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  1. 1. Overview This report has been prepared as an informational resource for instructors interested in using Internet-based voice communication technologies in online courses. CTER's experience with these technologies fits into the following three categories: I. Instructors' Streaming Audio Lectures1 II. Non-Unidirectional Communication2 III. Multimedia Presentations: Producing and Serving Content3 In the following discussion we address our successes and failures with these technologies, and we offer suggestions on how they can be used most effectively. 1 2 3
  2. 2. I. Instructors' Streaming Audio Lectures RealAudio: Our Best Solution to Date CTER Instructors have primarily used RealAudio as the preferred format for the delivery of both live and archived voice lectures over the Internet. RealSystem Producer Basic4 is used by instructors for broadcasting and recording; RealPlayer Basic5 is used by students for receiving live broadcasts and archived lectures. The "basic" versions of the Producer and the Player are freely available for download (follow the links above). We have found this software to be stable and reliable, and accessible for Windows and Mac users alike. Note that the RealSystem Producer/RealPlayer combination is for one-way communication only; the instructor speaks, students listen. When live lectures are conducted in this way, some instructors make available a synchronous text chat to accept students' questions and to encourage "voiceless" discussion among students while the lecture is taking place. The instructor can see (or participate in) this group text chat, and respond with text via the chat interface and/or by speech through RealAudio. We provide an example of a recording6 of a one-way audio lecture being conducted with a simultaneous group chat session in WebBoard and IRC clients (Internet Relay Chat). See also:  Non-Unidirectional Communications7  Producing and Serving Streaming Media Content8  Text Chat via Internet Relay Chat (IRC) and WebBoard9  Most Common RealAudio Troubleshooting Scenarios10  Limitations of the RealSystem Server Basic Technology11 Most Common RealAudio Troubleshooting Scenarios On rare occasion, some students have been unable to access live audio lectures due to firewall configurations12 at their place of work. However, they are able to listen to the recorded and archived lectures. At the instructor's request, CTER Tech Support archives these lectures and provides links from course Web pages to the archived RealAudio files. Firewall issues are at the student's end and are beyond the control of CTER Tech Support. The only way around this issue is for the student's network administrator to configure the 4,prdctmn_061201,010829rpchoice_c2&dc=989796 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
  3. 3. firewall to allow for traffic on ports required by RealAudio.13 Troubleshooting for the most common errors14 is available on the RealNetworks Web site. 13 14
  4. 4. Limitations of the RealSystem Server Basic Technology The CTER Office runs RealSystem Server Basic software on our CTERNT1 server15, which operates on the Microsoft Windows 2000 Professional platform. RealNetworks provides the following description of this RealSystem Server Basic: "RealSystem Server Basic16, free, lets you start streaming your audio, video, and rich media right away to 25 concurrent users for one year.” See also: System Requirements17 | Comparison of RealSystem Servers18 Because of the 25 user limit imposed by RealSystem Server Basic, the free utility is sometimes inadequate for our needs, especially for live lecture broadcasts when all students in a class are expected to listen simultaneously or when multiple classes require access to the server's resources. RealSystem Server Plus, at a price of $1995 at the time of this writing, supports up to 60 simultaneous sessions of live or on-demand (archived) streaming. When our need exceeds our capacity, we have turned to the Center for Educational Technologies19, which operates a commercial version of RealSystem Server and has hosted both live and archived lectures for us in the past. The RealSystem Server Basic software running on our CTERNT1 server, however, hosts various RealAudio and RealVideo files that would not be accessed with a high level of frequency. 15 16 real,prdctmn_061201,srvrbsc_011901 17,prdctmn_061201,srvrbsc_011901 18 real,prdctmn_061201,srvrbsc_011901,srvpro_081601 19
  5. 5. II. Non-Unidirectional Communications Text-Only Communications For asynchronous text-based conferencing, CTER students and instructors typically use WebBoard. CTER Tech Support staff will set up WebBoard conferences and provide instruction in the use of WebBoard at the instructor's request. For synchronous group chats, CTER often makes use of a text-based chat applet integrated directly into the WebBoard interface. However, we have found that on rare occasion this technology has failed unpredictably. Therefore, we suggest using an IRC client20 as an alternative method to connecting to synchronous WebBoard chats. See also: 21 CTER Tech Support’s FAQ Topic: WebBoard Voice-Only Communications CTER students and instructors have experimented with the free utility RogerWilco22 for group voice communications. We have found this to be a relatively stable application for voice chat, although we have had difficulties with certain Macintosh models, most frequently, the iMac. We currently run a RogerWilco Base Station on our CTERNT1 server23 which allows us to host group voice chats through the clients' RogerWilco software. Multimedia Communications We have also experimented with iVisit, an application allowing for voice, text and video communication. Experimentation with video has been slight because of bandwidth considerations. However, users may insert their photographs in the communication interface for a more personable experience. While iVisit has worked well for Macintosh and Windows users alike, we have found that communication becomes unstable as the number of users in a conference approaches twelve. Therefore, we suggest restricting the use of iVisit to small group meetings. Further information on CTER's use of iVisit24 is available on our Web site. 20 21 22 23 24
  6. 6. III. Multimedia Presentations: Producing and Serving Content RealProducer Basic RealProducer Basic can run on a Macintosh or Windows computer, and can be used for live broadcast or recorded streaming audio or audio/video lectures. Due to bandwidth considerations, CTER has not made use of the video option, although we anticipate such use as broadband access becomes ubiquitous. CTER Tech Support staff25 will assist instructors with the setup and operation of any teaching technology used in CTER courses, including the broadcasting and archiving of RealMedia. An additional source of information is the RealProducer User's Guide.26 RealPresenter Basic Distinct from RealProducer Basic, RealPresenter Basic is a free utility for the Windows platform only that will convert PowerPoint slides to streaming RealMedia format, with the ability to incorporate audio narration and/or a "talking head" video. CTER Tech Support provides a tutorial27 for producing streaming narrated PowerPoint presentations via the RealPresenter utility. For a comparison of PowerPoint delivery methods, see our summative table28 demonstrating some of the various ways in which a PowerPoint slideshow can be presented online. Interactive Multimedia Paper Another implementation of streaming audio and video is the Interactive Multimedia Paper29 (IMP) project. This technology allows existing text to be presented and new text to be posted dynamically together with segments of audio and/or video. In this way, lessons, essays and discussion questions can reference AV segments and invite discussion that can be presented inline with streaming media. 25 26 27 28 29