There are several ways to engage in
real-time multi-point audiovideo sessions. The Blackboard course management
system now includes Blackboard Collaborate for this purpose. An alternative
to this is Adobe Acrobat Connect Pro.
Macromedia developed Breeze Meeting™,
which is a software package for online collaboration. In December of 2005,
Adobe purchased Macromedia, and now calls the software "Adobe Acrobat
Connect Pro™, though I may refer to it as Breeze Meeting™ at
times. There is a sister product called Breeze
Presenter, but this is primarily a tool for creating an online, flash-based
PowerPoint™ presentation that uses voice-over, and it is not intended for
real-time collaboration, as is Breeze Meeting™.
Pro™ lets distributed users
collaborate in real time. It included facilities for 1-way audio/video
presentation, multi-way audio/video discussion, text chat, sharing the view
of a window or application, polling, a whiteboard, and more. It even allows
true application sharing, where one user can request control of an
application on another user's computer. Although this is a synchronous, real
time collaboration, the host can choose to record the session for later
viewing by attendees and non-attendees.
For more information on Adobe Acrobat
An alternative multi-point video
conferencing software package is Blackboard Collaborate, which is expected
to become available to Ball State University faculty in Spring 2012. Those
who are interest can learn more from
and can contact Ms. Yasmin Tunc in
Information Technology at Ball State.
Ball State University has contracted with
the Indiana Higher Education Telecommunication System (IHETS)
to allow BSU faculty to request scheduled meetings using the IHETS Adobe
Acrobat Connect Pro
server. This service is referred to as "IHETS Interactive."
if you have troubles using the system,
run the system check, and see the answers to questions at
Getting a Room / Account
Faculty at Ball State University may request an Adobe Acrobat Connect Pro
room on the IHETS server either for a specific class, a specific event, or
an ongoing basis. Please contact Ms. Nancy Day in the School of Extended
Education to set this up.
The computer you use must have a
broadband connection to the Internet. If you are using a wireless connection
and experience problems, try switching to a hard-wired connection. Please
note that even with a broadband connection, your Internet Service Provider
might allow you to download data at a fast rate, but to upload it only at a
much slower rate.
In order to hear the audio, you must
either have headphones or a speaker system, although speakers sometimes
create problems because the sound coming out of your speakers can travel
into your microphone, which others can hear. Therefore, a
headphone/microphone is recommended. It is possible to participate in a
meeting without a microphone, though you will be limited to using your
keyboard when you want to make a comment. It is also a good idea to have a
webcam, so that others can see your smiling face.
Needless to say, the computer should be
rather new and fast, and it should be situated in a quiet room. If you are
using a webcam, then there should be adequate light on your face.
To log in to a scheduled meeting, you
should first know the URL of the meeting "room." Instructors typically are
provided this information from the server administrator, and in turn provide
it to students.
To log in, browse to the URL provided.
You may be prompted to log in, and this can occur in different ways
depending on how the host has set up the meeting. Follow the host's
instructions. After logging in, rune the Audio Setup Wizard, and if
appropriate, "Share" your camera and microphone.
Here are the instructions that were given
to those entering a meeting in an online class.
Typical Procedure to Enter an
1. Make sure your team and I
have agreed on a time to meet. Take into account
different time zones. Unless otherwise specified, Ball
State's (Eastern) Time Zone is assumed.
2. Make sure you are at a computer with a microphone
and speaker (though a headset is better), and that you
have a high-speed Internet connection. A webcam is
optional; it would let other see your smiling face.
Close other applications that will not be used
(rebooting the computer is recommended by IHETS.)
3. A few minutes
before the specified time, browse to the following,
though not through Blackboard:
[Replace this with the URL
4. Do not log in here, but in the "Enter as a guest"
box click "Click to Enter."
5. Enter your name, then click "Enter Room." If
necessary, load any plug-in when prompted.
6. After the Acrobat
Connect shell loads, on the top menu
click "Meeting," "Manage My Settings," and then "Audio Setup Wizard."
Under the Advanced Settings at the end of this setup
wizard, you might need to click "Use Enhanced Audio"
and to select "Headphones" under Acoustic Echo
Cancellation Mode" if you are using headphones. You
can also increase the Audio Quality to Best, and
make adjustments here to the volume level if needed.
7. The instructor will assign you an access level
that will allow you to use your microphone and camera.
After this is assigned, you can "Share" your camera
or mic by clicking on the small icon on the lower
left of the camera and voice pod:
8. To speak, locate
the buttons to engage and lock your mic on, which
should look like the image below:
If you click on the
lock icon on the right, your mic is turned on and
locked, and no one else can speak. This is useful
for a presenter who is giving a lengthy
presentation. However, for back-and-forth dialog,
instead press the left part of the icon that says
"Talk" to speak, and when you release it, your mic
will turn off, allowing others to speak.
