Academic Technology in Higher Education

Technologies to facilitate the learning process and increase student success

Author: Adam Scott Wandt (page 3 of 3)

Elluminate: Students’ First Impressions (PAD/CRJ 750)

Elluminate-Screenshotsx

Elluminate: Students’ First Impressions (PAD/CRJ 750)

Course:  PAD/CRJ 750 (Spring 2010)

Title:  Security of Information and Technology

Level: Graduate

Date: February 2010

Due to a snow storm, students were asked to attend a virtual lecture in place of their standard class meeting. This was the second class meeting for the semester. Students received a thirty (30) minute “Elluminate Introduction” followed by ninety (90) minutes of lecture on US Federal law pertaining to computer crimes. Students were then asked the following question in a Blackboard discussion forum. Students had seven (7) days to reply. Ten (10) out of fifteen (15) students responded. A recording of the Elluminate class is available upon request.

Question:

Please provide feedback about your experience with the Elluminate software. Since you were able to experience Elluminate first hand during the online class meeting, it will be great to be able to receive your feedback on the product.

This virtual classroom is a possibility to expand the teachings online and your honest  opinion will be greatly appreciated and taken very seriously. Lastly, do not forget to EXPLAIN the reasons why you do or do not like the program.

Student 1

Overall, I would have to say that my experience with the Elluminate software and my ability to experience Elluminate first hand during the online class meeting was extremely positive. I am being completely honest when I say that, initially the idea of using the Elluminate software and participating in a virtual class were concepts that were both ‘foreign’ to me. Especially since I consider myself to be someone whom possesses the basic skills of computer use. Henceforth, I have heard of online courses and the use of a discussion board – but a virtual classroom? Immediately, my mind became bombarded with curiosity and questions. Specifically, these questions consisted of the following: What is a virtual classroom? Is the Elluminate software and the virtual classroom features going to be fairly easy to operate? Is the virtual classroom going to serve as a sufficient method for class lecture and learning the course material? And, could this software (as well as other possible software’s) serve as a method for future education? After actively participating in my first-hand experience with the Elluminate software and the use of a virtual classroom, I honestly feel that it was both an interesting and beneficial experience. Despite this being my first time in a virtual classroom, I felt that the software itself and the virtual classroom features were fairly easy to understand and operate. Specifically, because I was able to enter the virtual class a few minutes early and familiarize myself with some of the features and settings. Additionally, I also thought that having Professor Wandt take the time to explain and have us test out some of the features helped better familiarize everyone with the use and understanding of the program. Although we did experience some technical difficulties during the online session, I felt that they were minimum considering the software was being used in the middle of a snowstorm. While in the virtual classroom, I was absolutely fascinated with the fact that I was actually participating in an online class lecture right from the convenience and comfort of my own home. Just the mere fact that I was sitting comfortably on my futon listening to the class lecture, viewing the professors PowerPoint presentation, and taking notes just as I normally would while sitting in class absolutely intrigued me. Furthermore, it was interesting to hear some of my peers talk and make comments regarding the lecture through the use of the required headsets. Personally, I was unable to purchase my headset prior to the online class lecture due to the inclement weather conditions, so I had to type my responses and/or comments; but the headset is certainly a feature I am looking forward to using next time. In terms of evaluating the overall benefits that the Elluminate software and the use of virtual classroom programs has in regards to students, faculty, and the future of educational institutions, I personally feel that the implementation of this software could be the future of enhancing education and online class instruction and/or obtaining online degrees. Personally, I feel that this software is beneficial to academic institutions because it provides students with more access to online courses and possibly earning more online degrees. Specifically, this may serve as a more beneficial method for students and faculty because it eliminates commuting expenses and time restrictions that may make it difficult to attend/teach class.


Student 2

I found Elluminate very effective for several reasons. First, the relay of information online was just as clear and comprehensive as in the physical classroom. Furthermore, I do believe that since the comfort level increases when participating in the class from home, attention span also increases because you no longer keep track of time or think about the long trip home.  The level of learning I think also enhances in the virtual classroom because the intimidation and fear of asking questions lessens due to a more discrete virtual participation. I think students asked more questions online than in the classroom because they felt more confident.  The application sharing tool enhances learning as well because it provides easy access to powerpoint presentations as well as the web. I found presentations easy to view and navigate.

