Running virtual tutorial sessions in Adobe Connect

Posted: January 29, 2013 at 4:52 pm

By Ben Loveridge (Learning Environments) Recently, I took a behind the scenes look at The University of Melbourne’s recording set up for the Coursera platform. This delivery method provides students with lecture content and assessment tasks at a time and location suited to their own schedule. In this post I will describe how to coordinate a virtual tutorial session in a totally online environment using Adobe Connect.

Ethics in Finance Screenshot

Photo: Ethics in Finance webinar – Adobe Connect iPad Screenshot (Student identities have been blurred)

Signing Up A single ‘named host’ license can be purchased for $188 for 2014, requested via the Learning Environments via this google doc form. It allows you to host an online session for up to 100 users at a time. For more detailed information about the host license view the named host Named Host license update FAQ. There is also an event module available for $353, an overview video is here. Once you receive notification that you’ve been set up with an Adobe Connect account you are ready to create your first meeting :

  • Navigate to http://unimelb.adobeconnect.com and enter your login details
  • From the main menu select ‘Create New: Meeting’
  • Add a custom URL that’s easy for you and participants to remember
  • Note: The start time and duration are not that crucial as meetings are persistent, once created they stay active, provided a host is present.
  • Choose access control – The most common is ‘Anyone who has the URL for the meeting can enter the room’. Pre-registering guests for anything other than a small meeting is an administrative burden and anyone wanting to do this should purchase the event module add-on.
  • Optional: Selecting ‘Next’ will take you to a ‘Select Participants’ window, you only need to do this if you have registered users.
  • Select ‘Finish’. 
  • The next screen will show a summary of the meeting information, you can copy and paste this meeting URL and email to participants. Alternatively the ‘Invitations’ window can also be used to send an email to yourself with the an attached calendar event you can then forward.

There are some useful online resources to view to help become familiar with the operation of Adobe Connect:

A week before the session
  • Send an email to students with the URL, date, time and technical requirements required to participate in the session. Mention that the session will be recorded so if anyone objects to being seen or heard, they can leave their webcam/headset turned off.
  • If you plan on allowing student interaction via webcam and headset, set up a test session in advance to help eliminate any technical issues. You don’t want to spend valuable tutorial time devoted to audio/video troubleshooting.
  • This diagnostic test site will ensure your computer and network connections are properly configured to provide you with the best possible Adobe Connect meeting experience –   http://unimelb.adobeconnect.com/common/help/en/support/meeting_test.htm
  • Adobe Connect 9 system requirements (client) - http://www.adobe.com/au/products/adobeconnect/tech-specs.html
  • If you are planning on playing videos to the audience then they need to be converted to .flv and uploaded to the room in advance. Otherwise if you just screen share a desktop, playing a video it will be staggery and the audio on heard via the room mic, not the clean direct video sound. Best to send people a link to the video in the chat box after uploading it to a YouTube channel.

Virtual Room Setup

  • There are three bandwidth settings the Adobe Connect platform can be configured for by the host: Modem, DSL and LAN. This page explains bandwidth calculations in more detail.
  • Modem: Don’t even use this setting unless it is 1995, the audio sounds terrible.
  • DSL: Viewers should have at least 400 Kbits/sec download bandwidth for one video pod and screensharing window. Each additional video window will need around 200Kbits/sec. Presenters require at least 400 Kbits/sec upload bandwidth.
  • LAN: Viewers should have at least 600 Kbits/sec download bandwidth for one video pod and screensharing window. Each additional video window will need around 300Kbits/sec. Presenters require at least 600 Kbits/sec upload bandwidth.
  • You can visit http://speedtest.net to determine your upload and download speed.
  • Organise the session layout and upload any powerpoint presentations or notes
  • If many of your students are located off-campus on relatively low bandwidth connections, considering tailoring the room bandwidth settings to suit.
  • Setup a polling pod to display at the end of the session to gauge the success and encourage feedback from students

