Monday, April 5, 2010

The Favorite VC: Elluminate Live

A couple of months ago, I posted a survey questioning several groups of people about their favorite virtual classroom (VC) for language teaching. The following VCs were on the survey:
  1. Web Ex
  2. Adobe Connect Pro
  3. Elluminate Live
  4. Spreed
  5. Web Train
  6. Instant Presenter
  7. Dim Dim
  8. Digital Samba
  9. Saba Centra
  10. Windows live
  11. Vyew
  12. Fuze
  13. Electa
  14. Second Life
  15. Other (please specify)

I posted a few weeks ago that I would systematically write about each VC based on the survey in the order of the most favorite to the least favorite. The favorite VC based on just 45 respondents was Elluminate Live. I will first tell you a bit about Elluminate, the tools and then a bit about my personal experience with this VC, which is also one of my favorite VCs.

Elluminate Live is based in Canada and is one of the only VCs who has kept their target and focus on the education market and that may be one reason why it is one of the top VCs for many educators. One of the features of Elluminate is that it is available to low bandwidth users as well as high bandwidth users. Through Elluminate's 'Fire & Ice' program, they have entered rural markets in third world countries and have connected schools in these countries with each other as well as students/schools in the USA and Canada.

Besides being one of the most stable VCs I have used, the Elluminate Live classroom also has many tools available to language teachers that are essential for effective live online language learning, which include the following:

Video-up to six people can be on video at a time.
VOIP-up to six people can speak at the same time.
Whiteboard-available for the teacher and the students to collaborate.
Clip Art-there are some ready-made pictures for the teachers to use on the whiteboard--one of the only classrooms that provides this feature as far as I know.
Text chat-the students and teacher can chat with each other and send private messages as well (although moderators can see everything).
Web browsing-the teacher and students can look at different web-pages together.
Screen sharing-the teacher and/or students can share their entire computer screen if they want to.
Application sharing-the teacher and/or students can share one part of their computer if they want to.
File sharing-the teacher can send word and pdf documents this way.
Clock-a clock can be used to track how much time an activity is taking.  The teacher can make this private or available to the students to see as well.  This feature is only available in Elluminate as far as I am aware.
Survey-the teacher can survey the students on various topics.
Quizzes-a quiz function is also available to the teachers.
Elluminate Plan--in the professional version, this allows the teacher to upload everything ahead of time and to have the session completely planned up to the minute--a very useful tool.
Recording-in the professional version, one can record the lesson and make it available to one's students.
    I first started using Elluminate a few years ago and it quickly became one of my favorite VCs because it was stable and quite frankly fun to use.  The clipart, the clock, the whiteboard tools and the web browsing are the tools that made this one of my favorite VCs. I have used it in large groups as well as in one-to-one teaching situations.  To better illustrate how this VC works, I will include some videos made during some pilots conducted in 2009.

    The following is a short clip of a lesson conducted with a group of middle school students in China:

    Now, here is a short clip of a group of students in Burkina Faso: