Adobe Captivate Prime Webinar

Attended a webinar demonstration of Adobe’s new LMS solution, Captivate Prime. Eventually. The webinar was delivered via Adobe Connect which required installation of a plugin on our meeting room computer, which then wouldn’t launch in Firefox. By the time we got it working through Internet Explorer (ugh) we were 5 minutes late. It’s not a good start when you’re trying to sell one product, using another of your products, which doesn’t work at all well. It’s also troubling me, writing about it with hindsight, that it actually wasn’t a demonstration, but a static presentation. That’s not an approach I approve of. If you want to sell people your cake, give them a taste!

Captivate Prime looks to be a fairly slick course delivery platform, and thus an LMS in a broad sense, but it falls a long way short of what I would expect an LMS / VLE to deliver. There are no tools for interaction for example, no chat tool, no discussion board, but some developments in this area are promised to be coming soon. There is also no LTI support, and no integration with Turnitin or student management information systems. In fairness, Adobe are not targeting education institutions at the moment, only the business market, and for that kind of thing where a traditional didactic pedagogy is appropriate, the dreaded compulsory fire safety training that organisations compel you to complete every few years for example, it looks like it would be a pretty good solution. The one part of the system which did impress me was the extensive reporting options for monitoring learners’ progress.

Speaking of course delivery platforms, another one I’ve had a look at lately is LearnDash, a comprehensive plugin for WordPress that turns it into an LMS with support for courses, quizzes, certification, forums, reporting, and many other things you would expect an LMS to provide. It reminded me a lot of FutureLearn, but actually more comprehensive, and much closer to being able to function as a fully-fledged VLE than Captivate Prime. Indeed, there is at least one UK FE institution, West Cheshire College, using it as their VLE to support around 2,000 students. You can read the case study on Jisc’s website here (PDF, 217 KB).

Summer Graduation Ceremonies

graduation_videos

We had our summer graduation ceremonies a couple of weeks ago which we in Web and Learning Technology Services live streamed. The live streaming service is something that we developed in-house at the back end of last year and was first piloted at the winter graduation ceremonies in December. The system was put together by members of the Web Team, who did all the back-end work, and the AV specialist in Learning Technology who arranged the hardware and helped to get the integration with our streaming media server working.

As well as being streamed live the cameras also record to their memory cards for us to edit and post to the media server after the event. This is normally done by our AV guy, but, immediately following graduation week, he went off work for nearly a month to get married. The priorities of some people, eh? So I volunteered to do the editing and uploading. A bit of a mundane task, but I actually enjoyed watching the little bits of the ceremonies I did and I got to get some hands-on experience with Adobe Premiere Pro. To date all of the movie editing I have done has been in iMovie, basically because I am a Mac user and it’s just there, and it has always done what I needed of it. It wasn’t good enough for this job however, as I wanted to manually specify the file format, the size and the bit rate used for encoding for compatibility with Helix and to control file sizes, features that Apple has simplified out of existence in the latest versions of iMovie. I almost wrote ‘inexplicably’ there to describe Apple’s foolishness, but the reason is perfectly clear, to make it easy for end users. There is no getting away from the complexity of export options in Premiere, but sometimes you need that complexity and Apple don’t seem to be interested in that segment anymore. It’s not just iMovie, they haven’t been getting the balance right between ease of use and power features in their software for a number of years now and I don’t see that trend getting better.

But I digress. As well as trimming the videos I also had to flatten the audio to make them mono as the left sound channel picked up almost nothing for some reason. I don’t know if this is something I can do in iMovie, I’ve never had the need before, but it was simple to do in Premiere. All of the recordings are now available here and you can see more videos and photos by following the Twitter hashtag #hawaythegrads.

In a separate query, while I was busy doing this work I picked up a job for a customer who wanted a colleague at a partner institution in Malaysia to share some recorded lectures with them and of course I recommended the streaming server as the best tool for the job. Normally we would get people in to the office to give them a quick run-through of how the system works, but Malaysia is a long way to travel, so I ended up having to put together a short help guide on how to do this as we didn’t have any documentation.