One of the most innovative features of virtual lectures has to do with the fact that students no longer have to worry about trying to copy someone else’s notes written with bad handwriting. Whether a student gets sick or has to miss a class for any reason, they can view the two-hour lecture online. Such feature can enhance student grades on the exams and papers.

While the face design of the application can improve and become more user friendly, the overall effectiveness of virtual learning surpassed my expectations. I strongly believe that PAD 701 (the current online course I enrolled in) should start implementing this software as soon as possible because the level of learning I obtained from one Elluminate class strongly contrasts with the past three weeks of PAD 701 online course.

12px/normal Arial; margin: 0px;”>In conclusion, I don’t think that every student should require a webcam for the course because the headsets are just as effective.

Student 3

After using the program online for our class session, I feel that it has potential to be introduced into John Jay, but hopefully with some future changes.

While in the session, Prof. Wandt informed us that he would be recording the session. That I thought was a great idea because it allows users to go back and review what was talked about at a later time. With this though, I feel that the users should be also allowed to record, in which they would be able to save the recording onto their personal desktop/laptop for them to review as well. If the professor didn’t record it, but maybe I did, I should have that option. Also when Prof. Wandt (Moderator) recorded it, the program should also allow users to save that recording, even though they didn’t initiate it.

Secondly, I feel the use of screen sharing/viewing files shouldn’t be limited to a single file at a time. I remember in the beginning that the professor couldn’t post two files at once for us to view. I understand maybe the purpose of it, to save bandwidth, but feel that the functionality should be in place incase the need to compare files from different users at once.

Lastly, the third thing I have is regarding the chat in the program. It seems that if everyone had a microphone and if the moderator didn’t restrict the use, all that other users would hear is everyone talking at once, in which nothing would probably be heard. If there was a way to tie in the “hand raising” in which when a person is called on, the program only gives the chat access to that person. I understand Prof. Wandt was doing that manually which is fine because there was only 10-15 of us in there, but if there was a group of 100+ people, it would take most of the time just switching on and off the chat for people, wasting valuable time.


Student 4

Elluminate is a very useful tool with much promise to the concept of online teaching. Coming from the private sector I often use webex or turbomeeting to facilitate product demos and general meetings. I found elluminate to be very intuitive with minor issues in sound quality, lag and general typing pane, which was relatively small. All in all I think the product is a success and should be looked into further as it offers a very unique way of teaching in a new technological age.

Pros: webcam/mic support, interesting classroom tools (I.e. raising hand button, check marks), ability to present or share your desktop, good administrative tools.

Cons: choppy audio, lag in loading, small typing pane

overall: 7/10 – definitely a product i would look further into and try again


Student 5

In my opinion, the “Elluminate” online class is a helpful addition to our learning experience. I thought that the online class went pretty well for a first time run, with minor bugs that had to be worked out, such as the audio distortion, which may have been a result of the weather. I know that some had an issue with the PowerPoint pages not loading quickly, but that was not the case for me.

While only one student had a webcam, and most of the others did not even have a headset/microphone yet, I thought that the class ran smooth enough through the use of the “chat” messaging box and the “raise your hand” option.  The combination of being able to view the PowerPoint presentation & listening to Prof. Wandt’s discussion of the material was comparable to being in a classroom, yet I was in my own home 65 miles north of NYC during a snowstorm.

Overall, I regard the “Elluminate” online class as a success, considering that we were able to cover most of that week’s material despite the snowstorm and the college being closed. I feel that it will be a useful tool to supplement the class in situations of bad weather or the Professor being out of town.


Student 6

At first it was difficult to understand the virtual system. On my end it took some time to load. Overall i think it is an interesting program that is great for home/ school communication techniques.   Being that i was extremely weak and sick it made it even better for me not to have to travel through the snow to the actual classroom. I think the more familiar i become with this system the more i would be able to understand and navigate through the system.


Student 7

I thought the use of the Elluminate application was a very good substitution of an in-class session on the same material.  While I found connecting the microphone and initial log-in took somewhat longer than originally expected, the components seemed to work well in allowing us to communicate as a group.  I think as we gain additional understanding of the use of the system the initial bugs experienced will work themselves out.

