Picking up from Brad’s excellent post on technology in the Church, I’d like to talk about a communications technology he failed to mention: online meetings.
The diocesan office I head started using online meeting software (specifically GoToMeeting) in January of 2009. The immediate impetus was to give some relief to our regional lead principals — some of whom were driving nearly six hours round trip for quarterly meetings. Being out of the school for an entire day was a hardship and meant that, if there was an emergency in the morning, they would not be able to make the meeting.
We began by replacing one regular meeting with an online meeting. While we endured some hiccups and bumps during that initial session (it became painfully obvious that the system was not designed to allow twelve people to pray out loud together!), the participants were pleasantly surprised at the results — and the fact that they didn’t need to leave their schools for a whole day! Since then we’ve been slowly reaching out and offering the system to other offices and committees, and we’ve even hosted larger “networking opportunities” for principals via the system.
Online meetings are especially suited to large national groups. I sit on the technology committee of the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership; our committee members live all across the country and it would be impractical to meet face-to-face with any regularity. In addition, our work includes reviewing and offering suggestions on a variety of online tools, a task ill-suited for phone conferences. Using online meeting software that allows us to view the presenter’s computer screen is an ideal solution.
Outside of these experience, however, I don’t see a lot of Catholic organizations using online meeting tools. While many are starting to experiment with webinars and other online presentations, many in the Church are still too ill-at-ease with technology to pursue these opportunities. I look forward to the day with receiving an invitation to an online meeting from a parish, diocese, or national ministry organization is a regular occurrence and not a curiosity.