Adobe Connect for Videoconferencing and Recording Teaching Sessions

connectI have recently used Adobe Connect in a variety of ways to help lecturers record teaching sessions and give their students opportunities to meet and talk to key figures in the industries they are training in. Connect is a videoconferencing platform which allows people to communicate online by watching and listening to each other via webcam, and sharing documents or their computer screen with each other. Participants can also use chat functions to send messages, and answer questions in polls. No software is needed, as everything is done via a webpage. At City, our licence for Connect means that any member of staff can log on to and set up an online meeting room.

My first use of Connect to support teaching and learning was last summer, before the exams period, when a key revision session for the first year undergraduate Sociology students needed to be recorded. A number of students could not attend because they were out of the country. Instead of simply recording the session and giving students access to this via Moodle, we live streamed the class using Connect and over 20 students joined in from several different countries (around 50 students were present in the “real” class). While the lecturer took questions from the students who attended in person, I hosted the online meeting room online and participants used the chat function to ask questions which I relayed to the lecturer (although it’s simple enough for one person to host an online meeting and lead the session at the same time). We got some really great feedback from students during this session. Those watching from home were impressed that we’d gone to the trouble of letting them join the meeting live rather than having to watch a recording.

JOM834 Adobe Connect JOM952 Adobe Connect

Last term, a number of lecturers, particularly in Journalism, organised press conferences during which their students have an opportunity to talk to and question key figures from industry. While a web-based Voice over IP (VoIP) service like Skype could also be used for this, Connect also allows computer screen and document sharing. Sessions can also be easily recorded and stored on the Adobe Connect server, so that students can watch them again later. Access to recordings can be controlled quite closely.

We’ve also used Adobe Connect’s screen-sharing function, combined with the recording function, as an alternative to lecture capture in rooms which aren’t currently equipped with recording hardware, but where a need for specialist software means we can’t use our Personal Capture laptop kits. Connect doesn’t do a perfect job of lecture capture, because the online meeting room and recording have to be set up each time it’s used, and recordings must be retrieved from the system and posted on Moodle manually. Further, the recordings are not perfect quality and since they are Flash they won’t play back on all devices. However, by setting up a meeting room, connecting a microphone (and/or webcam) and recording the meeting, we have the ability to record a teaching session anywhere in the university. For this purpose, no-one else joins the meeting room; we simply record the session and share the desktop of the computer, which means that whatever the lecturer shows on the computer screen will be recorded along with their voice. The recording can either be downloaded as a stand-alone flash video file or linked to on Moodle.

ECEL Conference and Poster: A learner-centred induction to Moodle


The “teaching pod” in the University of Groningen’s main hall

Back in October 2012 I attended the 11th European Conference on E-Learning (ECEL) held in Groningen, the Netherlands. This was the first time I’d attended this conference. I presented a poster on our work with the Department of Psychology on their induction programme for the BSc course in September.

The conference was interesting, mostly because it gave some insight into how City’s educational technology perspective is much more teaching-and-learning focused than many other universities’. Many of the presentations I attended were very technology-orientated and I heard people commenting that they would have preferred them to be more so!

I attended some useful sessions: methods for sending students notifications on Moodle updates via Facebook and Twitter; the changing role of the academic in the Web 2.0 world; and an interesting case study on use of blogging for portfolio development.

My poster summarised the word I had done with the BSc Psychology Director of Undergraduate Studies Marie Poirier, to redesign elements of the induction programme for undergraduate Psychology students. There was agreement between the department and our team that induction would be improved by being more learner-centred, less “information overload”, and by giving students more opportunities to get to know staff and each other. Accordingly, we redesigned many of the activities the students take part in during the week. My involvement was mainly in the first day “orientation activities” and in the Moodle induction on the fourth and final day.

Throughout the whole induction week the main principles for the activities were:

  1. To reduce information overload
  2. To manage students’ expectations and help them understand what is expected of them
  3. To start building a sense of cohort community
  4. To build a sense of subject-specific identity

The students’ first task on their first day at university in September was to get into their tutorial groups and meet the other students who had been allocated the same personal tutor as them. After a welcome and a brief introductory talk from Marie they were divided into small groups of four or five. Each group was loaned an iPad which they used to go off and make short videos about each other and about their personal tutor. Many of the students were quite excited and impressed to be given these devices to work with on their first day – however, the main reason we used the iPads was because they allow quick and easy shooting, editing and uploading of video (via iMovie and pre-created private Vimeo accounts), and because students can also use them to research their personal tutor. We had run a similar activity the previous year with Flip cameras and laptops: the iPads made the whole process quicker and easier.

