Dr. Martin Wilson recently faced an all-too-familiar dilemma: how to teach his students to apply what they have learned in an increasingly complex, computerized world. "Biology is becoming much more quantitative," shares Dr. Wilson. "In recognition of this, the Division of Biological Sciences is starting a new class, Modeling in Biology, that will soon become a requirement for all Biological Sciences majors." In this class, students use Mathcad, a mathematics software package, to get answers to quantitative problems. Therein lies the rub: many of the students have no experience using Mathcad.
Wilson's solution was a novel one: use a software package to help demystify and explain how to use another piece of software. Working with IET-Mediaworks, Dr. Wilson is utilizing the interactive capabilities of Breeze, a Macromedia software package, to conduct online office hours and support sessions for students who need help with the class software.
What is Breeze?
According to IET-Mediaworks staff, the robust features and flexibility of the Breeze software package (macromedia.com/software/breeze/) allow campus departments to select which components best supplement their instruction. "Breeze is essentially a compilation of various well-known communication tools," explains Thomas Ansler, a Mediaworks programmer. "Breeze provides audio/video chat in real-time, a shared white-board, screen sharing, and embedded Flash or streamed PowerPoint, all as part of the same online session." The software also allows an instructor to give an online demonstration of the software and even temporarily take control of a student's machine to assist directly with the use of the software.
In Wilson's class, students log in to the Breeze session at an agreed upon time (usually via the class Web site on MyUCDavis). No software installation dia over the Web, and students can view them online without having to own a copy of PowerPoint. What's more, use of this software also allows delivery of materials without enabling simple downloading or copying of copyrighted or copyrightable materials.
Mediaworks plans to use the real-time capability of Breeze to provide remote support to its clients all over campus. "Support staff can help people with online tools directly over the network," asserts Armando Arbizo, a multimedia specialist with IET-Mediaworks. "This will allow for more personalized service without necessarily requiring a time-consuming trip across campus to provide an office visit."
The use of the Breeze software package on campus is still in pilot phase. Instructors and staff interested in utilizing this software should contact Mediaworks at (530)752-2133 or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.