James at Lloud

Works and thoughts about digital communication & education

Synchronous Webcast Programs

While working at Promega Corporation as an online learning developer, our training team became aware that the asynchronous training we created, while being engaging and informative, was also extremely time-consuming to create.

I was given the task of designing a program for just-in-time learning which at the time were called ‘web meetings’.

Screen capture of Breeze Live computer screenOur asynchronous programs were created using a product named Macromedia Breeze for converting PowerPoint files to the online Flash format.  A component that Macromedia added to Breeze was called Breeze Training and it was a very rudimentary LMS which we found extremely useful for managing our asynchronous programs.  Macromedia also introduced a component of Breeze named Breeze Live which I  followed quite closely but did not yet have an application for which it could be used. Adobe purchased Macromedia and we continued using the Breeze product for asynchronous course development.  Our Macromedia, and then Adobe representative would call the converted material “breezos” which I found very funny. A good history of this product, now called Adobe Connect can be reviewed in this Wikipedia article.

Breeze Live was a clear choice to develop a synchronous program as it could interact with the existing Breeze Training database of users, content and training history.

I had two major components to develop for this effort.  The first component was to develop the technology aspects of the program for both the presenters and the participants in the program.  This included:

  • Negotiation of license for additional Breeze meeting component
  • Selection of video & audio input equipment
  • Selection of a location to conduct presentations
  • Procedure development and documentation for presenters
  • Procedure development and documentation for participants

The second component of the program was the development of logistical aspects. This included:

  • Project charter and overall training objectives
  • Procedure and tools to manage a schedule of topics
  • Procedures for orientation and conduct of the presentation
  • Procedure for obtaining Learning Measures that correspond to topic learning objectives
  • Reporting methods and templates

Around the same time that I was developing this training program, people in marketing were beginning to investigate customer ‘webinars’ on the internet using tools from other vendors.  In order to distinquish these in-house training activities I named the program “The Global Technical Services Webcast.”  This initial program was chartered to deliver regular and most recent product information to an audience of approximately 50 technical support scientists in 13 global locations.

In the future I hope to document more specific aspects of this program, but in summary this program was extremely successful, had high participation rates and engendered the creation of two additional webcast programs, one for Global Sales employees and another for non-employees in the Promega product distribution network. The Sales Webcast program included about 50 people and the Distributor Webcast program had nearly 120 people.

 

Job Application Video

I was very excited about a job opportunity in June of 2012.  So much so that I decided to create a video and include a link in the application.  Though the video is made exclusively for one position, I think it is interesting mostly because it was completely self-produced.


How it Was Done

As I wrote above I made this completely by myself using an in-expensive HD camcorder, a lavalier microphone and micro mixer, and edited with Adobe Premiere Elements on a Windows 7 desktop computer.

The Canon camcorder has two features that were critical to this production. First is that the camcorder has an external microphone connection.  I used a micro mixer set levels from the lavalier microphone to better control the audio.  Second, the camcorder has a flip-out viewscreen so that I could see the composition of the frame from my location in front of the camera.  The camera was mounted on an in-expensive but sturdy tripod and the lighting was completely ambient in a very sunny room.

The camcorder records to a standard SD memory card and I transferred the files to the computer.  I made six ‘takes’ of the script I had written and then edited the piece in Adobe Premiere Elements adding still and motion graphics to the final production.

One tip that I can share about Adobe Premiere Elements is that I create a new catalog file for each project.  The catalog file is intended for home video enthusiasts and typically contains all the video in the users video library, but this becomes just to large to be workable.  It is a bit of a workaround, but it makes a big difference for complex projects.

Professional Objectives video

This project emerged from a re-design of my resume which included a clarification of my professional objectives.  Professional objectives have fallen a bit from favor in the modern job hunt but this was something that was very useful in my job hunt and I wanted to create a project that was both a statement and an example.

I wanted to use a variety of tools and include work with virtual learning environments so I chose to perform this as an avatar in Second Life.


