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I have some experience with hosting reading groups/journals clubs in an off-line setting. Usually we meet every week in a room and discuss the paper for that week. However, recently some colleagues and I (~7 people) are trying to catch up on a specific topic quickly, and we want to hold a short reading group/journal club. Unfortunately, some of my colleagues are at other universities, and cannot physically attend meetings.

Do you have any advice or suggestions for tools to hold an online reading group?

My first instinct was G+ Hangout (especially with the new beta features they are making available right now). Skype is also an option, but last I checked required a fee for group video chat.

The preferred features are:

  • Talk to (and preferably see) each other
  • Have access to some sort of shared whiteboard
  • Easy to use and set up

1 Answer 1

Shepherding this is a lot of work. Most such efforts die on the wine because the initial enthusiasts get bored/overwhelmed. Find a solid group of people willing to work together on this, keep the organization flat (not "I started this, so I'll decide what software to use" or so). Keep it simple, no fancy, complex interfaces. No big hassle to set up, use a simple package running (hopefully) under your control on department servers.

You might start by (mis)using the pages used for classes to hand out material, assigments, and class discussions. Everybody involved should already know how to use this. See where this leads, if it outgrows your initial system, you'll know in more detail what you require, and have something to show to convince the department to chip in by e.g.funding a couple of students to help with the day-to-day management (two at least, with overlapping longish tenures, you do not want to train the helpers for a term just to get new ones when they are starting to get the hang).