Note: in a recent
update, Adobe Acrobat Connect Professional changed
the Talk feature so that only one individual will
talk at a time. If you want to talk, it is a good
idea to either type in the chat window, or to change
your "Status" to "Raise Hand," which you can do by
clicking the "My Status" link and brining up the
Tips for Using
If you and other participants have
"presenter status," then among the other things you can do is to change the
layout of the meeting room pods. However, this changes the view for everyone
involved. Please allow the single host to do this, unless you are giving a
It is also courteous to identify yourself
if you have a question. For example, let's say I'm one of several
individuals in the audience with my camera turned off. I have a question to
ask through my mic. It would be a good idea for me to say, "This is Jim with
a question..." so others would know who is speaking.
Additionally, please leave the "meeting
room" set up the way you found it.
Muting your Mic
If you are not talking, and you are not a
key presenter, then make sure your microphone is set to mute. This cuts down
on the noise others hear.
Freezing the Frame
In order to reduce the bandwidth
requirement, we can use smaller video windows. It is also possible to click
on a button to freeze your smiling face. This might improve audio quality.
In order for a meeting to be recorded,
the host must click Meeting, and Record a Meeting from the
menu. Before leaving the meeting room, the recording should be stopped by
pressing the red circle in the top right of the screen.
When to Use
Connect Pro™. When to use an Alternative.
Connect Pro™ can a terrific tool for
collaborative work. Online education is not the same as individualized
learning, and collaborative tools allow for a synergy among participants
where ideas, resources, and reasoning can build within an online
In particular, Connect Pro™ can
be useful where a series of artifacts (documents, Webpages) should
be seen simultaneously by a number of people. Since Connect Pro™ is
a tool for synchronous communications, it can meet a need for
many back-and-forth communication events that can occur in a short time, as
often happens in group decision making and in question/answer sessions. It
also serves social functions, allowing us to see and hear our colleagues,
and forming a greater sense of online community. Furthermore, the recording
function allows archiving of a meeting for later viewing. So, one might
wisely choose to use it for:
Group decision making
Sharing another's computer
Building online community
(Creating an archive of the above)
Some disadvantages of Connect Pro™ are evident if the tool is compared to a face-to-face meeting.
Here, the technology can get in the way of interacting. If an audio level is
poorly set, if a participant looses the connection, or if the video seems
choppy or blurry, we might think this to be a poor substitute for
face-to-face contact. There can be a delay in transmission, and this is
unfortunate. However, if the participants are in fact at remote
locations, face-to-face meetings may not be an option. Time savings by not
traveling to those meetings could be seen as a benefit outweighing the
disadvantage of choppiness.
Some distributed learners may not have
broadband access. Some may lack a camera and a microphone. Others may use a
microphone and computer speakers resulting in feedback. Thus, disadvantages
can arise due to the technological systems at each remote site. This can be
compounded by bandwidth requirements, which are increased as audio and video
feeds from multiple sites are used.
As with other online communications tool,
there is a learning period in which new users are devoting time to learning
the tool rather than to communication. However, this is seen with nearly any
technology, and a little extra work at the outset by all can make for
efficient use of the tool from then on.
Other disadvantages of Connect Pro™ appear when comparing this tool to others used for online education
and online collaboration. For example, a text-based threaded discussion
allows users to organize content by concept (or thread), rather than chronologically,
facilitating the ability to delve deeper into an issue without the time
constraints seen in synchronous communications and later organization of a
discussion's archive based on concepts. The archive created in a threaded
discussion creates a text-based archive that can be accessed in a non-linear
manner pinpointing the messages of interest by their subject line within a
thread, whereas synchronous communications archives are generally accessed
in a linear and chronological manner with no indexing by topic.
Since Connect Pro™ is synchronous, it requires all
real time participants to log in at the same time. Asynchronous tools, such
as a treaded discussion, empowers those who might not
want to take up others' times by being the center of attraction in
a live chat or in Connect Pro™. Generally, in a synchronous
communication, one person provides information at a time, which requires
others to receive that information at that time. Threaded discussions allow
all users to receive or provide information at any time and at any point in
Some online collaborators prefer to
compose lengthy, well-researched and well-reasoned messages. Others prefer
to engage in quick back-and-forth dialog. In general, a threaded discussion
may be more appropriate for the former. Thus, the learning style or
communications style of each participant may be a factor involved in the
decision of which tool to use.
Sometimes, deeper ideas need time to gel,
and the fast pace of synchronous discussions does not provide ample time for
thinking through an idea. Thus, collaboration using Connect Pro™ may seem
shallow when compared to collaboration in a threaded discussion. However,
this need not be the case. Prior to engaging in a synchronous discussion, a
participant can prepare her or his thoughts and ideas, having more to
In summary, one might choose to use a
threaded discussion rather than a synchronous tool (Connect Pro™ for
video collaboration) when:
collaborators are not available at
the same time;
collaborators lack the technology to
use the synchronous tool;
depth of thought is important;
it is important to organize
discussions by ideas;
references are shared, analyzed, and
all are to be equally empowered to
a written transcript or a transcript
organized by and accessible by topics is wanted.
The wise teacher, collaborator,
presenter, attendee, and student should consider the use of video
conferencing tools such as Adobe Acrobat Connect Pro™ in light of the objectives
of the meeting and the nature of participants. Instructional tools should
not be used merely because they exist. They should also be used in a
critical fashion where the implementation of the tool can be improved
through iterative lessons learned in each use.