How it Was Done

For this project I even made a video describing how it was done:


Good Morning English City

I had a great opportunity to work in a virtual learning environment known as “English City” for the UK company Language Lab.  English City was a place for anyone who wanted to improve their English language skills.  It is a for-profit business and in this capacity I helped to create some of the most dramatic learning experiences I have ever encountered.

Most of these programs are published on the Language Lab Youtube channel, but I do have this example in my own channel.


How it Was Done

My role was that of event host which provided an experiential aspect to the learning of English – a place for learners to make use of the language.  I hosted events such as ‘Emergency’ and ‘Adventure’ but my favorite event was “Good Morning English City” – a television talk show.  In this 2 hour event learners would play the part of talk show hosts and guests, improvising the topics and performing with invented personalities & backgrounds.  We would run the talk show at least three times so that new learners could observe the process before jumping in.

In addition to guiding the learners through the event, I wanted to create artifacts for both the learners and for Language Lab so I developed a workflow and methodology to record and present the talk show on Youtube.

My production tools included a version of the Second Life virtual world viewer customized by Language Lab.  To capture the sessions I used a screen recorder named “BSR – Best Screen Recorder” which allowed me to capture fluid motion and audio on a custom screen area.  BSR would record into an uncompressed format which allowed for a very high frame rate but created an enormous video file.  Recording to a compressed file was too demanding for my computer even though it was well-configured with a dual-core processor and high speed graphics card.

Several configuration issues were quite challenging.  One was to capture the session while hiding the SecondLife viewer controls & mouse cursor.  Next was mixing the audio coming from the viewer with the audio from my microphone.  BSR had very good options in selecting audio source and mixing form the audio resources in the Windows 7.

Once the session was recorded I created an Adobe Premiere Elements project and assembled the program into one long program.  I created three ‘bump’ animations and an opening animation of a logo provided by the Language Lab staff using motion controls in Adobe Premiere Elements.  Then I broke the big program back into pieces to be uploaded to Youtube where it was re-assembled as a Playlist of videos.  I did this so that learners could view and share just the segments in which they participated.

Simple Logo Animation

My objective for this project was to use the simplest of tools to create a logo animation video as a demonstration for non-profit clients.


How it Was Done

I started with a logo I had designed for my consulting work which I re-created using the drawing tools in Microsoft PowerPoint 2010.  I then used the animation features of PowerPoint to ‘build’ the logo from its drawing components while displaying descriptive words related to the organization.  This was probably the most difficult part as working with PowerPoint animation can be very frustrating.  Why is PowerPoint animation frustrating?  I believe the single biggest improvement Microsoft could make to PowerPoint animation would be to add layer controls – most importantly to be able to hide and show layers.  The program already uses layers as evidence by the ‘sent to back’ and ‘send to front’ options. Unfortunately everything is on screen at the same time which makes it very difficult to modify any individual component of the animation.  Other tools do have this ability, but my objective was to remain in a tool that is commonly already in use in most non-profit organizations.

After completing the visual components I added two subtle sound effects.  Then I used the option in PowerPoint to save as a video – in this case a .wmv file.  This file can now be imported into other video projects, even to Microsoft Movie Maker which is a free download for Windows computers.  I uploaded the .wmv file to Youtube where it is easily shared and displayed.

Router VoIP Magic – SIP and ALG settings

Lately I have been using more than one viewer for activity in the virtual world of Second Life and encountering problems with connecting to the Voip services. Vivox is the voice communication software used in most Second Life viewers.

This is all in the realm of magic to my mind though I know that it is just arcane, not unknowable. But I got a clue one day when the viewer software reported a problem from the server trying to give me access to voice. This alert message appeared and provided me with some clues for research:

I then found this forum discussion where a fellow was asking about ports, but the repair was to disable SIP ALG.:

http://forum.nexon.net/CombatArms/forums/3/4072252/ShowThread.aspx

I then found this forum that helped me get to that setting on my own router:

http://forums.logitech.com/t5/Logitech-Vid/Linksys-wrt610n-router-setup-For-Unavailable-to-Receive-Calls/td-p/490576

Here is a screenshot of the changed setting on my router:

Since changing that setting I have been using all my Second Life browsers without any problems connecting in voice.

