Our department has recently purchased Macromedia Breeze, a web-based conferencing technology. Our faculty have had fun training each other and discussing possible uses of the platform in our classes. We’ve already used it in lieu of regular Blackboard chat to hold audio/video chats with our classes (see http://breeze.boisestate.edu:8080/p80652824/ for an example), and to prerecord training sessions for our students on the use of different technology tools (here’s another example showing how to set up a blog http://breeze.boisestate.edu:8080/p46248383/ ).
This technology has instantly changed the face of our distance learning program. No longer a static, text based program supplemented with multimedia presentations that can take hours to design and build, this instantaneous communication technology brings the professor and student together in real-time, face-to-face. Breeze has a LOT of capacity that I won’t go into here, but overall, users can create meetings, classes or curriculum. In the meeting layout (which I’ve used most to date), users have access to different “pods,” such as the chat pod, the camera pod, the sharing pod, the note pod, and the polling pod. These can be configured and customized by the user.
Some of the features I love about Breeze:
1. Audio and/or video of any user who has a webcam or microphone installed.
2. Separate chat text tool, if needed.
3. Sharing/collaboration window to load and share 1) presentations, 2) show websites, 3) show any document, application or any other file on your computer.
4. There are great overlay tools in the sharing “pod” that allow user’s to mark-up or write on any file in the sharing window.
5. Take a poll and broadcast the results instantly in real-time. Such a great tool for checking for understanding or getting a quick overall group consensus.
6. Any meeting can be recorded. And everything gets recorded–the audio, video, and navigational display of documents. This converts to a URL (such as I listed above) that students can access at a later time.
7. Ability to upload and downloads files among all users.
Web-based communiciation and collaboration software such as Breeze is our next generation in online education. Invest in a webcam (comes with a built-in microphone), and jump on the bandwagon.