The Middle School Portal Elluminate session I ran discussing Interactive Notebooks was recorded and the recording is being made available by LearnCentral.org. The session ran approximately 50 minutes and had about 19 participants. This was my first experience using Elluminate from the presenter side and there were a couple of things I was taken back by:
- The inability to see my audience. Not being able to see the participants really threw off my ability to guage their interest and understanding. I had a hard time knowing when to stop explaining something and when to give more explanation. I also talked way too much, partially due to the fact that this topic needs more than a 45 minute time frame for understanding. It was difficult for me to judge when to step back and ask questions, and many folks didn’t raise their hand to volunteer questions during the session.
- The chat was difficult to follow. I thought I would be pretty good at this one, but was actually overwhelmed by the amount of material in the chat. Being a moderator gives you the view of the regular chat, plus the “behind the scenes” chat, so there was a ton of information going by.
- The Whiteboard Slides. On a technical note, this was odd to me. When you upload a slide presentation, the slides are converted to PNG images. This means that links you include are not active, so you have to drop them into the chat for folks to click out to a link. Additionally, on my end, the slides were not transitioning when I clicked the button for the next slide. Everyone else could see the new slide, but I had to click forward an additional slide and then go back to the slide I wanted. This really disrupted the flow of the presentation for me.
On the other side of the coin, there are a number of features with which I am amazed and I think they could make Elluminate an excellent platform for online coursework. In no particular order:
- Multiple Speakers – In the previous Elluminate sessions in which I was involved there was only a single microphone enabled. This lead to rather disjointed conversation as folks couldn’t engage one another in conversation. Finding out Elluminate supports up to six simultaneous speakers makes the platform much more robust when considering a discussion.
- Video Capability – I knew it was there, but hadn’t tested out the webcam/video feature within Elluminate. Though I only used it for a moment, it was nice to be able to “show my face” (at least I thought it was, the participants might have thought otherwise). Six simultaneous cams also make this a very interesting possibility for small group work.
- Application sharing – I had a number of websites I wanted to share with the participants. Rather than doing a web tour, I just shared my Firefox window with all the tabs open. This allowed me to quickly go through the various tabs and then provide a ShareTab at the end of the session with all the sites for the participants.
Not yet fully tested:
- Whiteboard tools – I used the highlighter some, but not enough to know the full capability of the Whiteboard tools. They did seem a bit difficult to navigate with just the touchpad on my laptop.
- Polling/Quizzing – Saw that these features were available, but in the short session did not have time to test them out. Would be interesting to see how they work in practice.
Overall, my experience on the moderator side of Elluminate was a positive one. I think there is a very good chance this tool could be extremely useful in online coursework going forward. The interactions that are possible extend far beyond that which is available through Blackboard/Moodle. The ability to archive sessions is an excellent way to provide follow-up resources for further discussion through blog posts, etc. I will be posting the notes and information from my Interactive Notebook session later today…so be on the lookout if you’re interested.