This isn't an invite for lots of vendors of all kinds to send their stuff to me....please :-)
I am interested in other corporate's and large organisations who provide their own in house training using web conferencing systems. Particularly those that offer rich training environements (not just file sharing and audio), which encourage and enable audience participation. What are you all using and why?
Currently using LiveMeeting but it is expensive. I'd be grateful for your experiences and I look forward to seeing many of you tomorrow.
I've used a variety of tools over the past 5 years, all pretty good. If you'd like to mail me I can go over my experiences in more detail, and suggest other members who are worth contacting. For experience of the Webex environment, please do join Nigel Paine's webinar on April 7th (http://www.learningandskillsgroup.com/webinars.cfm).
We have tried using both Webex meeting centre and Training Centre and now have been looking at Adobe Connect Pro as another provider. There are benefits to both of them, in my opinion;
Webex is very easy to use and to be honest no formal in-house training has been provided, we tend to upskill ourselves via application sharing although we are looking to structure some formal guidelines about developing training content to be delivered in this manner.
Connect Pro has more scope to deliver media rich content and can have plug in's such as Adobe Presenter and Captivate. It doesn't have the same functionality as webex but are very similar. Not sure on costs though at this stage if comparing.
The other web confering system I have come across was one that Jane Hart has on her free tools is a system called DimDim. If it is a free system you are after I'd check this out - you can have up to 25 meeting delegates and has all the usual file sharing, audio etc capability although I'm not sure about the rich training environment - my call would be connect pro for that one - they are doing a free trial at the moment via the adobe website
I use WebEx extensively and the abitility to pass around the presenter role is extremely useful. We are trialling it currently with remote learners who have basic skills issues. I also record my sessions and upload them for missing attendants, this has proven very popular.
I have seen Adobe Connect and like it but if you want to get on and just participate WebEx is the one for me.
WebEx is expensive but I know that their account managers (Intercall in the UK) do cut good deals.
I'm using Adobe Connect Pro - for the second time now - having originally started out four years ago using Webex Training Center.
I'm using it alongside an integrated audio conferencing service.
For me, the Adobe look and feel is excellent and users comment that it has a "quality look".
If you want to use breakout rooms, compared to those within Webex, the Adobe ones are much easier to set up and manage, making this feature - which could be seen as a potential trip-up point - much less of a worry. In particular the passing back of whiteboard content from the breakout rooms to the main room for the debrief is very straightforward. This has certainly encouraged me to explore using breakout rooms more often.
In my opinion, uploaded PowerPoint slides render much cleaner in Adobe and the fact that you can easily run Flash-based objects during a session opens up so many possibilities to include video clips.
The ability to organise each "room" as you see fit is also an advantage. You can really structure the screen to help you achieve the specific objectives for your session. And the fact that each "meeting" you create is preserved (unless you choose to delete it), keeping the layout and content as you last left it, means you can easily run multi-session training programmes, each session picking up where the other left off.
The toolset is not that different from Webex's and in my opinion is more flexible than with Webex. The polls can be used in different ways, facilitated by the fact that you can have more than one open at a time and you can move them around the room to fit in with other relevant content.
The fact that you also don't need a plug-in (unless you want to be the presenter) is also a major advantage. When I was using Webex, often having no control over the learner's IT infrastruture - coupled with the fact that learners don't read the joining instructions, so don't find out that they need to get IT support to enable the download to take place - sessions would often get off to a bad start, when some realised they couldn't join. That said, I know that the plug-in can be pushed out from the centre, so that problem may not worry you. But if you ever have to provide training to which external clients are invited, it can be an important consideration.
If I have one niggle, it's that the whiteboards aren't the easiest to use if you open up write-rights to the entire group. Webex does impose a bit more "order" in this respect. But I've overcome this by making sure I consider this in the session design.
Elluminate is a well-featured system. We've tried that, InstantPresenter and Adobe Connect. They all have pros and cons and are more or less stable. Whatever you choose will be affected by the resilience and bandwidth of your connections on various sites, obviously. The DimDim system is also very good, as mentioned above.
When you say rich training environment - can you explain a bit more - I use WebEx a lot and often combine it with Video conferencing for smaller groups, as all our main offices are linked and these rooms tend to be well equipment. The VC gives me the real time quality images of delegates so I can see they are there! Awake and paying attention!! I do use a WebCam at least at the start of a pure WebEx session but voice and lip sync can be a bit off putting for some - VC is more HD
Large groups though you have to use telephone conferencing for the coms or VOIP - however with some preset material and a good structure you can work well - its the screen sharing ability that is so powerful - you only have to ask 1 or two delegates to take over and repeat a certain demonstrated action you demonstrated to make everyone else more attentive.
By the way I have now combined it with live audiences and SmartBoard technology so I am a big fan of WebEx (had it 2 years now). I am currently delivering to staff in India on our new Oracle HR system and next week its the US - both are small groups and I am using the VC and individual laptop set up that I like. There is more but get in touch if you want more ideas
I'm still very attracted to Elluminate and using it regularly. In fact I have set myself a personal mission to test it to capitulation. Now I'm just about to go on holiday and don't have time for a very detailed appraisal here and now, but I'll "cast some bread upon the waters" and see what floats back. In Elluminate I can create a syndicate exercise in which groups retire to break-out rooms. Once there they work in a whiteboard collaboratively to decorate a template for a blank carton. Some of you may have seen me use this attention-grabber in live classrooms. I regard it as quite a test of a virtual classroom; not all of them can make it work! So ... on with the explanation. The instructions to each of the groups is the same - "Suppose blended learning came in a box; how might you decorate it?" The theme is that packaging carries messages, and those messages may have to speak to the client ("Use me") or to the Customer ("Buy me and implement me"). Through words and images the groups have to convey somethnig of the ingedients, the process and the advantages of blended learning! The process in a real classroom is to work in groups with fibre tip pens and glue to design and then assemble these boxes from the templates. Then they return for a plenary session and the individual efforts are consolidated into a composite version that contains the best ideas from each. How can you replicate that in a virtual classroom? Well in Elluminate users can copy and paste images and text from their own desktop into the whiteboard. Then they have the added advantage that they can reposition or remove them if they so desire. If you can visualise a group of 4 participants working together, discussing their design principles through voice and/or text, creating and installing their media assets and systematically completing the task, then you have a good picture of the first stage in the process. The next stage is to assemble the boxes (this is optional). Each participant may print the finished template with all of its embellishments and, sitting at their own desks, may assemble the cube. Finally comes the reporting back and the construction of a composite of all the best ideas. Where bandwidth is sound and reIiable, a spokesperson for each group may use video to show the end result while another talks about its features and the decisions and compromises they had to make. Where the signal strength is weak it is enough to bring back the flat templates from each breakout room and present them as slides with a narrative. I handle the consolidation by opening a blank PowerPoint slide on my own (Moderator's) desktop. As we discuss each design I selectively harvest words and images from the individual whiteboards and transfer them (copy and paste) to a fresh blank template of the cube on my PowerPoint file. Finally my assistant and long-suffering wife prints out the finished product, assembles it and I show it the group through my own webcam. ANALYSIS, SYNTHESIS, EVALUATION - aren't these Bloom's higher order cognitive skills? VISUAL, AUDITORY, KINAESTHETIC - in a virtual classroom? What's going on here? Now I've used Saba Centra, Cisco Webex, Adobe Connect, Dim Dim as well as Elluminate with reasonable regularity. My challenge to anyone who cares to rise to it is this: can you describe to me how all of the above might be done in each of these systems? Before I depart, if you have read this far you must have some interest in it and thank you. Perhaps you'll go to our 2 minute survey of webinar skills at www.onlignment.com. Thanks Phil Green