Talking Teaching

November 5, 2014

reflections on using AdobeConnect in a tutorial

Recently I went to a couple of seminars/tutorials on using AdobeConnect in teaching & learning. As I vaguely remember saying somewhere else, this bit of software looked a bit like panopto might, if it were on steroids, & I could see how it could be a very useful tool for use in my classes. Not least because (as you’ll have gathered from my last post), there’s some concern around student engagement, particularly among those who don’t actually come to lectures, & AdobeConnect seemed to offer a means of enhancing engagement even if students aren’t physically present.

I decided that I’d like to trial it in the two pre-exam tutorials I’m running this week (my class has its Bio exam on Friday – the last day of the exam period. No prizes for guessing what I’ll be doing for most of the upcoming weekend :( ) I would really, really like to use it during lectures, so that students not physically on campus can still join in, but, small steps…

So, first I set up my ‘meeting’. Work has made this easy by adding an AdobeConnect widget to the ‘activity’ options in Moodle, so that was pretty straightforward; I just needed to make the session ‘private’ so that students signed in using their moodle identity. The harder part of the exercise lay in deciding what to actually do when in the meeting room. In the end I set it up with a welcome from me, a ‘chat’ area, so students could ‘talk’ with each other & ask questions, and a ‘whiteboard’ so that I could draw (& type) in response to those questions. And, when the class actually started, I spent a few minutes showing everyone there (the 20 or so who were there in the flesh, & the 8 present via the net) what each of those ‘pods’ was for & how to use them.

You certainly have to keep on your toes when interacting with a mix of actual & virtual class members! My thoughts & observations, in no particular order:

  • remember to press ‘record’ right at the start, if you’re intending to record a session!
  • next time (ie tomorrow) I’ll remind those physically present that they can log into the meeting room too – this could, I suppose, be distracting, but it also means that they would be able to participate in polls, for example. I did it myself, at the launch of our ‘connect week’, just to see what everything looked like from the on-line perspective.
  • it was really, really good to see the ‘virtual’ students not only commenting & asking questions, but also answering each other’s questions. I hadn’t expected that and it was a very positive experience.
  • but do make sure that you encourage this cohort to take part; they need to know that you welcome their participation.
  • the rest of the class seemed to quite enjoy having others interacting from a distance.
  • next time, I’ll bring & wire in my tablet, & use that rather than the room computer. This is because I do a lot of drawings when I’m running a tut, and while you can draw on the AC whiteboards, using a mouse to do this is not conducive to nice smooth lines & clear, precise writing. I <3 touchscreens!
  • it’s very important to remember to repeat questions asked by those in the room: the microphone’s not likely to pick their voices up, & if you don’t repeat the question then the poor virtual attendees won’t have a clue as to what you’re talking about.
  • with a pre-exam tut it’s hard to predict what resources might be used, in terms of powerpoints, web links & so on. For a lecture I’d be uploading the relevant files right at the start (ppts, video links & so on), but today I was pretty much doing things on the fly. However, I’m running another tut tomorrow & have put links to a couple of likely youtube videos into the meeting page already.
  • Internet Explorer seems to ‘like’ some AC actions more than Chrome; the latter wasn’t all that cooperative about ‘sharing my screen’, which seemed to me to be a better option than uploading at one point in proceedings.
  • as a colleague said, doing it this way meant that overall I had more people in class than would have been the case if I’d only run it kanohi ki te kanohi (face to face) – what’s not to like?
  • for me, the whole session was quite invigorating, & I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of learning to use a new piece of software to improve the classroom experience.

Mind you, on that last – it was my impression that the classroom experience was improved. And you’ll have gathered that I truly did have fun. But I’m not a learner in the way that my students are. So I asked them for feedback (interestingly, so far I’ve had only one comment + my response on Moodle, but as you’ll see we’ve had a reasonable dialogue on Facebook) – and here’s what they said:

BIOL101 Adobe Connect tutorial

So next year I will definitely be using this during lectures, and to interact with my Schol Bio group & their teachers – and I think we’ll definitely have one tut a week (out of the total of 6 that we offer) that’s via AC, so that students that can’t come onto campus can still  get the benefits of that sort of learning environment.

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3 Comments »

  1. Hi Ali – another great bit of sharing! We use Adobe Connect here in Dublin, and especially the Open Education Unit people, who teach all over the country (and overseas as well) using it from their offices. I’m interested in your comments on Internet Explorer being better than Chrome. I’ve not used Adobe Connect myself as a tutor, but the feedback I’ve heard would be that the opposite is the case. We’re strongly encouraged to use Chrome as a preference. And as at Waikato, we have Connect easily accessible from Loop (our Moodle site). In fact in terms of recording the sessions, I just got to give a lecturer a ‘virtual classroom observation’ from watching his 1 1/2 hour tutorial using Connect, last week! It was easier than I thought, as I have done all my previous observations face to face, but it did help that I’ve participated in a fair few Adobe Connect discussions already, with some quite skilled presenters, so was accustomed to the affordances of the technology. I was glad to read that you used the poll option as part of your teaching. The guy for whom I wrote the feedback had just resorted to getting students to indicate their option in the chat box, and it was both public, and way less visually effective than quickly embedding a poll as you go, which I know can be done.

    One thing to watch out for, if ‘remote’ students are using speakers rather than a headset to communicate, is that you can get some truly evil feedback (reverberation). A session I took part in last week had this. The presenter was sitting at the next desk to me in our open plan office, so I heard her speak; then I heard her on the headset; but also one of the off campus students had speakers on, so her voice reverberated back and forth as though there were a dozen of her in the room. Fair did my head in! Fortunately she recognised what the problem was and asked the student to mute her mike. We’ve also found some of the glitches that happen in Adobe Connect may be caused by too many people trying to use their webcams, so in general we leave the webcams off, with just the facilitator’s operating. But you’re right, that ability to set up pods, including private chat rooms if students want to ‘have a group chat’, can be really engaging. It was great to read your students’ responses on the Facebook page.

    I’m going to assume that as this is a public blog, it’s fine to share, so this is going places here at DCU. I ran a seminar on flipped classrooms with 35 attendees two days back, in which I referred to your using Panoptoed lectures that students could watch out of class, and then you’d jointly explore the tricky issues from some of those in the class time, so your leading-edge practice is getting some exposure over this side of the globe! Keep it up.

    Warm regards,
    Pip

    Comment by docpipnz — November 6, 2014 @ 9:47 pm

  2. Hi Ali – Pip again! Just came across this article on using Twitter in a Biology classroom. While there were some cautions about this usage, I think the possibility might add to your Adobe ideas for encouraging different types of engagement. http://www.academiccommons.org/2014/07/21/teaching-with-twitter-extending-the-conversation-beyond-the-classroom-walls/
    All the best – early springtime here in Dublin!
    Pip

    Comment by docpipnz — February 16, 2015 @ 10:31 pm

    • oooh, thank you!

      The mornings are feeling a bit autumnal here but still hot & sunny during the day (& we’re on water restrictions again with drought declared in parts of the South Island).

      Comment by alison — February 17, 2015 @ 10:38 am


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