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Sharing a Screen Simplifies Support

Over the years CCNMTL staff have assisted many instructors using course websites and tools. One of the most effective ways to help faculty members has been to sit down with individuals at a computer in our Faculty Support Lab (in 204 Butler Library) and walk through the steps needed to resolve an issue. Though this is the optimal solution, time or distance may make it impossible for our clients to come in for a visit. Enter: is a web service that allows us to show a desktop screen to clients who call in with support questions (our channel is available during office hours at Our clients need nothing--no username, no account, no password--they simply visit and "knock" to request access. After the request is approved our screen becomes available instantly and we can even hand over partial control of the mouse and keyboard to the caller. This allows both parties to see precisely the same screen simultaneously, which greatly facilitates support. If the caller wishes to share her screen with us, she clicks a menu option that initiates a small (3MB) download from and which grants us access to see her desktop (but only as long as she specifies).

There's a mobile app (for iOS and Android) so on-the-go users can view a demonstration while away from their main computer. Additionally, multiple users can join a meeting in progress (so, for example, an instructor and her TA can both tune in even if they're not in the same location).

We have used this tool with our clients on a daily basis since the beginning of the Fall 2012 semester. The feedback we've received has been enthusiastically positive and we look forward to expanding this tool's use with our busy, geographically remote clients who need a quick bit of help as the semester progresses.

Some instructors at Columbia might find useful as a way to collaborate with students around holidays or in the wake of natural disasters (like Hurricane Sandy, which recently hit New York City and cancelled classes for a few days). You can get started in a few minutes at

We've covered other tools in the past, but has been a great solution that we use regularly.

Update 2014: If you use Google Hangouts, there are features now built in that allow for screensharing and remote desktop control to demonstrate ideas or help folks at a distance. This help document describes how it's done. We at CCNMTL still use, but we've supplemented that use with Hangouts and Chrome Remote Desktop from Google.