentation app in Google Docs, again off your Google inbox. Save the presentation file to your Desktop. Then play it once you’ve opened your Join.me meeting. All participants will see it play. You can even drop videos into your Google app presentations.
- Do Business People need to Hangout? Google+ certainly thinks so (marketing.yell.com)
- Signing Up Participants through Google Docs (andrewbwatt.wordpress.com)