Screen shot of a web conference hosted by Tufts.

Screen shot of a web conference hosted by Tufts.

More and more, the Tufts community is relying on remote collaboration and communication tools to pursue academic and administrative activities efficiently and economically. To address this need, UIT launched last August a one-year pilot to evaluate web conferencing tools.

A web conferencing tool is a service, letting anyone with an Internet connection and a Web browser, meet and collaborate online in real time. Geographically dispersed participants can see and talk to each other, present materials and collaborate on documents via screen sharing, white boarding and document sharing. Meetings and presentations can be recorded and shared via a URL at a later time.

UIT first evaluated three top web conferencing tools: WebEx, Elluminate and Adobe Connect. Based on preliminary testing and feedback, Adobe Connect was selected to pilot during the 2008-09 academic year. Faculty can use Adobe Connect to bring in speakers remotely, hold virtual office hours, and collaborate with research colleagues without traveling. Students can collaborate with each other across campuses.

When the pilot was launched, Tufts faculty, students and staff were invited to use Adobe Connect. Today, 198 people have accounts on the Tufts Adobe Connect pilot: 35 faculty, 26 students, and 137 staff. The pilot currently has a license for 50 concurrent users for the Tufts Adobe Connect hosted account that will run through August 2009.

Early in the pilot, intermittent lag and audio issues were noticed that cannot be easily resolved, as UIT has no control over the network outside of Tufts. However, a 30-day trial of Adobe Connect was conducted on a local server at Tufts with promising initial tests. In April, another 30-day trial of Connect will be run on a local server.

In order to complete due diligence in the pilot review, a 30-day trial of Wimba, another web conferencing tool, will also be conducted. Wimba has emerged as a leader in the field because it can be integrated with learning management systems and has a strong support track record. In May, the results of the pilot will be written up and recommendations made on which product to pursue for ongoing production services at Tufts University.

If you would like to participate in the pilot or would like to have more information, please contact us

Melanie St. James, Senior Interactive Media Designer, UIT Academic Technology

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