- Adobe Connect Diagnostic Test to be sure you have the necessary browser software to run Adobe Connect as a Host.
- The Host: If you are an instructor you will need the status of “Host.” It is not possible to start a new Adobe Connect session without logging in as a Host. The Host has the ability to create and design a layout for a meeting, and has full control over all such functionality as creating a new meeting space, allowing participants to use microphones, etc. Before you can host a meeting, you need to be sure that the administrator has set you up with a user id/password in Adobe Connect, and has designated you as a Host. In order to login, enter your Adobe Connect user id and password in the signup screen after launching the link to your room, as shown in the figure below.
To login, go to your Meeting Room in Adobe Connect. For practice we will go to the “sandbox” room for experimentation:
- Enabling Presenters: All other participants other than the Host will login as “Guests” (see in the Presenter section below). When entering, Guests will automatically be given Presenter status. The Host needs to set this up in advance by selecting “Auto-Promote Participants to Presenters” (see figure below).
- Presenter: The Presenter in Adobe Connect is able to use a webcam and microphone, as well as give a presentation, but does not have the ability, like the Host, to change the screen interface. Presenters need only login as a Guest (generally their full name), typing it as shown in the figure below. The Guest name will appear in the list of attendees as well as identify the Presenter when they are using their Webcam.
The following instructions should be followed carefully in order to assure the best quality and most stable use of the audio-visual functionality of Adobe Connect:
- Audio-Visual Icons: After logging in, a row of four graphical icons can be found in the middle of the top row of the interface (see figure below). From left to right they are: speaker (listening), mic (speaking), camera (video), and gestures (raising hands, etc. ). The latter will be discussed later.
- Activating: if the icons are green, they are turned on and activated. If they are grey, they are not. In order to activate or deactivate an icon, you simply click on it. Note in the figure below that the speaker, mic, and camera icons are activated and and my image can be seen in the video pod.
- Audio Setup Wizard: Before using the microphone, it is advised to go through the Audio Setup Wizard, located in the Meeting drop down menu (see figure below). The Audio Setup Wizard will ensure that the speaker sound is working properly, the microphone is adjusted for volume level, and background noise will be checked to help with feedback issues. Each participant should follow the Audio Setup Wizard and make sure that everything is working properly before a session.
- Sound Preferences: If the microphone is not working, check the sound configuration in the Mac OS system preferences and be sure that microphone input is set to the built-in mic. The figure below indicates what this should look like in the Mac OS Sound preferences. Check the input level and be sure the sound does is not too high (all the way to the right). The correct volume is around the middle when speaking normally (see figure below.
- Adjust Microphone Volume: It is also advised to check the microphone level in Adobe Connect (see figure below). This will help to balance the volume levels of all participants, to avoid conversation that is either too loud or too soft.
- Volume Setting: The same rule of thumb applies: be sure the level is approximately in the middle when speaking normally. If it is too high, the sound will be distorted. Again, it is advised to go through this procedure before each class so that all presenters have audio levels that match one another, insuring a quality flow of conversation and presentation.
- Activating and Previewing: In order to use a webcam, first be sure to activate the camera icon by clicking on it so that it is green, as shown above. A “Preview” window will then appear (see figure below). This previews the camera image before going live. Then click on “Start Sharing” and the camera will begin transmitting an image.
- Flash Settings: Occasionally it may be necessary to adjust the settings of the Flash plugin, the software that provides the underlying structure for Adobe Connect. For example, there may be a prompt to “Allow” the built-in camera or microphone’s use by Adobe Connect. Always say allow. In order to avoid this question, and to troubleshoot potential audio-visual issues, particularly for more advanced users with multiple microphones or cameras, access the Flash plugin by control clicking on most areas of the interface, such as the top dark grey bar (see figure below), where a dropdown menu appears with “Settings” and “Global Settings.”
The Flash Settings is generally only an issue if the user has multiple cameras and/or microphones. However, it is very useful to know how to access the settings in case of troubleshooting the audio-visual setup.
