Elluminate-ed. Like a 40 watt bulb.

I’ve dropped into a couple of Elluminate sessions this week, both arranged by our local RSC. We’ve been working quite a lot with the RSC team over the past year – much more than we had previously done; our open days in support of the Exemplar Network were really good fun- and a great learning experience for everyone involved.

Today’s session is focused on Open Source and how to participate in the community. I’ve used open source for some years now, in various forms. Mark Johnson, Web Developer from Tanutons College taught me a few new things today, and posed some questions about where we might go with open source. Something I’m bound to write more about in time.

Eluminate is something I’ve not used before. We’ve always had grand plans for using conferencing tools here at the college, but haven’t really made much progress. Many staff here are aware of video conferencing, and perhaps want to give it a try. The thing is, when you press for a clearer direction, “what will you do with it”, the answer is less convincing. Naturally so, I suspect. Of course they don’t know; they’ve not had the fortuen to use such tools before, or figure out just what might be possible.

So today’s session with the RSC used Eluminate. So far, it appears to be a big step up from the previous tool employed by the RSC (Wimba?), with much more functionality and seemingly more reliable too. The sessions were quite straightforward. After you sign on, you are grouped in your meeting room with other guests, having access to chat and whiteboard. The first time I used the tool I was mildly impressed – it worked without any fuss, and despite not being totally intuitive (it isn’t necessarily going to be on first use). But on that first occasion I didn’t really explore the other features. Since using this tool is still in its infancy for the RSC, today a few of us stuck around to try out some other features.

We broke out from the main ‘room’ into a ‘breakout room’. It gives you the opportunity to have a (private?) conversation beyond the main room. Immediately you do this, any web camera inputs are stopped, so you have to start them again. The same appeared to be the case for audio. We got a few webcams running; reasonable quality video, all very dependent upon the environment in which the cam was situated. I could only see two at any one time; surely you must be able to see more all at once? I couldn’t get any audio working – despite having used the same setup with Screenr already today without any problems. One participant commented today ‘everyone with a Logitech headset can be heard!’. Maybe I should get a new headset before trying again. By this time, it was all beginning to seem a bit fiddly. That’s a problem for me. It will also be a problem for teaching staff, and maybe students too.

Overall I’m impressed with Elluminate – moderately so. 40 watts Elluminate-ed. Not 100 watts yet. I think the application could be improved – simpler, clearer, more straight forward. In terms of functionality, this could certainly be a great tool for supporting our curriculum – particularly for learners who are unable to get to campus (I’m aware of a few this year). I can’t see myself recommending this for the classroom though – at least not until my experience of it gets better. To watch a session; no problem. To participate; no problem. To really engage; I think it’s too fiddly.

I’m dropping into another session next Thursday, and look forward to exploring the application further.