The Insanity of the Two Location Workshop

Yes, we did it back on May 7, and perhaps it was beginner’s luck, but all went well.

We had me in Elluminate with the online participants, and Elluminate showing on the screen in the lab on campus, where Jim Sullivan was presenting. We had a video camera there plugged in as a webcam, and a microphone on a long cord. Online, we could see and hear Jim, and also talk ourselves in the chat. On campus, they could see me (if I had my webcam on), hear me, and read our chat.

We had one volunteer, our wonderful Laura Paciorek. She sat at the computer in the lab, got things hooked up, and communicated with me for set-up and throughout the session using the chat. We had one helper from Media Services, our fantastic cameraman Alan McCarron. The only thing that didn’t work was the room speakers in the campus lab — but the desktop speakers on the presentation computer worked fine so they could hear online participants. The subject was using online resources for professional development.

It went so smoothly that this semester, the Program for Online Teaching will be offering simultaneous on-campus/online workshops on the First Friday of the month at 2:30 pm PT. We’re calling them simulcasts, but since the participants on both sides can actually participate, they really aren’t “casts”. I don’t know what to call what we’re doing.

Our first of the year was last week, on September 3.

We tried for the same setup we had on May 7, but this time I had more support from Media Services, so it got increasingly more complex as more technicians got involved. At least five people from Academic Information Services, in various capacities, responded individually to try to help get this going, even meeting separately for a trial run. Ultimately I think it was made clear that all we needed was a person manning a video camera that can plug into the USB port and act as a webcam, plus a pair of computer speakers in case the room system doesn’t work.

There was some confusion about the camera, because Alan had used a regular video camera (the Sanyo Xacti HD) as a webcam, and it had worked great. When that set-up was tried this time, it didn’t work and the feed was switched to a regular webcam (which had given us a poor image on May 7 so we hadn’t thought of using it).

We had also purchased a USB omnidirectional microphone over the summer, with the idea that it could just be placed in the middle of the campus lab so we could hear the presenter and all participants. This didn’t work, and the presenter ended up carrying the microphone around to be heard properly.

Last, we were told the room speakers were now functional. They weren’t, but we still had the desktop speakers standing by and those did.

As it turned out, we didn’t even need a cameraman, because our newest faculty volunteer, Lyle Blackmon, did a great job managing the camera.

So for next time, we need to:
– use the webcam in the lab
– use the microphone with the long cord in the lab
– keep using the little speakers since the room speakers still don’t work

Our feedback from doing this has been very positive. The late afternoon time on Friday works for both associates and full-timers tied up in meetings till 1:00. Those who really need a f2f experience prefer being in the lab with the facilitator, and those who cannot come to campus appreciate participating online.

The only thing that went really wrong is that I failed to press the Record button in Elluminate before we started! The microphone issue became apparent immediately, and I focused on solving it instead of recording. Ah well, the price of experience. Enjoy what I did record using this link.

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