- Adjusting the Flash Settings: Open up “Settings” and the “Adobe Flash Player Settings” will be displayed for the camera, microphone, etc. Click on the icon in the bottom row, second from the left, which is the “Privacy” settings, where the “Allow” checkbox is located, which allows Adobe Connect to use the built-in camera and microphone. Be sure to check “Allow” and “Remember” (see figure below). Then click on “Close” to put away the menu. It should not be necessary to do this again. However, if ever there are problems with the camera or microphone, and the solution can’t be found in the Connect settings, check the Flash settings and be sure they are set to the specific configuration of your system.
Rooms & Pods
First, it is important to understand the concept of an Adobe Connect “Room,” which is essentially a virtual classroom with a unique link where a host and presenters participate in a session. Within a single Adobe Connect account, it is possible to have multiple rooms, each for a different instructor, event, etc. Rooms can be thought of as related to a building of classrooms, each for a specific function, teacher or purpose. For this tutorial, I am describing my room that is called “oss” for Open Source Studio. All of my classes are held in this room (see figure below).
To create a new room for teaching, a project, etc., contact the Administrator for assistance.
The following is a virtual tour of the Adobe Connect “Room”, and the various modules referred to as “Pods”:
- Video Pod: The Video Pod, for example, is where live webcams are viewed. The Video Pod can contain one or more cameras depending on the number of zpresenters who have their cameras switched on. The Video Pod can be used within the larger interface (as above), or it can be sized to full screen (see figure below) by clicking on the “full screen” button in the upper right hand corner with arrows pointing out. This full screen capability applies to any of the pods that you want to enlarge.
- Grid Mode: Note that this video pod is in “grid” mode (grid icon is two buttons to the left of the full screen icon), so that all cameras are equal in size.
- Film Strip Mode: Below is an example of the Video Pod in “filmstrip” mode, in which the host selects him/herself or one of the students to be the featured video (see figure below). This is accomplished by clicking on the icon in between the grid button and the full screen button. This mode is very useful when highlighting a speaker or a student asking a question during class discussion.
- Share Pod: This pod is used to display presentational media, such as an jpeg image, an mpeg audio file, or a Powerpoint (see figure below of an empty Share Pod ready to be loaded). It is not advised to use media files greater than 10 megabytes. The Share Pod can also be used to share the desktop, or to create a Whiteboard where multiple collaborators can draw or take notes.
- Share Document: It is possible for both the instructor (Host) or students and guest speakers (Presenters) to upload a document into the share pod. Click on “Share Document” (see figure above) to upload a document from the desktop. Click on “Browse my Computer” (see figure below) in order to store files in Adobe Connect for easy and quick access. This can be done prior to class or even during a session.
- Student Work: Students will use often the Share Pod to show images from their own work. In the figure below there is a screenshot in the standard .png format, which is also fine, though .jpg is preferable because of its size. Note the fullscreen button in the upper right hand corner if it is preferable to size the pod up to fill the whole screen.
- Chat Pod: This is a forum for real-time chat, generally a spontaneous layer of conversation that takes place simultaneously with lecture, presentation, and audio dialogue (see figure below). It is interesting how in the virtual classroom the chat is not disruptive, rather, it provides a medium for ongoing commentary, placement of live links, and other references that support the primary conversation. Adobe Connect chat is often a highly playful supplement to the class experience.
- Attendees Pod: This pod includes the list of all attendees when they enter the room, including the atendees status, such as Host or Presenter (see figure below). The names of each Presenter will be labeled according to the name they entered when logging in. Usually this is the first and last name, but students will sometimes approach their identity playfully, as in the example below. Note the icon to the right of the name, which indicates whether or not the microphone is turned on or off. At this moment, the student Chinfang is speaking. Her name also appears at the top as a live speaker.
- Links Pod: This is a window where you can store Web links, which can then be shared with all the attendees (see figure below). You simply select a link, click on the “Browse To” button, and the Web page will launch simultaneously in the browsers of all the attendees.
