I’ve attended Adobe Connect sessions previously, such as with the Learning Skills Group, and found it a fine interface for seeing slide content, hearing the speaker(s) and using the chat window to converse with other attendees. I’ve often been annoyed in webinars where the chat window has been removed or limited as it feels very remote. A Twitter hashtag for such a session, whilst great for externalising the session, means that there isn’t the same level of conversation and comment inside the session itself.
I used the free trial of Adobe Connect as part of my COLF qualification with the LPI. I genuinely think it’s a great piece of software with a lot of great features, but also a lot that seem awkward. So here are my thoughts of some of the positive things and others to improve:
- Once inside the Connect session, the interface is easy to use for the basics of sharing your PowerPoint file and chatting to attendees. The ‘pods’ for different pieces of content are a great idea. There is the slides pod, maybe a PDF to show, media clips to play, one with links for more information, another with documents to download and more… All of those can be done on the fly or set up prior to the webinar, meeting or training session, which I really like. I feel like it’s the equivalent to my off-line planning and preparation for any similar session.
- Another great idea in Adobe Connect is the “Presenter Only Area”. This is a panel to the right side of the screen where you can drag all of your content pods ready to use in your session. I love the concept of this feature. It reflects my table or desk when I’m facilitating a session, where all of my materials are organised and to hand when I need them. However there are several things about this feature that seem poorly implemented:
- If I have even two pods on the Presenter Only Area that are sized ready to go into my online session, they are difficult to manage as they compete for space. I can’t drop the bottom of them off the screen and just have a grab handle to move it around (like a window in Windows or Mac); I can’t minimize it ready for maximising again to the right size ready to present. I can ‘hide’ the pod, but then this means I need to go through the menu system again to load it (three clicks and needing planning in file or pod names and confidence in the software). I don’t like this because I can’t have my pods sized, ready to go and visually in the Presenter Only Area. It makes this fantastic concept feel clunky and un-intuitive.
- If I go into a breakout room (a separate part of the online session with different layout and functions available) and then back into the ‘main room’ of the online session I lose my Presenter Only area and have to enable it again (two clicks). It’s a small issue, but another one about professional smoothness. If I’m facilitating a session, with all the remote and technical challenges that come with it, the last thing I want to be doing whilst I’m talking/listening and observing the chat window and attendee status emoticons is have to use the menu to enable the presenter only area. If I am delivering a face to face session and go from room to room to check the attendees, when I come back to the main room, I don’t expect that someone has hidden my desk and materials (at least I don’t now as I haven’t taught 16 year olds in a little while…).
- There’s no Presenter Only area inside those separate break out rooms. I can set them up ahead of time with a pod but once inside I don’t have the same functionality to share what I was sharing before. It feels limited and I can’t just easily grab my ‘teacher aid’ or ‘attendee material’ and display it in the break out room. There may be some logic as to why this is, but I’m not sure what that might be.
- Some PowerPoint features don’t work, such as rolling or looped presentation. This works in Cisco WebEx, but not Adobe Connect. To get this to work you would need Adobe Presenter. However when I tried installing the trial of this software I got the above error, asking me to close down all firewall and antivirus software before installing. Uhm. No. @AdobeConnect were great at responding to my tweet about this, telling me about a fix, but didn’t respond to the issue about closing down antivirus. Not the world’s best support!
It took a lot of patience, I say mildly, to get to grips with Adobe Connect. I genuinely enjoyed using it, but I’m looking forward to enhancements so make my life a lot easier. Until then, I’m hopping over to Cisco WebEx…