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.


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.

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.

Molecular Biology Central Dogma

This animation describes what molecular biologists refer to as the ‘Central Dogma’ – the basic principle of how DNA and RNA make creatures like ourselves. 

[November 2006 :: Adobe Flash – no audio, click-thru sequence]
(click on the image to view the actual Flash movie)

thumbnail image of Central Dogma animation

This animation was created to support training for people who maintained an instrument known as a ‘particle handler’.  The instrument is used to automate procedures in molecular biology, which is a vastly different discipline from the background of electronics and motors needed to service the instrument.

The animation was written by my colleague, Dee C. who is a molecular biologist working as instructional designer on our team.  Dee also provided graphic design as can be seen in the script (click the script image to view a .pdf copy).  I contributed to the script and performed all production and distribution of the media using Adobe Flash, PowerPoint, and Adobe Connect Pro as the final container.

About The Author

James Chris Lloyd

 Learning Technologist
 - Instructional Design
 - Media Production
 - Curricular Analysis
 - Communities of Practice
 - Virtual Environments

"I can make it work."


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