I am not fond of on-line classes as a whole, but do realize that they can be utilized in certain cases (such as during a school closure or some other circumstance that  may prevent you from attending class).  I would even propose that this service be available in the event members of the class may unexpectedly be unable to attend during the semester.  The information was well communicated, and we all had the opportunity to ask questions and interact, even though it was a new experience for many.

I did find the use of the text messaging option somewhat delayed and cumbersome, as the discussion seemed to have progressed beyond a particular concept by the time someone would post their comments.  Equivalence of components (microphones, headsets, etc) may serve to eliminate this problem.

I also though the view of the windows on one screen seemed to be crowded.  While reviewing a document, I was unable to see the images of those in attendance by web-cam, although the audio was clear and understandable.

All-in-all a good experience, with potential for additional use.


Student 8

The experience with the virtual classroom was very interesting. At first I honestly thought that we will not be able to cover much due to the fact that we were at the comfort of our own home. However after starting the lecture I found that everyone was present and the material covered was fairly simple to follow and easy to understand. Yes there were a few minor disadvantages with the audio and internet connection however the weather played a major role in that aspect. I believe the program is extremely useful and once it starts to be used more frequently it will be very helpful.. I also believe that by having such class meetings the students can develop good communication skills and understand more of the importance of technology…. The program is not yet perfected and it will probably take some time to do it. I strongly encourage the idea to use this virtual classroom in the future.


Student 9

I enjoyed Elluminate. It was pretty simple to operate. The features such as the ‘raise hand’ and ‘poll’ buttons were interesting. The chat box was also helpful, seeing as how I did not have a cam or mic. Aside from the sound glitches, I did not encounter any problems once the program was loaded—the slides/shared files appeared hastily and the videocams came in clear. It did, however, take around 10 minutes to log in, even though I did a test log in earlier and it took less than a minute. I guess it depended on the bandwidth and/or the number on people simultaneously trying to get in. All things considered, it was a useful experience and I would not mind using it again.


Student 10

I thought that there were a few glitches with the audio and video. I didn’t like the length of time it took for some of the slides to load on the screen and the way the slides looked on the screen even when they were adjusted. However,  It was great to still be able to receive a lecture despite the inclement weather being a deterrent to meeting in the classroom at John Jay. I liked that I was able to be in the comfort of my own  home.  Overall, I was comfortable with the online class meeting.

* All responses are published anonymously with the consent of the authors.


Grocery Shopping in Under 2 Minutes? Yup! Thanks to the iPad.

FreshDirectShopping

Something incredible just happened!  I went food shopping in under 2 minutes….. using my iPad.

Growing up, my mother would take me and my two siblings with her when she went grocery shopping. She would pile us three kids in the Dodge Grand Caravan; drive 10 minutes to Walbaum’s; go up and down each aisle checking things off her list; wait in the checkout line with multiple carts full of food; pile us (and the groceries) back in the Caravan; and drive the 10 minutes back home.  To my amazement, she always managed to single-handledly get us kids, and the groceries, back in the house and put away safely. We went shopping about once a week, and it took about 2 hours.

Just a moment ago, I picked up my iPad and launched the Fresh Direct application.  Using simple graphics, I slid my fingers down the list, selected items, selected a time for my groceries to be delivered directly to my doorstep, and paid for the groceries with my credit card.

Apple and Fresh Direct have transformed a 2 hour, hectic grocery trip into an easy 2 minute experience. Now that’s cool!

FreshDirectTimesFreshDirectFinish

iPad Camera: where art thou?

New iPad with forward facing camera will be available soon.

I have owned an iPad for over a week and have spent much time familiarizing myself with its many functions.  While my future blogs will focus on how the iPad can be used in higher education, I first want to address one of the main critiques of the iPad: the lack of a forward facing camera.


Speculation on whether the iPad would contain a camera goes back to the early rumors of the product’s existence.  Many believed that for the iPad to be truly revolutionary, it would need video conferencing.  I agreed with this assessment until I actually got an iPad.  Now, I believe the iPad will make a significant impact even without a forward facing camera.  I do not doubt that Apple could sell over a million iPads in April.


