Hanging Out

photo 5A colleague and I took part in a Google Hangout session yesterday with six other people from other institutions. Google Hangout is a video chat tool.  I was a bit weary about using this at first because a) I’ve never used it before, and b) there were 10 people expected at this virtual meeting so I wasn’t sure how this would be controlled.

In the past, when I have taken part in virtual gatherings, it has gone one of two ways; either one or two members predominantly speak for the duration of the session or second, everyone is talking over one another and it just turns into a bit of a mess. Fortunately, though, this session worked really well. The sound quality was excellent, as was the video. We didn’t experience any latency issues with sound (despite the fact we were using wifi) whereas this has been an issue with specific web conferencing tools such as Blackboard Collaborate we have used in the past.

Everyone got an opportunity to speak, and there was a common understanding of virtual meeting protocols which kept things in order (this may be because we are all in a Learning Technologist or similar kind of role). We quickly realised the importance of the need to mute, or unmute, when you are not talking (talking), otherwise you will be distracted by the constant video change when sound is picked up from another mic.

Aside from conducting virtual meetings via Google Hangouts, and using it privately with friends and family, you can join other publicly accessible Hangouts ranging from Language Practice Hangouts to paid-for hangouts offering live cooking classes!

Which video chat facility do you like to use with your colleagues and/or students? Please let me know below.

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New web conferencing software

From August 1st, we will be using Adobe Connect Pro v9 as our standard web conferencing / online classroom software. An outline of the program is available in this leaflet and in this Getting Started Guide. Initial tests indicate that the web meetings have better audio and video quality than previously, and the system works in a very similar way to its predecessor.

Connect replaces Blackboard Collaborate, which will not be available after July 31st.
At that time, we shall lose the recordings made on the old Collaborate/Elluminate systems, so please contact the e-Learning team if you need these to be downloaded.


ReVIEW Live!

ReVIEW Live!

It might sound like an oxymoron but I can now announce an exciting new feature of our lecture capture service – ReVIEW Live!

In six of the teaching rooms equipped with the latest generation ‘SafeCaptureHD’ capture appliances we’re now able to offer simultaneous capture and live streaming of lectures / presentations, with both the presenter and the visuals displayed in real time to remote viewers who could be located anywhere in the world. This has clear potential for inaugural and public lectures as well as distance learners.

The rooms in which this facility is available are currently: J104 (EHB); U020 (Brockington); CC021 (James France); the Design Studio (EHB); BE1.42 (Sir Richard Morris); and LDS017 (Design School). It’s also available in the Staff Development training room Rutland 1.13a.

If you would like to know more (or make a booking), contact ReVIEW [at] lboro.ac.uk.

The 'Instant Collaborate' kit

One of the uses to which we put our web conferencing software is the ‘Lunch and Lecture’ series which is part of an EU-sponsored Transport Technology MSc in Civil and Building Engineering.
Each month the part-time MSc students gather for a lunch followed by an afternoon of lectures on transport planning topics by guest lecturers. To promote participation from outside students, the presentations are webcast using Elluminate/Collaborate.
One problem is that the venue is rarely the same, so we have put together a kit which contains everything needed to host a Collaborate meeting in any room with power and networking points. It addresses many common problems, such as:
• Never enough power points
• Non-intrusive recording of the presenter
• Ability to field incoming comments from remote participants

The kit contains:
Logitech Sphere motorised webcam Zoom, pan and tilt allows field of view to be set from any placement of
the camera.
Powered speakers To allow the local audience to hear remote questions.
Targus laser pointer + airmouse Gives presenter freedom to move around as normal and still control
presentation (provided they stay in shot!)
KAM lapel and stick radio microphones Lapel mike for presenter and stick mike for audience both feed a mixer
in the receiver = one sound input to Collaborate.
USB headset for moderator So the moderator in the room can handle audio as well as text from
remote participants.
Every conceivable lead, adaptor and spare batteries Because nobody ever has the one you need!

