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Adobe Connect – Professional Web Conferencing Tool Review

Platform for Webinars, Collaboration, eLearning

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Web conferencing tools are becoming rampant in the corporate milieu due to the benefits that VoIP and other online communication technologies have brought about, and some companies look for what’s best on the market. Adobe Connect is one of those. It is a complete tool for professionally holding web conferencing sessions, webinars, collaboration workshops, eLearning and any other kind of online meeting. It is no free service, which is expected, but it delivers quality, which is expected too, as it comes from none other than Adobe. It is not the perfect tool though, as different users will place the bar of suitability at different places, depending on their needs and on the nature of their collaboration. Adobe Connect boasts of being the collaboration-tool provider for the U.S. department of defense.

Adobe Connect requires the organizer or host of meetings to install the Adobe Connect add-in. Participants do not need to install anything, but only need to have a browser with Adobe Flash player of version 10.1 or latest. This is something most people have, since it is used for streaming videos, like with Youtube. Adobe Connect can be used to hold webinars and web conferences, but also as an eLearning platform for virtual classrooms.

Online meeting and web conferencing

Participants can join meetings from anywhere and any device, including the iPhone and iPad, Android devices, BlackBerry devices, and computers running different operating systems. There is no need to download and install client apps for participants as they can use their browsers. Adobe Connect in fact uses the Adobe Flash player, the same thing used for playing media files and streaming video on computers. Installation of apps for organizing web meetings is only for hosts. There are also apps that hosts can install on their mobile devices to organize meetings.

As is the case with all collaboration tools, there is a cloud space for all documents and multimedia features that can be shared and access concurrently by participants.

The video conferencing feature is a well-made on, with high quality video and unlimited number of streams. The VoIP feature too is of good quality, as it uses the Speex codec.

Adobe Connect is known for its low bandwidth consumption, because it uses Flash technology that has already made its proof in streaming media on the web.

There is also persistence within the rooms, such that participants can leave meetings and come back later and take off from where they left in. The documents that have been uploaded and any other elements, like times scheduled, are saved on the cloud and can be retrieved anytime.

To create a meeting, you register and create a new meeting in your tool. You give a name to the meeting, and you are given some web space and a URL, which you can customize to something less geeky. Once set up, this meeting is available always and anyone of your invitees can get in and do stuff, with resources saved and stored persistently.

During a meeting, the screen can be shared, which can include demonstrations, multimedia, PowerPoint presentations etc.

Participants can be invited through email, a chat message or any other way in which the meeting URL can be shared, including verbally on the phone. When the participant comes on, you are given the choice, as the host to accept or reject their participation. In case you will not be here, you can configure the tool to accept everyone.

There are three types of user: the host, who is the initiator of the meeting, and has control over everything; the presenter, who is given permission by the host to present either through voice or video or in any other way; and the participants, who participate less actively and make up the audience.

The interface is not among the simplest though, and setup is not an easy breeze. It might even be cumbersome. Invitations, although seeming simple while described, actually involve a number of steps that give it an extent of unnecessary complexity. There are however a number of plug-ins you can install that makes things easier, such as getting contacts directly from your Outlook app, for example. Also, when you set up a meeting, you have enter a whole lot of information, but knowing that meetings are persistent, you get to accept the one-time effort.

As a participant, you enter the meetings through your browser, without any installation needed, as mentioned. You only need Adobe Flash 10.1 or later and a decent Internet connection. For VoIP, which is quite present and enhanced in Adobe Connect, you will need a microphone and speakers or simply a headset or handset. The host of the meeting can choose the voice communication mode between VoIP, integrated telephony and a non integrated teleconference. You can broadcast as a participant using VoIP. Integrated telephony involves being able, as a participant, to select between hearing the audio through VoIP using your speakers, or to dial a number and hear the conference through your phone handset. Universal voice involves the above plus the possibility to record the conference and broadcast it later.

eLearning

Adobe Connect has integrated tools that allow quality eLearning sessions to take place. The VoIP, video conferencing, whiteboard, desktop sharing and other features already make the core of what an eLearning solution needs. The following come to supplement in quality.

Other Adobe products can be integrated to the tool for presentations, apart from PowerPoint, which is by the way also well accommodate in the tool. How can it not be when it is the only presentation software most people know. Users can use Adobe Presenter to create interactive presentations with rich features like simulation, branching scenarios, quizzes and so on without having to be geeky and without having to write programming codes.

The eLearning platform can also be accessed from anywhere on any desktop and on most smartphones and mobile devices.

Adobe Connect gives you statistics and meters to feel the engagement and participation of your participants in real time. There is a color-coded indicator that allows you to monitor engagement of each participant and hence to have an idea of your virtual classroom’s efficiency.

Evaluation is an important part of learning and Adobe Connect has tools for that too. The progress of learners can be monitored and followed individually through learning paths.

The Price

Adobe Connect is one of the best professional tools for web conferencing but has a reasonable price tag, compared to other products of the same type and quality of the market. It will of course seem expensive for individuals and small companies that will not need the bells and whistles of this product, but it is an interesting option for corporate seeking a good and robust product.

There is no free option, as is the case with many other free web conferencing products, which offer a limited bundle for free and add features and capacity against payment.

Payment modes are monthy, annual and perpetual. For the annual and perpetual payments, there is free support and yearly maintenance. To have an idea of the price, consider the basic package for an individual user. Monthly it is $55/month and if you engage yourself for a year, it is $540. That’s the cost for one host with up to 25 participants per meeting. You can of course beef the package up with added charge. There is also the possibility of paying as you use, in which case it is $0.32 per minute per user.

There is a plan for individuals, in which there is no eLearning feature – only for webinars and web conferences. Up to 25 participants can participate.

There are plenty of resources both in text and video on Adobe Connect as it is an already popular product.

Read more on other professional web conferencing tools.

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