But this still begs the question: what the heck was Steve Jobs thinking?  Why no camera in the iPad?  There are two leading theories in the cybersphere: 1) Apple held back to increase profits by forcing people to buy the second generation of the iPad, and 2) the iPad hardware cannot support it.  I think both of these theories, and all others I have read about, are inaccurate.  My own theory on why the iPad has no forward facing camera is that with it, the iPad would have failed.


A forward facing camera is important to the iPad for one reason: video conferencing.  In one week, Apple has sold about half a million iPads without 3G.  With the success of the initial release, I am confident that many more will buy the iPad 3G model.  It is not infeasible to see well over 2 million users by the end of 2010.  That number of people added to the 3G network, using video conferencing, would cause the system to collapse.  I believe there is no forward facing camera on the iPad because the 3G network would not be able to handle to huge amount of bandwidth required for video conferencing.


Since the introduction of the iPhone, AT&T has not been the most stable network.  Adding 1-2 million (or more) iPad 3G users, many placing high bandwidth video calls, would cause the 3G system to collapse and the iPad’s reputation would be forever tarnished.  The iPad was too important to Steve Jobs.  It is more important that the iPad work flawlessly then to have a camera.


Some people may respond that Apple could have included a forward facing camera and simply blocked the camera from having 3G access.  However, it is important to recall that AT&T’s 3G network previously did not allow Skype and other VOIP technologies.  Only to fend off possible investigations by the FTC did AT&T and Apple reverse that policy in mid-2009.  Therefore, blocking certain technologies from the 3G network is not an option.


So, when can we expect to see a camera on the iPad?  Not until there is a reliable nation-wide 4G network… but I do expect to see a forward facing camera on the iPhone before such a network is available because it takes significantly less bandwidth to send video at iPhone resolutions than on the iPad.


by: Adam Scott Wandt

Virtual Classrooms: 
Initial Thoughts

A Live Class on Elluminate

Today, there are a plethora of virtual classroom and meeting products on the market. The issue is further complicated by the phenomenon that new options and products seem to appear on a regular basis. Therefore, deciding which product to select for my program will not be an easy decision. Choosing a product is dependent on one’s needs, and the product I ultimately choose may not be the right one for you. Each educator and/or institution must research all options available and make a decision independently based upon their individual needs. The purpose of this series of blogs is to help educators learn what is out there and what the advantages and disadvantages are to each, so that individuals can make informed decisions on which product to use. I hope you find this information helpful.

Two years ago, I used GoToMeeting in my online classes. One of the features I like most about GoToMeeting is that it allows application sharing, which allows me to use SPSS, Excel, PowerPoint, Word, and other programs live on the Internet with students. Additionally, GoToMeeting is great for extra help sessions.  Quite often, students contact me at 10:00 pm with questions regarding a program, quantitative method or website. It is easy to use GoToMeeting and view the student’s screen live as they attempt an exercise. GoToMeeting is also useful because students can view digital lectures if they are unable to attend class. The lecture can be uploaded to a server or blackboard. One of the downfalls of GoToMeeting is the large file size of the digital lectures. The first year I used GoToMeeting I took advantage of an introductory rate that was fairly good (~$350). The second year I paid the full price ($468.00). I stopped using GoToMeeting after the second year because I simply did not want to self-fund another year. I asked John Jay College to fund a license for the product, but it never panned out and so I stopped using the program.

The high price of GoToMeeting led me to a second program. WiZiQ is a free alternative to GoToMeeting, but it lacks several  functions, including sophisticated application sharing. However, WiZiQ does come with the ability to host centralized recordings of virtual classes for students to view later. WiZiQ also has a premium membership for $100 per annum, which includes unlimited class recordings and downloads, co-brand virtual classroom, invoicing and payments handling, and get leads via learning requests and priority support. Class sessions are limited to 5 hours. I have not purchased the premium membership, but I believe it is an affordable option and a good deal for those who may wish to use it. One of my colleagues at John Jay College, the Deputy Director for the National MPA-IG Online Program, took a serious look at WiZiQ with the MPA-IG students.  They concluded that although the program has unique and useful options, WiZiQ is not as advanced as other services.  With only a few students in a classroom the program worked well, but when more than 15 students were in the classroom, lagging was a problem.  In addition, there was yellowing of video on multiple occasions and occasional freezing of videos, regardless of the number of students in the classroom.