The approach we took with the Moodle induction was to redesign it as a task-based fact-finding activity requiring students to work in the same groups as they had been in on the first day. The groups were given access to a tailor-made induction module which contained activities such as quizzes, choices, questionnaires and practice assignment submission points. (They could also watch the videos they had shot on Monday). The idea behind this approach was to have students simultaneously learn about and use Moodle: to learn how to use its tools and functionality by finding out something about it. We also wanted to address many of the concerns and questions students have about their new course by giving them the chance to find out the answers to some common questions (How do I find out my timetable? How do I submit my assignments? How do I connect to the wifi?). Finally, we wanted the induction activity to be clearly and explicitly tailored for Psychology students: we included links to commonly used Psychology resources and included contact details for key members of staff in the department. Without too much work, similar approaches could be taken for other departments in the School.

For details of how the project was evaluated, click on the link below to view a copy of the poster. If, as a member of staff in the School of Arts and Social Sciences, you’d like to try something similar for your induction, please get in touch.

Poster Final

A Case Study – iTunes U in Cultural Policy and Economics

In this video I talk to two lecturers at City who have used iTunes U to publish recordings of their lectures to their students and to the public.

Dr Dave O’Brien lectures on the MA Programme in the Centre for Cultural Policy and Management, and is currently acting Senior Tutor for Research at the Centre. Professor Keith Pilbeam is Director of the MSc Business Economics/International Business Economics in the department of Economics.

Dr O’Brien began self-recording his lectures for Contemporary UK Cultural Policy, a module for postgraduate students, in the Spring term 2012. He contacted the Education Support Team to find out about using iTunes U to publish them. Professor Pilbeam also contacted us in order to record his lectures on Introduction to Macroeconomics, a core first-year undergraduate module.

Both lecturers have seen impressive usage statistics for their podcast series, and suggested that publishing their lectures had not only benefitted their students, but freed up some class time for questions, or reduced their own workload. You can hear more about their experience in the video.

Download Dr O’Brien’s podcast series on iTunes U or as an RSS feed.

Download Professor Pilbeam’s podcast series on iTunes U or as an RSS feed.

Video in Education SIG – First Webinar Event 22/11/12

City’s new Video in Education SIG – a special interest group – invites you to grab a coffee and share best practice at our first webinar.

Formed in summer 2012, this group’s focus is on sharing practice within the schools, and gathering examples from other institutions, in: production and publishing of video for education; engaging staff in use of video for teaching and learning; and pedagogical principles behind video for education.

Video in Education SIG at City University London

Webinar – Thursday 22nd November 2012 –1pm to 1.30pm

Event Details

Introduction – Mo Pamplin
School of Law – Scenario-based learning video portfolios – Sophie Paluch
Cass Business School – Dubai MBA student research presentations – Luis Balseca
School of Health Science – Blood pressure self-assessment videos – Natasa Perovic

Moderators on the day, Stef Smith and Steve McCombe at the MILL

Instructions for participants:

There is no need to book a place, all City staff are welcome as are external guests.

Join the webinar room via the link below and settle in from 12.45 pm. Participants will be able to watch and listen to the speakers, watch clips from video projects and pose questions via the chat room. We will use the Adobe Connect webinar service to host this session.

Webinar Room Link (opens at 12.45pm on the day)

It’s good to check your computer audio settings in advance, to find out more see the quick start guide.

Quick Start Guide – Participants

Any enquiries, please contact the organisers via email:

The webinar will be recorded and made available after the event.

We look forward to meeting you on the 22nd November at 1pm.

Lecture capture pilot project report

With the help of the Learning Development Centre and Information Services, the Education Support Team piloted a small-scale lecture capture project in the Spring term 2012. The project report is  available to read here, including case studies of use, analysis of staff and student evaluations, and usage statistics.