Technical Considerations

  • UPDATE: Adobe Connect now works on Uniwireless (thanks to the proxy removal). Follow these steps to remove any existing proxy settings in your devices.
  • It’s a good idea to have a support staff member available online to assist with any technical issues that may come up in the session or to help moderate the chat window
  • There are current issues with using the Chrome browser.
  • Although the Adobe Connect session can be joined via iPhone, iPad and Android apps, joining via a cellular data connection will use around 300Mb per hour of bandwidth. Connecting to a Wi-Fi network is a good option from a laptop or mobile device.
  • Camera considerations: Make sure you are not in front of a bright window or the auto-gain of the webcam will turn you into a silhouette.
  • For single user sessions, a USB headset/mic will generally sound better than using the in-built mic of a webcam or laptop. Ideally all participants would be in separate locations and all have headset / mics. Check out Logitech Webcams and Logitech Headsets for options. For multi-user-in-a-room sessions check out Clearone Speakerphones.
  • The current Adobe Connect license does not include telephone dial-in as an option so if you want everyone to join in via telephone (while just running the presentation part via Adobe Connect) then visit the ITS telephone conference service page.
On the day of the session
  • Send out another email reminder at least an hour prior with login and technical setup information
  • Login to the room 15-30 minuties prior to the start time, double check your audio/video setup and greet any early arrivals.
  • If you are enabled for audio participation run through the Audio Setup Wizard by selecting Meeting > Audio Setup Wizard
  • To add background music, follow the steps outlined here.
Ethics in Finance Screenshot

Photo: Ethics in Finance webinar – Adobe Connect iPhone Screenshot

At the start of the session
  • Start the recording
  • Introduce yourself and those assisting in the session
  • Outline the desired protocol for interaction – ask students to raise their virtual hand if they have questions
  • Highlight the chat window and private message functionality
  • Enable audio and video for participants who have the ability, do this by right clicking on their name and enabling either microphone or webcam or both. Remind them to run the audio set-up wizard themselves and click the mic icon at the top of the screen so they can be heard. If you are hearing feedback from anyone ask them to stay muted when not speaking to keep room noise at a minimum.
During the session
  • Keep an eye on the chat window to review questions or technical issues that students may have
  • Encourage participation in the session by asking questions that require a yes/no response or typing in the chat box. Provide feedback on answers to stimulate discussion.
Ethics in Finance Screenshot

Photo: Ethics in Finance webinar – Adobe Connect iPad Screenshot

At the end of the session

  • Check for any final questions and thank students for participating
  • Mention that the recording link will be made available for later viewing
  • Display the feedback poll for students to complete

After the session

  • Send recording URL link to participants. To get the URL, login to the back-end admin system, click on ‘meetings’, ‘ recordings’. Be sure to click on the check box, select ‘Access Type’  and choose public to allow the link to be viewed. Click on the name of the recording and then copy the URL provided. If you need to edit there is the option to do that and also hide the chat or attendees pod if you wish to make things anonymous. See this video for more detailed information – http://youtu.be/sB9vBbXXQZU
  • The URL’s exist for as long as we continue our subscription to Adobe Connect or we have enough space in the account. However the only sure-fire way to safely archive a recording is to save it locally, this can be done in the recordings list for the event to click on the ‘Actions’ drop down and select ‘Make flv’. This will then save the recording as an flv file which can then be uploaded to a video hosting platform such as YouTube or Vimeo for longer term archiving.
  • Detailed reports of session meeting usage can be obtained in the administrator sections under ‘Reports’ such names of guests and time spent in session.

