Web Conferencing (Adobe Connect)
Web conferencing technology is web-based software for holding virtual classes, presentations and meetings. It provides two-way communications between the instructor and the participants through video, audio and text chat. In addition, the instructor can share anything on their computer screen with participants. There is also a whiteboard that the instructor and participants can draw on or add text to. Additional features are available that make this tool more interactive than a recorded video lecture or text-based activities in a Learning Management System (i.e. Moodle) including polling, text chat and break out rooms for groups.
Instructors can use web-conferencing software as a virtual classroom for a single session, or for an ongoing class. For example, one instructor might schedule a session to include a guest speaker from outside of the greater Montreal area in the class. Another instructor might schedule a session each week because class is scheduled at 8:00 on Friday night in winter, a time when traveling to campus might be inconvenient.
Concordia University currently supports Adobe Connect as its web conferencing tool.
Benefits of Web Conferencing
- allows instructors to hold live class sessions from anywhere
- is an engaging alternative to a video lecture in Online or Blended learning
- allows instructors to keep class meeting times in inclement weather, when the instructor is out-of-town or any other case where holding a class on-campus is inconvenient
Getting Set up with Adobe Connect
Instructors or administrators need to submit a virtual classroom request to the Centre for Teaching and Learning (email@example.com). The coordinator responds with a link to the virtual classroom, as well as information about scheduling training to use the system, which is required for all first-time users.
First-time and occasional users can also request the presence of a support specialist during the scheduled class from the Centre for Teaching and Learning, subject to the specialist’s availability.
How to use Web Conferencing Software in your Class
These are only some of the ways you can take advantage of web conferencing software:
- Teach your regularly-scheduled class when you're attending a conference in another city
- Make an Online or Blended learning lecture more interactive than video
- Have a renowned expert from Europe speak to your class live - but without the travel
- Have students present group projects in an otherwise all online course
- Meet with a group of students without anyone going on campus
- Host Student presentations in an online/blended course
Tips for Using Web Conferencing Software
This section is adapted from McKinnie’s (2008) Best Practices for Delivering Virtual Classroom Training.
A lot of planning is required ahead of an online class. Prepare all slides in advance, and whenever possible, provide visual representations of concepts and processes to help make your point. Make sure to organize your notes clearly and provide anagenda to keep you on track and for participants.
Starting the class with two to three interactive questions has two benefits: it provides a natural way for students to try out the technology and it actively engages them in learning. This active engagement is essential to effective Live Virtual Classes; otherwise, students simply feel anonymous.
When preparing these questions, consider this approach. Start with a polling (multiple choice or true/false) question, which requires only a 1-key response. Ideally, the question is related to the course but as an icebreaker, it can also be related to the students. For example, in a first class session, you might ask about students’ demographics like their major. Depending on the course and the topic of the lesson, you might ask one or two more polling questions.
The last question should be an open question—one requiring students to type a sentence or two. Open types of questions usually generate more in-depth thinking and the open response encourages longer form communication early on, which should translate into greater comfort asking questions during the session.
Students should have opportunities for interaction every 3-5 minutes. There are many ways participants can engage with the content, instructor and other participants, and it's important to build in opportunities ahead of time. Some examples include:
- answer questions in the chatbox
- participate in polls
- solve problems in groups in breakout rooms
- annotate a slide (to mark where they fit on a scale, to circle or draw attention to something, etc.)
- use emoticons to show agreement/disagreement, applause and other feedback
While you are leading a session, it can be difficult to keep up with the chat box, however, it is important for instructors to keep tabs on what is being discussed. As students post comments and thoughts in the chat box, it is good practice to acknowledge and highlight some. There could also be lingering questions that need to be answered or misconceptions that need to be clarified.
If you have a TA, it would be helpful to designate them to the chat box and they could be engaging with students through the chat, but also calling attention to you privately about matters that may need to be addressed. If you do not have a TA and find it too distracting to follow the chat, it is reasonable to take a pause for 30 seconds to catch up. Let students know by saying something like “While you are thinking about this last point, I will pause for a moment to scroll through the chat.”
Break out rooms make a more active learning experience and give all students the opportunity to participate equally. Use breakout rooms for students to work on problems as a small group, and later report their solution to the class.
Just as you would in a face-to-face class, it’s important for the instructor to check in with each of the groups regularly to answer questions or provide guidance when required.
Particularly where students have never met the instructor, it’s crucial to add human elements to your class. Consider using the webcam at the beginning to introduce yourself or go over the agenda. It’s also helpful to infuse the class with anecdotes and analogies related to course content.
Adobe connect is a live online environment where the instructor and students meet together from different locations all at once. Everything happens in real-time, which provides the opportunity for interactions amongst students and between the intructor and students. These interactions may include text chat, polls and group work in break-out rooms. Although it can be recorded for later viewing, the emphasis is on the live interactions in a Connect meeting.
The idea behind in-class lecture capture is to record what happened in class for later review by those who need to see it again. Or, in the case of pre-recorded lectures, for the instructor to record a relevent lecture for students to watch at their convenience as a replacement for a live lecture.
Resources for Using Adobe Connect
Training and Documentation
McKinnie, R. (2008). Best Practices for Delivering Virtual Classroom Training. San Jose, CA: Adobe Systems Incorporated. Retrieved from http://www.elearningguild.com/showFile.cfm?id=3159.
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