The lecture capture pilot reached approximately 1000 students on 19 modules in the Schools of Arts and Social Sciences, Informatics, Health Sciences and the Learning Development Centre in the Spring term 2012. There were 4,195 separate views of the recordings during this period, and usage reports show that the majority of use was around the exam revision period.

The student evaluation showed that 91% of students reported using the lecture capture recordings. The most popular uses of the recordings were for revision and to review areas that students did not understand the first time. 93% of students reported that the recordings helped their learning. A very small minority of students (3%) stated that they did not find the recordings necessary.

Presentations from the Learning @ City Conference

As Anna mentioned in a previous post, the entire team recently presented at the Learning Development Centre‘s Learning @ City Conference. Anna’s presentation with Isabelle Marcoul and Svenja Erich from the Centre for Language Studies won the prize for best paper.

My presentation, which was appropriately about lecture capture, was recorded using our Echo360 Personal Capture system. Click on the link below to watch it:


Kate co-presented with Gunter Saunders from the University of Westminster on the FeedForward project, which we have piloted in Social Sciences as part of the JISC Making Assessment Count project. They gave a similar presentation at the Cass Teaching and Learning Showcase in May, which you can watch here:

MPG session from City University on Vimeo

Echo360 Community Conference Europe 2012

On 2nd May I attended the Echo360 Community Conference, held at UCL’s Institute of Child Health. This event was organised to bring together people from institutions using Echo360 in the region, although there were also some delegates from further afield, including Finland and the USA.

Sessions at the conference covered updates and product details about Echo360, and case studies of institutions who have used it successfully.

In the afternoon Ilkka Kukkonen from the University of Eastern Finland gave a presentation on student perception of lecture capture. At the Aducate Centre for Teaching and Development (websites are in Finnish – English translations available), Ilkka and his colleagues have been investigating how students use the resource in their studies. They are also conducting a usability study of the Echo360 player using a Tobii eyetracker. One of the most interesting things about Ilkka’s presentation was his conclusion that students don’t yet have full mastery of how to use lecture capture recordings to support their studies, and that use of lecture capture needs to be more fully integrated into teaching. While their study supports many other studies which have investigated students’ use of lecture capture, it also suggests that there is more to implementing lecture capture than just giving students access to the recordings.

I couldn’t attend the whole day, and parallel sessions meant that it was not possible to watch every presentation, but many of them were recorded so if you are interested in watching any of the presentations, keep an eye on the conference webpage.

A Case Study – Using Adobe Connect in the Centre for Comparative Social Surveys

Lorna Ryan is a Research Manager at the Centre for Comparative Social Surveys at City University London. She also teaches on various modules in the Department of Sociology. I met her in the Social Sciences café to discuss her use of Adobe Connect. Here’s the full text of the interview.


MP: First of all, what is Adobe Connect?

LR: Adobe Connect is an online tool for virtually connecting with someone face-to-face. You have to have a webcam to use it and you also have to connect to the Internet. Through it you can have meetings, which are effectively face-to-face mediated meetings, or you can have a meeting in which you don’t see (but do hear) the other person when you show them what’s on your desktop. Most usefully, I think, you can go through PowerPoint slides and they can hear your voice over them.

How long have you been using it, and can you describe a situation in which you used it?

I’ve been using it for the last year and a half, and I’ve successfully used it in the development of a research collaboration with a colleague in Norway, who I had never met, who contacted me. We had an email exchange and then we went into the virtual meeting. That turned out to be extraordinarily successful in terms of being able to build a relationship with somebody, to be able to physically see them, and talk through the issues, as well as having the back up of a more formal email communication. I’ve also used it as part of the co-ordination activities of the European Social Survey, in particular with colleagues in institutions across Europe.

And why would you use Connect in these situations rather than meet face-to-face?

Cost! First of all, first and foremost it’s cheaper than travelling to meet the people, so that’s an enormous consideration. To go to, for example, Mannheim for a two-hour meeting you have to take two days out of your schedule. In terms of other platforms, this is the University’s supported platform, so you have an online help crew available, which is really helpful. And I have done the TEAP [Technology-Enabled Academic Practice] course and the TEAP use Presenter and Connect.

What about the other way round; when you’re working with someone you know and who you work with face-to-face, and then meet with them on Connect – is there anything you have to do differently?