Departments at the University of Melbourne using Adobe Connect

  • Faculty of the Victorian College of the Arts and the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music
  • Faculty of Business and Economics – Fully online tutorial / webinar sessions
  • University Library
  • Melbourne School of Graduate Research
  • Arts – Orientation sessions
  • Melbourne School of Land and Environment – Public seminar series
  • Copyright Office – Staff training sessions
  • AsiaLink – Teacher training
  • Melbourne Students & Learning
  • Faculty of Veterinary Science – Virtual Open days
  • Music, Visual and Performing Arts
  • Royal Childrens Hospital – Tutorial sessions
FAQ
  • Can I play DVD’s via Adobe to show movies or videos to the online class? Firstly, any video material used in an online environment must comply with the copyright requirements so speak to the Copyright office if you have specific questions. Generally speaking you need to own the video (ie have made it yourself) and have all relevant permissions to play the video in the online context you are planning (ie public/private event). Secondly Adobe Connect can only play .flv movies uploaded to the server in advance so any video must be converted to this format first. If you require assistance with this contact the Learning Environments team.
  • How do I avoid Echo or feedback? Echo is usually caused by participants having computer speakers going in their room while having an open mic. Best advice is to ask participants to wear headphones or better still use headset mics. If none of those are available then ask them to mute their mics when not talking.
What to use other tools for:
  • Job Interviews – Zoom or Skype. Given the already widespread use among the community and its overall video and audio abilities. Audio lag is generally better on Zoom or Skype than Adobe Connect but this can also depend on network considerations.
  • Guest Lecturing – Again Zoom or Skype would be the preferred option for beaming in remote speakers into a lecture theatre, especially given Skype is pre-installed in all Learning Environments managed spaces.
  • Ad-hoc student online groups – Many students are already using tools such as Facebook and Skype for group or chat sessions. Zoom would be ideal for this as well. Given the Adobe Connect ‘named host’ model requires a license holder (generally an instructor) to be present for the room to be active, this doesn’t lend itself to ad-hoc student-only interaction.

Considerations when choosing what platform to run an online event

  • Is it a web only event are would you be running it in a venue as well? – If you are ‘blending’ a session, you may want to consider live streaming the event  rather than a producing it as a webinar.
  • How many people are promoting it to and what would you expect the numbers attending to be (Our current Adobe Connect is limited to 100 at a time).
  • With registration do you have your own system for that or would you be preferring the webinar tool handle the whole registration process?
  • For external public facing webinars, the GotoWebinar suite of products has a very good registration engine so if you were wanting to track users by registering then it may be worth looking into. Our current Adobe license is not so great for registration and really only suitable for ‘guest’ only access.
  • Are you planning to organise and run these with your own staff or will you be also seeking to book technical support to facilitate testing and the running of the sessions? – Learning Environments are able to assist with technical support if required.
  • Do you plan to record and archive the session and make it available for viewing afterwards? If so, will this be delivered from your own website and how long would you plan to have it available for afterwards? – Adobe Connect allows viewing via the Flash interface for full quality or the option to convert to a video file. In the latter case, this video would then need to be hosted to allow viewing.
  • Online tutorial sessions can be coordinated to resemble physical classes but do require additional preparation and set-up time in the virtual space to help ensure students have the technical support required to participate.

Other potential uses:

  • Student Tutorial Groups
  • Webinars
  • Virtual Open Days
  • Orientation Days
  • Virtual Classroom
  • International Marketing
  • Staff training
  • HR Assistance
  • Outreach programs
  • MOOC’s
  • Research Collaboration
  • Work from home

Example text to send to participants

The session can be accessed remotely via a link to Adobe Connect virtual room. URL: http://unimelb.adobeconnect.com/(your session here) Enter the meeting as a Guest user by entering in your First and Last Name in the Guest field.

  • It is recommended that you log into the Webinar at least 15 minutes prior to the scheduled time.
  • It is highly recommended that you test your computer, or mobile device prior to participating. Connection Test: http://unimelb.adobeconnect.com/common/help/en/support/meeting_test.htm
  • Verify that your computer speakers are on and your computer’s volume is at an audible level.
  • Once logged in, notify the moderators if you would like your audio/video feed enabled.
  • If you are using audio, we recommend you run through the Audio Setup Wizard. To do this, select Meeting > Audio Setup Wizard.
  • Check that your webcam is switched on and connected.

Note: if you miss the Webinar for personal, or technical reason, the recording will be provided afterwards.

Checklist Required:

  • computer (alternatively via an iOS, or an Android app – free in their respective stores)
  • browser (note: avoid Google Chrome if you want audio participation) – see technical specifications
  • internet connection (note: Adobe Connect will not work on UniWireless)

Recommended:

  • headphones with built-in microphone and a webcam

 

Comments

  1. Gerry Fahey says:

    Hi Ben, great post, just a reminder the Library is still a user as well, we have several licenses spread about across some of the Disciplines.

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