The future of #adobeconnect looks exciting for interactive sessions, #lecturecapture & more #uoleeds_tech #edtech #lrnchat #elearning

The future of #adobeconnect looks exciting for interactive sessions, #lecturecapture & more #uoleeds_tech #edtech #lrnchat #elearning

Why this may be relevant to you:  If you are in need of one solution which will do a lot of things, like enhanced face-to-face teaching, but also online conferencing with a whole bunch of bells and whistles such as mobile and tablet support, interactive voting, slide and desktop annotation, session recording and post-editing to name a few, you will be interesting to hear about the future of Adobe Acrobat Connect Pro.

Those who know me or have visited this space before will already have gathered that I have quite a soft spot for Adobe Connect and its use in Education. This soft spot dates back about five years ago, when it was the only tool that supported multiple webcams, and also had the good sense of being Flash-based, which meant the numerous Java updates that its competitors were plagued with didn’t really affect it. Having worked with it for a bit, I then looked after a pilot project at the University of Leeds and did quite a few cool things with it (I was told) which you can hear more about from this Adobe Connect recording of a joint session at the ALT-C 2011 e-learning conference in the UK.

Now then, I am not going to say that Adobe Connect is perfect, although there are lots of things which I like (some I even love): 

At the same time, there are a few things which I think the company needs to keep working on:

 

UPDATE: scratch my pointing out aspects that still need development, folks (though, historically, it may be useful to keep them in the post to see the evolution of the tool).

Adobe have just released fuller news of the features in Adobe Connect 9 and they’ve pretty much dealt with all of the above (except sharing tablet screens just like sharing PS screens – however, they’ve made progress there by allowing sharing of images on the tablet (so think of a combination of tablet screenshot-taking which is very easy to do both on Android and iPads + sharing, and you’re back in business ;)), and more:

  • recording Pause functionality (YEY!!!)
  • recording editing functionality with Chat anonymisation or deletion
  • powerful recording menu editing functionality
  • better audio functionalities
  • webcam of speaker now stands out visually
  • much more functionality on the tablet for the lecturer, including annotating over slides from the tablet! (I know! How exciting is that?)
  • powerful features for audience engagement and session sign-up and tracking

Check out the full release of Adobe Connect 9 features here, and see below for some of the changes and my thoughts about them.

Much more functionality for editing recordings

This will be the most exciting development for educators, I feel. The current Adobe Connect suffers from very limited recording editing features (not that this is necessarily a bad thing, as not all educators want to be working with Premiere-like features). However, it IS rather limited. The next version will enable a few very cool and extremely clever things:

  • the ability to exclude interactive pods such as Chat, Q&A, and Attendees list from the published recording – maybe you want the world to know what you said, but not what people were discussing in the chat while you were saying it
  • if the chat discussion is valuable to the recording, but you’d like to protect the identity of the contributors, with one tick-box check you can anonymise all discussions – so that instead of participant names, the viewers see User 1, User 2, etc.
  • the recording menu shows automatically on the left-hand side (much like the menu in Articulate Studio resources), but, and this is super cool, the instructor can edit it, and even include his/her own bookmarks into it – this is particularly awesome as, if your session was not based on go through a pre-uploaded PowerPoint presentation, but rather on sharing your desktop and working with several applications, you could not add bookmarks to enable students to jump to individual relevant points. Everyone had to fiddle with the playback bar. Now that’s fixed and is looking excellent!

What is not clear whether Adobe has addressed is the impossibility of generating several distinct recordings from the same source recording – it would be a neat feature to be able to do that, and split a session into several bite-size elements. In any case, a little bit more info on this upgrade can be found here, but I’ve also embedded the main video below for your convenience.

Enhanced event registration

This is an exciting development for those who would like to take full advantage of the functionalities tools offer. Apart from using Adobe Connect for live lectures (engaging face-to-face and online participants alike if the lecturer wants to), Connect is a great tool for additional activities, such as online open days, course taster sessions, pre-sessional live meetings with faculty, etc. It is therefore brilliant to see the new functionality allowing event organisers to create very funky event registration mini-websites by dragging and dropping interactive elements to customise already good-looking and comprehensive templates. I already know a few people in my University who will be very excited about this! More information available here.

Monitoring participant levels of engagement

For this particular enhancement to take the face-to-face application of Adobe Connect to a new level, it would also need to be integrated in the mobile app. Having a presenter panel on a tablet would do presenters a world of good – let’s see what Adobe come up with. Basically, Adobe is using algorithms which include information on, for instance, how active participants are in the chat, or when answering questions and polls, in order to produce an overall figure which indicates how “engaged” they are in the session.

In the academic world, face-to-face sessions have long benefited from lecturers using personal response systems of various natures, as well as the mere act of looking at their audience, to estimate the extent to which participants are following them. Soon, with this functionality, online presenters already having to cope with the strange feeling of talking to themselves, will take some comfort from keeping an eye on this score. Adobe gives a tiny bit more information on this page.

Enhanced event reporting

While most lecturers may not bother with this too much at first, school administrators, organisers of online open days and publicity and outreach events (not to mention the big business community out there) will love the possibility of finding out how effective their marketing channels have been (e.g. has the Twitter campaign worked better than the Facebook or Linked In one?), as well as how effective their session registration questionnaires have been (e.g. has any particular question put people off?) and how keen potential participants have been (how many people clicked to register, actually signed up, and then actually attended the online sessions?)

Without a doubt, such information is extremely useful, and when you consider it in the context of the enhanced event registration functionalities which I have already mentioned, event organisers really don’t have much more to ask in terms of integration – except, perhaps, the integration with e-commerce engines, which would allow events organisers to easily capitalise on their online work (but who knows, maybe Adobe is already working on this and will update us on it soon). Anyway, here is where you can find a bit more info, and here is the official sneak preview video below: