A Typical Web Conferencing Package

This section gives a brief discussion of a typical web (and video) conferencing package available called Electromeet. As web conferencing is a fairly mature market, most of the features should be common across a range of packages. The main reason that Electromeet is used is because of its video capabilities, remote labs and ability to run proctoring (remote testing) sessions.

Electromeet has many communication channels that can be used for the purpose of conferencing. These include text, talk, video, whiteboard, desktop sharing, YouTube video sharing and recordings. All elements can be used in conjunction with each other to create an effective conferencing session. Conventional online communication channels such as text, audio and video are used alongside the whiteboard, desktop sharing, YouTube video sharing and recordings to enhance the conferencing experience.

The whiteboard is a useful tool that allows a presenter to upload a document such as a PowerPoint, PDF and Word document. The whiteboard also has drawing features that will allow a presenter to annotate their presentation documents. The whiteboard features when used alongside video, audio and text act as a virtual classroom for all remote participants.

Desktop sharing is a useful tool for allowing all participants to see the desktop of the sharer’s computer. This is particularly useful when a presenter wants to demonstrate a software package relevant to the presentation topic. In addition, the desktop sharing feature allows participants to gain control of the presenter’s computer (once provided with access rights). This is a powerful tool giving participants a hands-on experience rather than having them merely passively watching a demonstration.

The YouTube video sharing feature allows presenters to share YouTube videos with everyone participating. This will mean that the student doesn’t have to sit and listen to someone present only uploaded documents to the whiteboard, but can also watch some relevant videos.

All sessions can be recorded. This allows for a session to be recorded and watched again in the future, or provide participants who are absent from a presentation to catch up later.

Overview of Electromeet

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Figure 1: Electromeet Overview

To communicate with other users and the instructor, the student uses the talk and texting feature.

•  The talk feature simply works by clicking on the “push to talk” button. If the button turns yellow it means that someone is already talking and you have entered the queue to talk. Once the button talks green, it is your turn to talk.

•  To send a text message, simply type in the text box and next to the “Send” button. Click on the “Send” message to send your text.

•  There is also a text feature to send texts to specific users. Below the typing box is a tab with the options to select whom you would like to talk to.

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Figure 1: Texting

There are also other ways in which you can communicate with the instructor:

By clicking on the smiley face you can convey your current emotions on the teaching topics.

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Figure 2: Sending Smileys

You can also raise your hand by clicking on the hand icon. When you do the instructor will be told that a hand has been raised and can assist with queries.

Setting up Audio

To ensure that the audio is configured properly, run through the following set up procedure.

1.  Click on the “Audio” tab found at the bottom left of the Electromeet window.

2.  Deselect the “Enable audio” check box.

3.  Switch to the proper audio device.

4.  Select the “Enable audio” check box.

5.  When the proper audio device is selected, the volume indicator should show the intensity of the audio captured.

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Figure 3: Audio Configuration

Using / Viewing the Whiteboard

The whiteboard is a convenient and easy way for instructors to communicate. The whiteboard has the ability to upload documents that have been previously created (PowerPoint, PDF, etc.). The top left of the whiteboard contains all of the drawing features, allowing the presenter to draw over any of the uploaded documents to communicate more effectively what they are presenting. They can also conduct their presentation by simply drawing on blank slides with all of the available drawing features.

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Figure 5: Whiteboard

The whiteboard feature is typically used by only the instructor. However, instructors can provide students with the use of the whiteboard. If that is the case, participants will be granted drawing permissions.

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Figure 6: Whiteboard Features

If this is the case, students can use the pointer, pen, line, circle and square drawing tools, highlighter, text box, eraser, zoom, create question, web tour, formula and pointer features associated with the whiteboard.

The pointer, pen, line, circle, square and highlighter tools are simple drawing features. The textbox allows you to place test on the slides.

The eraser allows to erase all of you drawings. If a mistake is made, you need to use the pointer feature, select what you want to delete and press “delete” on your keyboard.

The zoom features allow you to zoom in and out of the slides.

The question feature allows tour to create multiple choice questions.

The web tour allows you to access the internet and show everyone what you are accessing online. Every time you access another site you must highlight the website URL and press enter to refresh the web tour for everyone.

The formula feature allows you to write a simple mathematical formula using text or import a more complicated formula from mathematical formula writing software.

The pointer feature allows you display a pointer on everyone’s screen to assist with communication.

The whiteboard features can be used to enhance the slides uploaded onto the whiteboard. The below figure shows an uploaded PowerPoint with selected whiteboard features used to draw over the uploaded slide.

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Figure 4: Whiteboard Features Example

Streaming a Video

To access the video streaming feature simply click on the video icon that is highlighted in the figure below.

