On Monday, one of the language teachers, who has begun integrating cell phones into her curriculum, via Gabcast, reported that she had gotten a prompt saying that she could not record anymore audio without first paying. Knowing how this teacher has really used this service and being away from a computer to check, I assumed that her classes had exceeded the 200 Mb storage limit that her free account allowed.
Then, this morning, I got an email from a second language teacher who shared that on March 1st, Gabcast changed their service. On the front page of their blog, they announced:
Effective Sunday, March 1, 2009 Gabcast.com is changing its format.
The changes include the following:
No distinction among channel types (Free, Pro, Premium). There will only be one kind of channeland it will have all of the features that were previously reserved for Premium channels.
Telephone recording will become pre-pay, just like conference call minutes. Members that have used telephone recording in the past will have to purchase minute packs.
*** VoIP recording is FREE ***
Needless to say, this unexpected and unannounced change left a number of educators, who are beginning to use Gabcast as a positive way to introduce phones and cell phones into their classrooms. In the comments, we notes from a college course with 200+ students who were using Gabcast for a semester long project that still had weeks left to complete.
While I understand that using many of these “free” web 2.0 tools is risky, for the exact reason that a company may go out of business or is changing its business model, I do feel that there should have been communication ahead of time to let users know of the impending change.
Like many other great tools, like VoiceThread, it would be wonderful for them to develop a reasonable pay option for education. We are willing to pay a reasonable amount for a great service, even in these times of tightening budgets.
We have determined a way for our users to call into a “free” VoIP broker and continue to use Gabcast in such a way that our users will be able to continue to use the service. But we will research if there are better solutions. If so, it may be Gabcast’s loss. Which will be too bad, as it was a great little service.