Jono Bacon, one of the most popular bloggers in the Linux community had a problem conducting online classes. He used IRC, a popular IM client. His students first had to learn how to use IRC and then lean how to participate in the class in real time.
Necessity, being the mother of invention forced him to create Lernid, a nifty classroom tool that facilitators can use to conduct classes and students could use to actively participate in them.
Lernid is a cool tool that presents students with four panes. One pane is a customized calendar used to display session time information. Another displays a pane for displaying slides. The third is used by the student to get the actual lecture of the class in real time ascreensnd finally the last one is used by the student to participate in discussions.
Lernid provides the facilitator to create an event. This is done using a flat file where the facilitator may specify the respective web page, configure an IRC channel and schedule the event start and finish date/time information. The slides for the lecture are provided for Lernid as a pdf document.
During the lecture the facilitator has the ability to change slides or display a website while communicating with the rest of the class with a IRC client.
Lernid is a great and immensely useful tool. While there is scope for more improvement, it is hard for such a product to be commercialized or used on a grand scale. For now Lernid is available only on Ubuntu. Despite Ubuntu's immense popularity, I do not see too many lecture conducted on Ubuntu exclusively for a Ubuntu audience. Lernid also requires that the facilitators are comfortable with using script files. To the non-nerdy, this may be a turn-off.
Maybe Mr. Bacon has no such plans, but I'd like to see it ported to other platforms. I'd also like to see more of the newer technologies/applications integrated into Lernid, like other chat tools, Google Wave, etc. Nevertheless, Lernid is a great concept that I'd like to blossom in the next few years.