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Figure 5: Video Streaming Icon

Once the feature has been opened, a Multi Video window will open. This window allows you to configure you videos you wish to stream. The configuration of a video stream is very simple. All that is required is a webcam, frame rate and video size be selected. The default fame rate is already set up to deliver good video quality, so a frame may not need to be selected. To select a video device, you simply need to click on the video device drop down box. This drop down box allows you to see all video devices running from your computer. Once a video device is selected, the picture size needs to be selected. Simply click on “Big” or “Small” to select video size. Once the video device configuration is completed click on the “OK” button. The configuration of a video device can be seen in the figure below.

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Figure 6: Enabling Video Streaming

After the video device has been configured, simply click on “Transmit” to stream the device. If the camera has been successfully configured for streaming, the video will appear above the transmit button. An example of a successful configuration can be seen in the figure below.

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Figure 7: Video Streaming

Watching a Video

Instructors will sometimes want to demonstrate examples physically and will require the video streaming or webcam feature. To view anyone’s webcam, simply right click on his or her name, select watch video then select the desired webcam. This can be seen below.

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Figure 8: Viewing a Streaming Video

Once the video has been selected, it will display on the right hand side of Electromeet.

This is a convenient display since it allows the instructor to operate video and whiteboard simultaneously. There is a capability for two webcams to stream simultaneously.

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Figure 12: Enabled Video Viewing

However, depending on screen size, the webcam display won’t show all videos on the side of the page. To allow all the video to be seen, the Multi Video Viewer tab can be clicked and dragged to manipulate it to your liking.

It can be dragged to overlap the whiteboard or be dragged to fit into the features tab at the top of the Electromeet page.

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Figure 9: Video Viewing Manipulation I

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Figure 10: Video Viewing Manipulation II

Desktop Sharing

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Figure 11: Desktop Sharing Icon

The figure below shows the desktop sharing feature once it has been opened.

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Figure 12: Desktop Sharing

To share your desktop with participants, you must click on the desired names and click on the arrow to move them into the “Users to share viewing” side. If you want to share the desktop with all participants you can simply select the double arrow. The arrows are located between the “Connected users” and “Users to view sharing” sides. An example of enabling desktop sharing can be seen in the figure below.

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Figure 13: Enabling Sharing

Once sharing has been enables, the selected participants will be able to see the streamers desktop activities. An example of enabled desktop sharing can be seen in the figure below.

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Figure 14: Enabled Desktop Sharing

To pass control onto another user, click on the drop down icon as seen in the figure below. This will allow you to give a selected participant control of your desktop. Once they have control, they will be able to control the mouse icon on the instructors screen with their own mouse. They also gain typing privileges and can type on the instructor’s computer.

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Figure 15: Passing of Control

Recording a Conferencing Session

A session can be recorded and viewed at a later date. The recording icon can be seen in the below figure.

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Figure 16: Recording Icon

To start a recording session you simply click on the recording icon as indicated in the figure below.

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Figure 17: Enabling Fast Recording

You can stop the recording at any time by selecting the stop icon displayed in the figure below.

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Figure 18: Recording Window

YouTube Video Sharing

YouTube sharing allows you to share YouTube videos with everyone participating. The location of the YouTube icon can be seen in the figure below.

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Figure 19: YouTube Icon

Once the YouTube icon has been selected, the feature will enable. The YouTube feature can be seen in the Figure below. At the top left of the YouTube feature is a log in. You simply enter you YouTube username and password to access your YouTube account. Once logged in you can select the YouTube videos associated with your YouTube account to show to participants.

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Figure 20: YouTube Feature

One you have logged into a YouTube account, the videos that are able to stream will be displayed in a list as seen in the figure below.

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Figure 21: YouTube Account

Once a video has been selected, it can be streamed to other participants. This is simply done by clicking on “Send to users” which is highlighted in red in the figure below. Once the video is being send to users, the user can then click on “Play” to start streaming the video, this is shown in the figure below in the green.

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Figure 22: Sharing a YouTube Video

Once a video has successfully started streaming the YouTube Player window will appear. It will begin to display the YouTube video as seen in the figure below.

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Figure 23: YouTube Video Sharing Enabled

The video size can be adjusted by clicking and dragging the bottom left of the video. An example of an increased video size can be seen in the figure below.

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Figure 24: Video Sharing Screen Size Adjustment

Putting it all Together

Once all the features described above have been properly enabled, you can hold a successful conferencing session. Examples are provided in the two figures below. The figures below are set up to highlight the text, audio, whiteboard, multi-video and video viewing working simultaneously. Having these features run simultaneously allows for a more successful and interactive conference to be held. The talk, text and video features running in conjunction with the whiteboard creates interactivity amongst an online learning environment.

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Figure 25: Talk, Text, Multi-video and Video Viewing

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