Two-way video and voice connections via the Internet, and the ability to share documents and applications online, are not new. But combining those features into one convenient package makes online collaboration easier and more attractive.
That's the idea behind Adobe Connect Professional, a program available on campus from Information and Educational Technology's Academic Technology Services unit. For a fee, the Adobe software creates a virtual meeting room where people can sign on easily from their own computers, see and talk to each other, mark up documents together, share applications and desktops, and more.
"There are a lot of advantages to using Adobe Connect Pro, especially for people who need to meet often but are separated by many miles or even continents," said Earl Schellhous, lead programmer for the project.
"You can have video and voice-over-IP sound [voice over Internet Protocol] in Adobe Connect Pro, as well as live text chat," he said. "You can share PowerPoint presentations, white boards, images, files, and even applications on your computer."
The program resembles such existing programs as Microsoft Live Meeting, Elluminate, or Webex, and runs on Flash Player, which almost all computers have, Schellhous said.
To start a meeting, hosts create a meeting area with a secure Web address, invite participants, and tell them when to sign on. From there, participants use the array of tools as needed.
Adobe Connect Pro "is rapidly becoming a strategic part of our broadly distributed organization," said Bob Sams, director of Communication Services for Agriculture and Natural Resources. Sams likes, among other factors, the quality of connection and ease of use.
"With the increases in travel costs, and the increased value of ANR and UC Davis faculty and staff time, Connect is quickly becomin g a very good way to make a presentation or participate in a distant meeting without leaving the office," said Mike Poe, media services manager for ANR Communication Services.
UC Davis clients have found several ways to employ the program. It has been used for rounds at the UC Davis Medical Center and for online classes, Schellhous said. "Language departments can use it to hear a students' pronunciation in a live session," he added.
Cancer pathologists Dr. Robert Cardiff and Dr. Jose Galvez use Connect Pro to work with other cancer research groups worldwide.
"Since pathology is an image-intensive discipline, we frequently share slides using whole slide images over Breeze [an earlier name for Connect Pro]," Cardiff said. "The most off-campus participants come from monthly meetings with a breast cancer research group, with participants from Philadelphia, New York City, Montreal, Oxford, Davis, and Sacramento."
To set up an Adobe Connect Pro account, contact Information and Educational Technology's Academic Technology Services at (530) 752-2133 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The service is available to UC Davis users on a recharge basis, at departmental or individual rates.