Our issues with WiZiQ led us to Elluminate. Elluminate provides virtual classrooms for up to 50 students for $499 per annum. Elluminate has powerful video conferencing capabilities and can support up to four webcams at a time. Users must wear podcasting headsets (something I am really not happy about), but this leads to superior sound quality – even with multiple speakers. It also has whiteboard and application sharing. Out of all the services tried so far, Elluminate seems to be the leader and will be heavily tested during the Spring 2010 semester. Students’ reactions, surveys and other information will be available on this blog. Check back soon for additional information.

by: Adam S. Wandt with Michelle Stein

Virtual Classrooms: Research and Evaluation for the National Online MPA-IG Program

MPA_VC_Logo

Virtual Classrooms:

Research and Evaluation for the National Online MPA-IG Program


One of my assigned duties for the Spring 2010 semester is to research and evaluate different options for virtual classrooms and lecture capture for the National Online Master of Public Administration – Inspector General Program.


The types of products I will be evaluating include virtual meeting spaces and lecture capture. In regards to lecture capture, I will focus on Integrity, Snapz Pro, and Mac OS X Podcast Producer 2.


In regards to virtual meeting spaces, I will be looking at Elluminate, WebEx, WizIQ, GotoMeeting, and possibly Adobe Connect. I am also open to adding new options. Lots of technology, so little time!


Check back soon for more blog postings and developments.


by: Adam S. Wandt, Deputy Chair for Instructional Technology, Department of Public Management, John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

Academic Technology: Do educators have a responsibility to make use of proven technologies?

Academic Technology

Academic Technology:

Do educators have a responsibility to make use of proven technologies?

Some academics believe technology and the classroom are like oil and water. They think technology has no place in the classroom or in the learning process. I believe this misconception is rooted in being unfamiliar with  how technology can enhance the process of teaching and learning.

Part of what I do at John Jay College of Criminal Justice is research and development in the field of academic technology, identifying what technological tools can be used in both graduate and undergraduate education to enhance the educational experience.  I believe that improving learning outcomes and helping students succeed is what academia is all about. Technology is a tool we can utilize to help us accomplish this mission.

Technology has been part of the learning experience since the beginning of human language and civilization. Early civilizations used rocks for hammering and cutting, developed paint to make cave drawings, and eventually developed a written language. Today, academics have a wide array of technological tools at their disposal. We still use ballpoint pens and books, but now have newer inventions and advanced computer-related items.  Email, laser pointers, powerpoint slideshows, video conferencing, podcasting, virtual classrooms, document cameras, laptop computers and eReaders can now enhance teaching and learning.

Today, there is a shift in the way students absorb and learn information. I recently attended the Hispanic Educational Technology Services’ First Annual Best Practices Showcase in San Juan, Puerto Rico.  Dr. Juan Melendez of the University of Puerto Rico discussed how there are major differences between 20th and 21st century learning.  He argued that 20th century learning was engineered toward an industrial society which educated the masses simultaneously regardless of the individual.  The topics taught in schools were, for the most part, fairly narrow because there were not as many career specializations as there are available today.  With all the career choices we have today, it has become more important, according to Dr. Melendez, to give a more individualized, 21st century education, and we can use technology to individualize education.  I believe he is 100% correct.  By using technology in a way which students conduct their everyday activities, we can maintain their interest, individualize education, and increase student success.

Technology has always been with us.  It surrounds us.  It infuses itself into our daily lives.  We can choose to ignore and be ignorant to its potential, or help our students succeed by better understanding technology’s benefits.  I feel we must embrace proven technologies to ensure that academia keeps up with the times.  We owe it to our students to make use of appropriate modern technologies in order to facilitate our teaching process. In addition, in anticipation of careers which increasingly rely on technology, we owe it to our students to teach them the necessary skills to have successful careers and be leaders in their chosen fields.  We need to work together to ensure we give our students the necessary skills for success.

by: Adam S. Wandt with Michelle Stein

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