Not all browsers respond properly to the launch of a Web link. It is advisable to use Firefox for the best performance. If for some reason the links are not launching for one or more students, you can also enter links into the Chat Pod, where they will become active hyperlinks.
- Add Link: In order to add a link, select from the dropdown menu in the upper right hand corner of the Chat Pod (see figure below).
- Naming the Link: After selecting “Add Link,” you can then fill out the name of the link in the upper field and the link address in the lower one (see figure below).
Creating a Room Layout
The Adobe Connect “Room” is a dedicated virtual classroom space. It is best to have a unique room for each faculty member because they will have their own specific way they would like to arrange the space.
Contact the system administrator to arrange to have a new room assigned.
Within the room, the instructor is the designated “Host,” which is the necessary status required to be able to create and arrange a room layout. Students and guest speakers logged in as Guests, promoted to “Presenter” status will not be able to alter the layout (see User Id & Logging In). The following are the steps involved in creating a room layout:
- Room Configuration: In the figure below, this is an example of a room configuration I have created for my own classes, with the video pod in the upper left, the share window/presentation space below, and the chat room, attendees list, notes, and web link pods to the right.
- Creating a New Layout: In the detail figure below is a closeup of the “Layouts” menu where an existing layout is selected or a new one can be created. To create a new room layout, go to the top of the menu and select “Create New Layout.”
- Modifying the Layout: Once “Create New Layout” is selected, it is possible to create one from scratch or an existing layout can be duplicated (see figure below). For our purposes in the tutorial, we’ll create a new blank layout. To make modifications to another layout, without changing it, it would be best to “Duplicate an existing layout.” For those who are new to Adobe Connect, it might be best to select one of the preset layouts, such as “Sharing” or “Discussion,” and use it as a template. After giving your layout a name, select “OK,” and the result will be an entirely empty room.
- Adding a Pod: First we will add a Video Pod to the room by selecting “Video” from the “Pods” menu. All of the pods or specific windows are contained in this dropdown menu list. We won’t cover them all, but once it is understood how to apply pods to a room, it is easy to experiment with the additional pods we don’t discuss.
- Sizing a Pod: After making the selection of a Video Pod, it will be placed in the room where it can can be moved and sized. Just hold the cursor down on the top horizontal bar and the pod can be dragged to a new location. Or ,place the cursor in one of the four corners and it can be changed to any size of any proportion. Keep in mind the number of students or guests that will be using a camera when determining the size.
- Adding a Share Pod: Next we will add a new “Share” pod, used to display an image, a Powerpoint, or the desktop. Select a pre-existing pod, or add a new one by select “Add New Share” (see figure below).
- Sizing the Share Pod: Once a new share Pod has been selected, it will be placed into the room and where it can be sized accordingly. Since this pod will generally be used for displaying images and Powerpoints, keep the aspect ratio in mind of your media, generally in horizontal mode. Note the pod is moved into place, guidelines will automatically appear to help align the various pods (see figure below).
- Adding a Chat Pod: When adding a Chat Pod, consider the aspect ratio, which is crucial for its use. The Chat Pod is best placed vertically to accommodate the flow of dialogue. Note that the Chat Pod is brought flush to the adjacent pods. A neatly arranged room is an important visual component to encourage the the quality of activity in the space: no different than a physical classroom space.
- Remaining Pods: Other pods, including: attendees, notes, and Web links are created and aligned just as the above. I have demonstrated the creation of the layout that I use in my OSS Virtual Classroom (see below), but feel free to experiment, try out different configurations until the results are satisfactory.
Adobe Connect rooms are very flexible. It is possible select layouts at any time in order to change the configuration on the fly. This is sometimes helpful when going from a presentation to a session with only chat, for example. And don’t forget, any of the pods can be hidden or maximized to full screen by going into the contextual menu in the upper right hand corner and selecting “Hide” or “Maximize.” Only the video pod has a full screen mode directly on the pod itself.
- Technical Requirements: First, see Technical Requirements for Adobe Connect for checking your bandwidth and determining if your connection meets the minimum required upload and download speed.
