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.


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.

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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