Changes in GabCast’s Business Model Leaves Educators in the Lurch

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 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.

3 thoughts on “Changes in GabCast’s Business Model Leaves Educators in the Lurch

  1. That’s timely as I was just planning to introduce various “call in” podcast sites to our teachers tomorrow.

    I noticed Gabcast had a five minute recording limit posted, so I think we’ll use Gcast instead. Any experience with that?

  2. Switch to GCast! Seriously, this is one reason why schools with resources should host their own services whenever possible. Another reason is control over the rights to your data (see Bill Fitzgerald).

    I learned that our Avaya voice mail system stores messages as individual WAV files in a simple folder structure. How easy would it be to share one account’s voicemail folder to the network, pick up new files, convert them to MP3, and include them in a podcast feed? Alternatively, configure email forwarding for that mailbox and use POP to fetch messages and convert the attachments. I haven’t had the opportunity to try this yet, but it’s on my to-do wish list.


  3. Richard,

    We actually have found a work around that works very well, so we are up and running at this point in time.

    In the mean time, we are researching GCast as well as a platform being developed by Michigan State University for our future work.

    I agree with you that schools with resources should host their own services when possible. This is what we try to do whenever we can. However, we often use these “free” web 2.0 tools to seed until we have a critical mass. We have been showing Gabcast and GCast to our language department since the Fall 2007. It wasn’t until this fall that they began to integrate it and with the success, it has embedded itself into the curriculum in such a way that it is becoming an indispensable for the learning environment.

    Hence, our looking at hosted options now.

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