The Elluminate roadmap

You will know that Elluminate and Wimba were both taken over by BlackBoard earlier this year, and merged into a new concern called BlackBoard Collaborate.

At an online webinar yesterday, the plans for the new company were outlined.  A total of 236 people attended the session, which used Elluminate as its platform.

It very quickly became clear that Elluminate was the senior partner in the merger.  It had always been the larger company, and it was obvious that the new joint product (codenamed ‘Gemini’) would be based on Elluminate Live!, not Wimba Classroom.

Work has already begun on Gemini, which seeks to merge the capabilities of Elluminate Live!, Wimba Classroom and Wimba Pronto into one product by the end of 2012.  The new product will be a free upgrade to all existing customers, and would be both “browser-based” and “Java-based”. Support for Wimba Classroom will cease in 2013.

  • All existing VLEs with integrations to either Elluminate or Wimba would continue to be supported.
  • Video quality would be improved using Wimba’s technology, but retaining Elluminate’s low-bandwidth capability.
  • Echo cancellation would be improved to support sessions with both local and remote participants
  • By summer 2011 the Gemini phase 1 product will be available to Elluminate users, incorporating some (configurable) improvements to the user interface.
  • By summer 2012 Gemini phase 2 will include Wimba features: a content repository allowing session resources like whiteboards to be stored, shared and re-used, and also archive movies of sessions will be available in .mp4 files.
  • By the end of 2012 Gemini will support mobile devices in the iPad/Android class.
  • Gemini will continue to use the SAS server system, Plan! and Publish!  as currently used by Elluminate, but will be hosted in several locations (sounds like Wimba’s UK servers will become Gemini servers)

From our point of view, changes will be minimal, since we already use Elluminate Live!.  We will simply get an improved and expanded system.  There was no word in pricing other than that Gemini will be a free upgrade for existing users.

ReVIEW for mobile devices

Did you know that the ReVIEW system automatically generates additional file formats that are suitable for playback on mobile devices?

As a presenter, when you log into the ReVIEW system to check your capture before you make it available via Learn, you see the following options if you hover over your recording:

ReVIEW playback options

Additional ReVIEW playback options: play mp3 / play m4v

If you choose ‘play MP3’, this gives you an audio-only version of the recording which you could then where appropriate upload as a new episode to a podcast activity in Learn.

If you choose ‘play M4V’, this gives you a file that combines the audio recording with whatever was displayed on the data projector (ie without the video recording of the presenter). This ‘enhanced podcast’ format is suitable for playback on Apple devices – iPods, iPads and iPhones – and will work on other mobile devices too. In this case, all you need to do is copy and paste the link into your Learn module, as you would usually do with the ‘full fat’ lecture recording.

iPad – the Newton reborn?

Photo of the new Apple iPadSo Apple have finally pulled the wraps off the long-awaited iPad, and pretty cool it looks too. I say this as a recently converted Apple fan, having bought an iPhone 3GS back in December and bored friends and colleagues ever since with endless app demonstrations.

Industry pundits seem to agree that the new device is likely to be a ‘gamechanger’, if only because Apple appear able to sprinkle magic marketing dust on any new product they launch.

But maybe success isn’t so certain. In recent years Apple’s Cube computer was a sales flop, with consumers unsure as to who (and what) it was aimed at. And perhaps more pertinently, going back to the early 90s, Apple released a much-hyped early PDA with handwriting recognition built-in called the Newton. Again, at the time no-one (apart from Apple fanatics) really ‘got’ it.

So will the iPad be another iPod / iPhone or another Newton? Difficult to say. On the one hand, it hits the ground running by virtue of supporting most of the 140,000+ apps which already exist for the iPhone. On the other – well, although I will of course simply have to get one, if I’m honest I’m not sure when I would use it. We already know that even the 3G versions won’t work as a phone (and you’d feel pretty foolish holding one up against your ear anyway), so that potentially compelling reason to take it everywhere won’t apply. And it’s perhaps too small and compromised to function as an alternative to a ‘proper’ laptop.

That said, by the autumn we’ll probably be starting to see them in the hands of students and show-off colleagues (you know who you are!) If it does turn out to be a gamechanger, this will clearly have implications for teaching and learning. Watch this space.