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Providing Online Office Hours Using Adobe Connect

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Providing office hours to students can be expanded into an online environment. Thanks to fast connection speeds at Purdue, students can communicate with you, the professor, in real time. Anymore, students use their laptops and tablets to interact with their courses online through Blackboard Learn, and many already use Adobe Connect for online courses or collaborating with their peers- why not communicate with them in a way that they can utilize daily with ease? Not only can students text chat, Adobe Connect provides them with voice features and webcam integration too. That’s not all, Adobe Connect enables you to share documents, videos, applications, websites, and more just as seamlessly as you would in a face-to-face meeting.

If you have no prior experience using Adobe Connect, you need not worry. ITaP has supplied training to aid you in learning more about the product and how you might integrate it into your online office hours offerings.

Main ITaP resource page for Adobe Connect: http://www.itap.purdue.edu/learning/tools/gomeet/

ITaP Adobe Connect video tutorials: http://www.itap.purdue.edu/learning/trainingnew/online/Connect/index.html

Now, there are several tips to keep in mind when using Connect for your online office hours.

Internet Connection
When hosting an Adobe Connect session, it is important to be on a stable, Ethernet-cable tethered connection. We suggest you use the internet provided in your office by Purdue. Also, it is recommended that students use a Ethernet cable in their dorm, apartment, workspace, etc. when using Connect.

Computer with two screens
If possible, it is recommended you use a computer that has two monitors. The reason for this is that you will need one screen with the Adobe Connect application running and could use the other for what materials you are actively sharing off of your computer.

Another setup you could try if using two monitors is not possible, is to use a laptop connected to the Connect meeting room to monitor activity and use your main computer for sharing materials.

Additional Equipment
To ensure you are able to effectively communicate with your students, consider using an audio headset with a maneuverable microphone built-in. If you do not already own a headset, consider purchasing one that is powered by USB, which tend to output higher quality audio than those powered by a traditional 3.5mm audio-jack. When using your headset, do not place the microphone right in front of your mouth, instead try to place the mic about an inch or 2 away from the corner. This will lessen popping sounds and breathing interference.

Also, you might consider using a webcam, which can assist in better student attentiveness and non-verbal cues.

A few microphone headset recommendations:
Plantronics Audio 478
OS: Windows XP, Vista, 7, and 8– Mac OSX 10.5+
Price: $24.59
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B005VAORH6/

Plantronics DSP400 (Foldable)
OS: Windows XP, Vista, 7, and 8– Mac OSX 10.5+
Price: $38.99
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B000VEMNRS/

Plantronics Blackwire C420
OS: Windows XP, Vista, 7, and 8– Mac OSX 10.5+
Price: $62.44
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B003EA21AA/

Whether you choose to pick any of these above or have another product in mind, use these tips to make a decision:

  • Choose a headset with a USB plug instead of an analog plug (3.5 mm RCA). USB offers a more stable, higher quality recording interface and pair with the audio chipset in your computing device.
  • Look to see if the cable for the headset includes a mute button and volume adjustment buttons/sliders.
  • If you’re looking for a microphone that allows for multiple people to talk in the same room or if you’re moving around a room while you’re speaking, you might consider a condenser microphone. Samson makes several products that work well for this purpose.

A few webcam recommendations:
Logitech C310
OS: Windows XP, Vista, 7, and 8
Price: $30.96
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B003LVZO8S

Logitech C525
OS: Windows XP, Vista, 7, and 8
Price: $41.40
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004WO8HQ4

Logitech C615
OS: Windows XP, Vista, 7, and 8– Mac OSX 10.5+
Price: $47.99
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004YW7WCY

Logitech C920
OS: Windows XP, Vista, 7, and 8
Price: $77.33
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B006JH8T3S

Software
It is recommended that you use the latest version of any of these browsers: Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Internet Explorer, or Apple Safari.

Other than using an up-to-date browser, it is highly recommended that you update to the latest version of Adobe Flash Player for the browser you will use. Please click this link to download the latest version: http://get.adobe.com/flashplayer/

*Please provide this recommendation to your students as well.

Close unnecessary programs on your computer
To optimize the available resources to run Adobe Connect, please close down any unnecessary programs running on your computer.

*Please provide this recommendation to your students as well.

Use a physical space with minimal distractions
Whether it is your office or a conference/meeting room, choose a physical space where you can limit distractions so that you can engage with you students with minimal interruptions.

*This is a good suggestion for students too.

Adobe Connect, example, online office hours

This an example of a meeting room in Adobe Connect.

Lastly, here are some ideas on what you could use Adobe Connect to successfully conduct online office hours:

  • Open discussion- Enable open discussion between you and your students and/or moderate student discussion on course subjects. This can be webcam, audio, and/or text-based. Connect has the power of polling users as well.
  • Sharing lesson plans and/or documents with students- Upload Word documents, PDFs, PowerPoint files, etc. with students to go over course subjects and provide further explanations of concepts.
  • Demonstrate how to use software- Students struggling with SPSS or MathLab on the night before an assignment’s due date? Use Connect to demonstrate workarounds and troubleshoot their issues. With Connect you can actively allow students the ability to share their screens with the click of a mouse.

I hope this article has been helpful and encouraging. Please send an email to tlt-consulting@purdue.edu to seek additional information on Adobe Connect and strategies on using the software to engage with your students. Also, don’t forget to frequently check this blog for additional articles that may be of interest to you.


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