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 talk.city.ac.uk 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.

EDEN conference poster presentation

We have a poster presentation at the EDEN conference in Porto, Portugal next week. The conference theme is ‘Closing the gap from Generation Y to the mature lifelong learner’. Our poster is a case study of a distance learning course, the PGCert in the Principles and Practices of Translation. The vast majority of courses at City University are blended learning courses (using a mix of face to face and online resources) so we were interested to see how the students on a distance learning course utilsed the tools made available to them in Moodle. The poster outlines how mature students from two cohorts on this course, with different levels of technical experience, have utilised the online resources, focussing on the use of discussion forums and Adobe Connect.

Discussion forums

Evelyn Reisinger, Course Director, set up a news forum and discussion forums in Moodle. These were designed to encourage the students to raise and discuss their own issues as they felt appropriate with minimal interference from university staff. I was interested in whether the students utilised these discussion forums to create a community of practice (or communities of practice as there are a number of language combinations available within the programme). This draws from the work of Etienne Wenger (2006).

I completed a content analysis of the discussion forum postings for each year group. I did this by reading through each post and categorising it in terms of its content.

The contributions on the discussion forums specifically relate to some of the criteria for communities of practice as outlined by Wenger (2006). These include problem solving, requests for information, coordination and synergy and discussing developments (see the percentage interaction for each cohort below).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adobe Connect

The academic staff were keen to have some face to face tutorial time with the students. This was done using Adobe Connect (AC) web conference software already in use at the university. The sessions were specifically designed to answer student questions just after they had received assessment feedback. The students sent in their questions before the session and the course lecturers answered them in text form on Moodle and through AC.

Results

  • AC live sessions were not well attended
  • Some students suggested that the time of the session wasn’t convenient
  • Some students are studying from different countries so the time zone may have been a factor
  • The sessions were held in the afternoons when many of the distance learning students may have been at work or had childcare issues
  • Students that didn’t attend did access and view the tutorial recordings so the sessions were perceived as worthwhile

Conclusions

From analysis of the usage of the tools, feedback from students, lecturers and the administrator we concluded that
  • Students did use the discussion forums to communicate on many levels and did create communities of practice. In 2009/10 they were focused on the course but in 2011/12 a German to English mothers forum was set up and this includes personal interactions about their lives and similarities. The staff on the course are actively encouraging use of the discussion forums in this way
  • Students were willing to use the online resources made available to them. They had signed up for a distance learning course and were made aware that resources were shared online so this could have led to a self selected IT-confident group
  • Students used discussion forums for a number of different interactions, mostly related to the course but including some personal interaction
  • Age of student was no predictor of their use of the technology
  • Adobe Connect recorded tutorials were accessed if students could not virtually attend at the time of the tutorial so proved a valuable resource type

Interview with Course Director Evelyn Reisinger on using Moodle (recorded during the first year of the programme)