It’s often interesting to ask someone who has only a passing familiarity with Adobe Connect what he or she knows about the product. Typical answers are, “Oh, it’s a Web-conferencing application” or “It’s a training system.” You might also hear that it’s a delivery channel for eLearning or that it’s a limited learning management system. Of course, Connect is all of these and its power comes from using each of these features together in the right combinations.
Keep in mind that Connect is very scalable. I use Connect to teach classes online, for instance, and pay a monthly fee to have up to 100 learners at any given time. If I wanted to add more features, or be able to deliver Webinars to more learners, I could pay more and add those features. Pricing ranges from relatively low to relatively high depending on an organization’s needs, but in every case the price makes sense considering the savings that normally come from not having employees travel. When you add the benefits of ensuring that you can track attendee progress and that you can deliver asynchronous material to them, you can see why Connect appeals to so many.
How are organizations using Connect?
Connect is all about versatility. Its main purposes are Webinars, eLearning, and Web meetings. Let’s look at each of these in turn.
1. Webinars. In a Webinar, one or two people are speaking to relatively passive participants, who may be able to type questions and receive answers in real time. Usually we expect only one person to speak, and you may or may not be able to see that person in a live-video feed. The purpose of a Webinar is usually to impart new information in a timely manner. If there is any interactivity, it is usually in the form of polls. Webinars can be recorded for future viewing.
2. eLearning. This can take on several different forms, ranging from delivering asynchronous material to a form of an extended Webinar. An example: eLearning may be a mix of a live presenter, preloaded materials, and interactivity. The presenter can switch the view to that of any of the learners and have the learner show what he or she has done. The presenter might give tests or quizzes, and interactions may be asynchronous so that each learner can try them on their own and then compare results. These sessions have much more give and take than Webinars.
While you can create a few limited elements in Connect, the real secret behind Connect’s eLearning approach is your ability to upload any number of a variety of different types of files, interactive or not, that you can assemble into any order you wish.
3. Web Meetings. In these, typically, a relatively small number of geographically dispersed participants meet online to discuss issues. Some or all of the attendees may be seen in live video feeds and all may speak simultaneously, just as in a regular meeting room. Also as in a physical meeting room, one of the attendees can present slides or video, interactive elements, or other materials. All participants may use and share a whiteboard.
The above classifications are not always clear-cut. Some features in Web meetings, such as the whiteboard, may also be useful in Webinars and eLearning.
There’s no question that most organizations either have implemented, or are considering a way to implement, all of these Web-conference modes because they are convenient and save a lot of time and money.
What are the main features and improvements in Connect 9?
The number of tools that support meetings over the Web has increased tenfold over those available just three years ago. To varying degrees, each tool offers features you’ll find in Connect. For example, Skype now offers business solutions that let you perform group video calls, and the free version lets you screen share in one-on-one situations. Some organizations are tempted to go for one of the less expensive solutions, but many will find very quickly that they need more than what is offered in these products.
Connect offers full-featured Web conferencing. Version 9 really ups the ante by adding more features and improving others, based primarily on the suggestions and feature requests Adobe received from its customers. Here is a rundown of the more significant ones in version 9.
1. More control over event creation. Look at Figure 1 – if you’ve used Connect before, you’ll notice added features. Even if you are new to Connect, you’ll appreciate how complete the event information details are.
Figure 1: Event creation is simple in Connect 9, with all major details covered
2. Fully customizable event microsites. A microsite means that you can have, in essence, a small Connect catalog of your upcoming Webinar, eLearning, or Web meeting events. It can sport your logo and colors, and in other ways appear to be truly yours.
3. Customizable event landing pages. These are templates that allow you to create landing pages, those that attendees first see, with speaker information, login and registration forms, and more. You can include images, tables, charts, and their descriptions.
Figure 2 shows you many of the elements that allow all this to be possible.
Figure 2: Event timing and customization details support landing-page setup
4. New registration options. Figure 3 shows you many of the options you have available when setting up registrations.
Figure 3: Registration options
5. Engagement dashboard. This is a real-time event monitor that lets you see how well attendees are engaged. You’ll be able to see a color-coded meter that will help you understand if your message is getting through. This can help you improve your message in future events by letting you see clearly what works and what doesn’t work as well.
6. Online analytics. After the fact, you’ll be able to analyze how much participants were engaged in each area of the conference. The analytics engine is dynamic and shows you how well each element worked.
7. Template-based e-mail content and triggers. There are two forms for e-mail templates, standard and custom, and you can create each pretty quickly using new drag-and-drop capabilities. You can trigger the sending of the e mails at times that you decide for any specific registered groups. See Figure 4.
Figure 4: E-mail options
In Figures 5, 6, and 7, you can see typical Connect 9-generated e-mails for event invitations and event participation notifications.
Figure 5: Event e-mail invitation
Figure 6: Event e-mail follow-up
Figure 7: Notification e-mail
8. Advanced mobile support for meetings and training. Yes, you read that right. One of the big open secrets of Connect in the last couple of years is how well you could watch and participate in a Connect meeting on your cell phone or tablet. Now with Adobe Connect Mobile 2.0 you’ll be able to use the whiteboard and share documents from tablets and from the cloud. You’ll be able to enter breakout rooms and more.
9. SCORM compatibility and reporting. These important features are improved in Version 9. You now have the ability to import, deliver, and track SCORM-based content in the Adobe Connect Training module. In fact, SCORM support is new to Connect 9.
10. Event Catalog. Now you can invite current and potential participants to view a catalog of events you have generated. Only those events you wish to list in the catalog are included. See Figure 8.
Figure 8: A catalog page
11. Integration with the marketing suite. You’ll be able to take advantage now of Connect’s integration with the Adobe Digital Marketing Suite, which includes Adobe CQ and Adobe SiteCatalyst.
12. Pause and resume. Now you’ll be able to pause and then resume recordings that you show during live sessions.
13. Privacy. Recordings can now include both privacy and content controls.
14. Greater capacity. Web meetings can now include up to 1,500 attendees.
What are the limitations of Connect version 9?
1. Support for playback of recordings is limited on some mobile clients. You can watch recordings on most Android devices, but iOS devices require you to convert the FLV to MP4 using a third-party video converter.
2. Lack of true HD-quality video-camera broadcasting. Connect can do 640x480 at 20 frames/second. But true 1080p can only be done within Connect using a custom pod from a third party.
Summing it up
What would you like to see in the next version that is not yet in Connect?
All in all, Adobe should be very proud of its new release. It answers many of the requests that users have been making for some time, and makes it even easier and faster to conduct Web meetings, present eLearning, and lead Webinars.