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Adobe Acrobat Connect Professional Users Group September 26, 2007

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
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If you use Adobe Acrobat Connect Professional (from here on, let’s call it AACP), you’ll want to join the free users group over at http://www.ConnectUsers.com. They’ve got news, forums, tutorials, and information about upcoming events – all related to AACP. It’s great stuff. I learned a few new tricks within 5 minutes, and I also found out there’s a new service pack available for AACP.

This users group is a great idea. I love this product, but it seems hard to connect (ha!) with other folks who use it. It’s probably because it is so expensive. I look forward to trading ideas and tips with the group. Join if you’re an AACP user, or if you’re interested in learning more!

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Large-scale Applications Training September 20, 2007

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
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I’m about to face an enormous challenge at work: Our company is getting ready to do a major upgrade to our core business operating system (PeopleSoft). This upgrade has been in the works for quite a while now, and it’s time for our department to start discussing a plan to train hundreds of employees on the new system. I don’t know much about the new system, but I understand that it is quite an overhaul; one estimate said we would need 80+ hours of face-to-face training. However, due to logistics, time, and money, it appears we will be training about 80% of these employees using a combination of self-study eLearning courses and webinars (using Adobe Acrobat Connect Professional). Everything will be tracked in our LMS.

Sure, this is a big task, but here’s why I’m concerned: If you’ve ever used a system like PeopleSoft or SAP, you know that it’s not very engaging. In fact, applications training like this can be excruciatingly boring, especially when taken as a self-study eLearning course. These courses generally consist of step-by-step instructions where the learner watches a task as it is performed, and then they try the task on their own in a simulated environment. This type of training can be effective, but with this upgrade, we will have a HUGE amount of training for the end-user. I’m worried that we’ll bore people to tears and that they’ll mindlessly follow along with the step-by-step directions…and then not retain anything. Luckily, I’ve got a few more weeks to get my thoughts together.

How would you tackle this? What ideas do you have?

Using Adobe Acrobat Connect Professional for eLearning July 13, 2007

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
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We recently implemented Adobe Acrobat Connect Professional at work. We have employees located in all 50 states, and our department needed a way to conduct training via virtual classroom. I thought I’d write a little about our experience with the application, how we use it, and discuss some of its pros and cons in terms of eLearning.

What is it Adobe Acrobat Connect Professional?

I’ll let Adobe give you the long definition:

Adobe Acrobat Connect Professional is the complete web communications solution that enables live online meetings, virtual classes, and group collaboration, allowing organizations to effectively share a wide range of content, including Microsoft® PowerPoint slides, live and recorded video, Adobe Flash® content, live screen-sharing, application sharing, audio, and multiuser text chat.

I would simply say that it’s a robust web conferencing tool that can also be used to administer virtual classroom sessions.

What’s in a Name?

Adobe Acrobat Connect Professional was originally called Macromedia Breeze. Then Adobe purchased Macromedia and began integrating Breeze with their Acrobat product line. I think Adobe Connect would have been a great name, but instead they went with Adobe Acrobat Connect Professional. Seriously – 4 words? Can you imagine Toyota introducing a car called the Toyota Camry Avalon Turbo? Seems like a bit much. Luckily, the product stands up really well. So I’ll get past the naming issue. 🙂

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Adobe Acrobat Connect Professional has a clean, simple, and flexible interface; you can create different layouts (we call them ‘rooms’) and then arrange a variety of pods in each room. There are chat pods, file/screen sharing pods, survey pods, note pods, and more.
  • LDAP integration allows us to use our company’s single sign-on system, so we don’t have to manage additional usernames and passwords.
  • It is very easy to schedule meetings.
  • Wonderful phone conferencing integration is possible with Premiere Global Services. Users can opt to have the system call their phone to join the phone conference, and then they can adjust their audio settings (volume, muting, etc.) using on-screen controls. The facilitator can also mute participants and control other aspects of phone conferencing (ex. dial-out to other users).
  • As a facilitator, you can share your screen (desktop) and even give control to a participant. So you can have somebody else "drive" the session for you.

Cons:

  • This product is very expensive, especially if you host it in-house.
  • If you decide to host it in-house, you’ll most likely need to go through a third-party to get it implemented. Anticipate the extra expense. We used GetConnect and had a good experience.
  • It’s tricky to integrate Acrobat Connect Professional with your learning management system (LMS). Here’s our current workflow: First, learners register for a course in our LMS. Next, we hold our virtual classroom sessions and the learners attend. Finally, we go back to the LMS and indicate which learners attended and what score they achieved (if applicable).

The Toughest Part

The toughest part about a system like this is learning how to use it effectively for learning / training. Ultimately, your facilitators will have to push themselves to identify new ways to engage learners using this delivery method. Here are a few resources to help facilitators jump into virtual classroom training:

Give it a shot

If you’re evaluating web conferencing or virtual classroom products, check out Adobe Acrobat Connect Professional. It’s a great product that’ll make it easier for you to deliver effective training. Our users agree, too. We’ve heard nothing but great feedback from them. They tell us that it was a breeze (get it?) to attend, and they enjoyed the interaction during the sessions.

More information on Adobe Acrobat Connect Professional can be found in this PDF data sheet.