- Connection Status: In the upper right corner of the interface is a vertical green bar. Click on the bar to see an analysis of the current connection speed (see figure below). If it says “Excellent,” as it does below, then the connection is solid, but if the status indicates a weak connection, a new location should be considered.
- Video Settings (Host only): it is very important to set the video bandwidth for the web-conference by going into the “Video Preferences” (see figure below) and adjusting to the proper rate for your configuration. Select the dropdown menu to the right of the camera icon and choose “Preferences.”
- Video Quality: Enter the “Preferences” and select “Video” in the menu (see figure below). The important setting is the “Video Quality” slider where the resolution for ALL of users is set according to everyone’s general bandwidth. I have it set to “Standard,” the second notch from the right, which fits most situations where students are using a broadband wireless connection. However, if there is still a great deal of lag, or the video is choppy, or presenters are dropping out when trying to use their camera, or the overall response of the interface is slowing down to an unacceptable level, try using the lower settings of “Medium” or “Low.”
- Room Bandwidth: It is also advisable to set the “Room Bandwidth” to match your configuration (see figure below). Generally the middle setting is fine for participants typically using a DSL or Cable connection. However if everyone is using a very high speed connection (LAN), you can achieve higher quality by setting the bandwidth to “LAN” (Local Area Network), conversely to “Modem” if everyone is on a dial-up modem, but this would probably never be the case with today’s broadband connectivity!
Strategies for the Virtual Seminar
- Audio-Visual Check – It is important that all participants, including guest speakers are well versed in the audio-visual components of Adobe Connect. Allocate time at the beginning of each session to be sure everyone goes through the Audio Setup Wizard, and that participant tests audio and video.Be sure everyone’s sound levels are equal in volume, and should anyone have feedback issues, they are prepared beforehand to use headphones or earbuds.
- Guest Speakers – In the case of guest speakers, it is advisable to have a 10 minute technical rehearsal before the session begins to be sure everything is working properly. At all costs, avoid troubleshooting technical issues in the middle of a class or event.
- Camera Use – Use the technical session at the beginning to bring everyone up on camera one at a time, which helps the class see each other before begnning, particularly if you there is a group larger than six, in which case it is NOT advisable to have everyone on camera at the same time.
- Microphones – Be sure everyone has their microphone switched off, and turns it on ONLY when they are speaking, otherwise there will be unnecessary noise.
- Full Screen Presentation – When presenting a Powerpoint, switch back and forth between normal and full screen when it is useful to see the image enlarged. Remember that when going full screen with any pod, that no one can chat, which takes away an important dynamic of the classroom. However, it does help stimulate the flow of a presentation by occasionally enlarging the image to full screen.
- Student Engagement – It is easy for students to become distracted in class, due to the fact that they are generally at home on their own computers, with easy access to email, etc. In order to draw them into the session, try whenever possible to bring them up on camera, asking questions, keeping the conversation flowing. I also encourage students to make extensive use of the chat room in order to post related comments, questions, links, etc.
- Web Links – When storing links in the Web links pod, they will launch on the browser of all participants. This is the best way to look at Web pages during class, although it is also possible to paste them into the chat. Check to be sure that links are launching for everyone, because in some cases, it might not work. Using Web links is the best way to watch video, although remember the videos won’t be synchronized. When students are watching a video, give them a cue as to when to start and stop, reminding them to return to Adobe Connect from their browser. Note that YouTube videos will start automatically, while Vimeo generally needs to be started manually.
- Recording – Adobe Connect sessions can be recorded and accessed later for those who are unable to attend, or for archival purposes. In the “Meeting” menu can be found the “Record Meeting” function. Remember to turn it on when beginning a session, and then stop recording when finished.
- Chat Transcript – The transcript of the chat session is sometimes useful for archival purposes as well, or an often interesting account of dialogue, links, etc. In the Chat Pod’s contextual menu, the “Email Chat History” is selected in order to send the transcript to your email as a text document.