… and needs the addition of two laptops, one for the presenter and the second for a moderator.

More details of the Instant Collaborate kit

Hanging Out with Google+

What’s this? Google+ is Google’s new approach to social networking. It builds on top of many other Google services, and Google intend for it to become a key feature of most of their products.

Why am I writing about it here on the E-Learning Blog? Well, Google+ has a number of features that may be interesting for educational institutions. I introduced a few of these in a recent UCISA presentation with Google’s William Florance. We recorded the session, and a copy of this is embedded below:

Read on to find out more about Google+ and its potential in Teaching and Learning…

Continue reading

The Collaborate Roadmap

Today’s webinar from BlackBoard Collaborate gave some detail on the plans for the Collaborate platform over the next few years.

New features promised on the roadmap:

“In the next few months” – the UK will get its own Collaborate servers. This should mean greatly reduced audio and video latency, and probably a more reliable service.

“In 2012” – Echo cancellation in the Collaborate software to remove the echo caused by using loudspeakers. This will remove the requirement for using headsets, although you’ll still need a decent desk microphone, such as the Logitech one.
– MP4 content creation from session recordings without the use of Publish!
– integration of Collaborate with LDAP and Shibboleth authentication
– Local servers running the Server Administration System (SAS) will be able to run Collaborate 11 rather than Eluminate 10 from early 2012

“In 2013” – Ability to participate in Collaborate sessions using tablets and smartphones (iOS first, then Android). But running a Collaborate session from any battery-powered device is NOT recommended.

ALT-C 2011: Thriving in a colder and more challenging climate

ALT logoIt’s ALT-C 2011 at the moment in Leeds, the main annual conference on the use of learning technologies in Higher Education. I can’t be there this year, although a number of Lboro colleagues are attending; but I have been making use of the live online presence at http://altc2011.alt.ac.uk/pages/alt_live . This includes conference presentations delivered using Adobe Connect, as well as live video streaming using a service called justin.tv (similar to Bambuser, which I covered in a recent post).

If you’re on Twitter, you can also follow what delegates are saying by searching for the hashtag #altc2011 – this really gives you a sense of the vibe and people’s current preoccupations.

In fact, this “amplified event” approach, to use the current jargon, makes you wonder whether you actually need to travel physically to conferences any more…

Elluminate becomes Collaborate 11

As mentioned earlier, our Elluminate web conferencing package has been re-branded as BlackBoard Collaborate 11 and the new version has been made the default for all new Learn web conferences.

The new version has the same functionality as before, but looks a little less intimidating.  Users of the previous system are advised to try out the new version using the Learn Staff Room’s ‘sandbox’ meeting so they know where to find the components they need to use in their sessions.  In operation, the new version works exactly the same way as the previous one did.

The combined audio+video window in Collaborate 11

Improve your online presence next year

If you have a little cash that needs using up at the end of the financial year, you could do a lot worse than buying yourself a good quality USB or Wireless headset for your PC.

Clear voice presentation really helps Elluminate online meetings, and as you are likely to be wearing the headset for substantial periods, it’s worth avoiding the cheapest models.  A selection of suitable headsets currently available  includes:

  • Logitech Clearchat Comfort USB (£22.10)
  • Plantronics Audio 645 USB (£20.49)
  • Sennheiser PC36 USB Plug and Play (£32.60) or
  • Avantalk AH5 Bluetooth Wireless (£29.99)

If you would like to try some of these, feel free to drop into the e-Learning office on level 3 of the library.

Elluminate update

Elluminate Screenshot
Current and would-be users of Elluminate Live, the University’s web conferencing tool, will be pleased to know that our licence has just been renewed for another year.

New users of Elluminate at Loughborough include the International Office who, as I type this, are conducting a trial run prior to using the tool to deliver online training sessions to the University’s network of international agents.

If you’re interested to know more about what you can do with Elluminate, contact Bryan Dawson or Charles Shields to arrange a demonstration.