No, I think that works brilliantly. I think that once you know people, it’s that surprise that you can see them – this is if you’re not very technically involved – but I think that it’s particularly successful when you know the people. You can have great detailed conversations.

So there’s nothing that you have to change about the way that you talk or discuss when you’re online?

You do… with more than one person you have to implement – for want of a better term – and agree ways of communication. So people have to learn to stop, to ask questions, or to allow questions to be answered, and I think one way of trying to develop that now, is that I use the toolbar on the side to raise my hand when I want to ask a question. But you’re reliant then on the person looking at the screen. But I do think people have to learn the cues to know when to be silent and when to allow people to talk. My preferred way of behaving is to allow everyone Presenter status so that you don’t block out their microphone. So you can then agree to speak, but we say that if you’re speaking you give your name.

But that occurs in initial meetings, [later on] you can relax. It’s more the initial meetings when people are not familiar with the technology, or with interacting in a virtual space.

You’ve obviously become adept with Connect; is there anything you do to coach colleagues or give any support to people who haven’t used the system before?

Yes, the big thing is turning your camera on and turning your microphone off when you’re in a group situation, and not using the hands-free. That’s the biggest problem, that people just haven’t turned on their camera or haven’t turned on their mic – and that’s why you can’t hear them. Generally the problem has been with the institutions we’re working with, not on our side. So I keep on saying to people, “Just leave and come back”. That’s the best advice actually, when it doesn’t work just leave and come back, and try again!

You could be talking and working with people on the other side of the planet, or it could be much closer. You mentioned that you’ve had meetings with people who are all in the same building.

We’ve had meetings with our colleagues in Norway, and we have sat each at our own desks. It means that all of our pictures are up, rather than having one small webcam trying to capture our faces.

And then you’ve got access to all of the things in your office, all of your papers and files and things.

I find it really useful when I want to present my ideas using PowerPoint, very quickly, to bring people through the presentation, and then click back onto the faces. I’m sold on it – I’m a convert.

Is there anything that you’d like to be able to do with Connect, that you can’t do?

I think I accept the limitations. It’s really useful, as I say, for the purposes of saving time, and saving money, and being able to quickly have informal discussions. Perhaps if they’re sensitive discussions you do have to have face-to-face contact, but more generally, it hasn’t been a problem.

In terms of limitations, you’re not in the same room as someone, so is it possible to miss body language or miss visual clues that you get when you’re talking face to face with someone?

I think again this depends on what you’re talking about. If you’re talking about lack of understanding, then you’ve got to develop things like “does everyone understand this?” So maybe it’s more of a teaching issue [i.e. this could be more of an issue when using Connect for teaching]. In terms of developing research, for decisions that need to be made, well presumably people are able to express [their thoughts].

But it goes back to what you were saying about developing a chairing role. Rather than relying on body language, everything becomes much more explicit.

Yes, and you say to somebody, “Would you like to speak?” or they raise their hand and say, “I would like to speak.” I think the fact that you can have a chat function, as well, is really handy, so that you’ve got ongoing communication between the participants, and you can signal if you’re concerned about some issue.

The Moodle discussion forum

Debbie Dickinson has many years’ experience in the creative industries sector, and is the director of the Creative Industries degree in the Centre for Cultural Policy and Management at City University London. She uses her background in events promotion and music management to run the Foundation Degree and BA, which culminate in a series of events at Camden’s Roundhouse every year.

In this case study she tells us about her use of the discussion forums in Moodle, which she has used extensively, and which won her an award at City’s Moodle awards for 2010-11. She finds that the discussion forums offer a way for students to extend their discussions and meetings outside the classroom, essential when promoting events such as music gigs. Moreover, this is a way to engage students with Moodle early on, helping to ensure they come to see the VLE as an essential and central part of their studies.

A Case Study: Online Marking in Moodle

James Anslow is a lecturer in the Department of Journalism at City University London. He was formerly Chief Production Editor at The Sun and The News of the World and runs the blog eJournalism UK.

He runs the undergraduate module on Editorial Production which introduces students to sub-editing, layout for print and web, script writing, copy writing and programme making. In this case study, he talks about his use of Moodle to mark scripts and design files online. James uses Moodle and the Turnitin plugin to mark hundreds of pieces of work a term.