 

Molbio in Second Life

As part of initiative to understand how we might use virtual environments, my colleague and friend Sam Jackson and I prototyped a region name “Molbio” in Second Life. Molbio is a contraction of the term “Molecular Biology”. This region was hoped to serve both training for and promotion of the Promega brand.

This video is an un-narrated tour of the region that I made just prior to our shutting it down.

It is vernacular in Second Life to use the term “build” as a noun to describe the virtual objects and landscapes created there. Sam made several ‘builds’ to be used as gathering places for meeting those interested in general molecular biology topics. Sam also created a ‘build’ of a laboratory where we had hoped to create ‘virtual videos’ – more typically known as ‘machinima’. Machinma has several advantages over real-life media creation and is becoming a significant product of virtual environments.

I created a replica of a building from Promega’s corporate campus to orient new arrivals to the region. I also created a ‘walking tour’ of the basic concepts of molecular biology. These walking tours are another typical use of virtual learning environments which reflects the real-world concept of the poster show – a common practice in the communities of academic and research science.

We could not generate the traction we needed within the organization to continue with the prototype. While Sam and I both had great enthusiasm for the possibilities, we just could not make that connection for our colleagues. It was a very valuable lesson in just how challenging it can be to move people from their comfort zones to explore something new.

Video Protocol

This project was used in conjunction with a classroom event known as PromeTech where global employee scientists convened in Madison to experience hands-on laboratories and lectures about the products. While the goal is to gain experience handling the product, many protocols simply take too much time to fit into an in-person agenda. This video was produced to show all of the steps involved up to the point where the learners in the classroom would begin. In actuality, the lab trainers did all of the steps presented in the video and had the prepared plates ready for the learners to finish the protocol.

Flash video
Click to play, but know that it is a VERY large file (50mb)

If you have time to watch this to the end, look for the smiley in the lower right corner and click it to see some scientistical humor.

Animated Protocols

When asked what was made at Promega I often said, “tiny bottles of liquid.” This is quite true and while on the surface seems underwhelming, these were in fact very carefully manufactured vials of liquid. And as important as any of the manufactured liquids, was the knowledge of how that liquid would behave and how to manipulate the liquid with success. In this way our products were quite literally ‘knowledge’ as well as materials.

In molecular biology success is assured by carefully following the correct Protocol in using the reagents. For products to have a competitive edge in the marketplace, they need to be faster, safer or generate greater quantities of output.

This animation project was part of a training designed to emphasize how much faster the featured protocol is compared to the more commonly practiced method. Two separate Flash movies were created of each protocol and placed side-by-side on screen for comparison. The learner would click the start button and observe an audio/visual synposis of the protocol.

animated protocol thumnail image

View Standard Protocol ||  View Featured Protocol

Other than audio production, this project was completed entirely in Adobe Flash.  It was scripted in PowerPoint which provided some clip-art visual design guidelines.

Kit Components

This project was an initiative I took after speaking with the global employee scientists who were our online learners.  These folks worked in small branch and distributor offices around the world and they often would have to support a product without having seen or touched the components.  So with this project I planned to prototype a method to experience a typical group of products bundled as a kit.  The animation was completed and included in an online, asynchronous training course.

[2008 :: Adobe Flash – sound & voice, interactive exploration]
(click on the image to view the actual Flash movie)

Kit Components thumbnail image

I employed a fun variety of tools to assemble this project.  The photography was quite a challenge.   I build a custom stand to support the bottles with very thin wire and photograph each bottle in 8 positions of rotation.  It was also difficult to get the level of the liquid to appear inside of white bottles and so I experimented with a variety of background colors and illumination to have the amount of reagent in each bottle plain to see.  Assembling the audio and visual elements in Flash was comparatively easy.

I really enjoyed making this animation, but leadership decided that it took too long to produce and no other similar projects were started.  The learners really enjoyed it and anecdotally reported that it was very effective for understanding what customers on the phone might be holding in their hands.

About The Author

James Chris Lloyd

 
 Learning Technologist
 - Instructional Design
 - Media Production
 - Curricular Analysis
 - Communities of Practice
 - Virtual Environments
 
Innovative
Creative
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"I can make it work."

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