Online Collaboration Across University Campuses: An
Analysis of the Usage of Adobe Connect within the Penn
Hansa Sinha Jennifer McCauley Sonali Kumar
College of Information College of Information College of Arts and
Sciences and Technology Sciences and Technology Architecture
316C IST Bldg. 102 Paterno Library 128 Stuckeman Family Bldg.
University Park, PA 16802 University Park, PA 16802 University Park, PA 16802
1 814 574 0118 +1 814 863 7098 firstname.lastname@example.org
ABSTRACT desktop video conferencing service. The software was
An analysis of The Adobe Connect Community at Penn implemented, piloted and managed entirely by ITS. ITS
State reveals the current usage of the technology in terms centralized the training efforts and dispersed the license
of features, usability, and context of use. Applying management to academic and administrative unit liaisons
qualitative interview methods, the research gathered .
information from individuals familiar with the Adobe
Initially, the pilot included only faculty and staff but
Connect environment. Specifically, the research focused
eventually encompassed any individual capable of
on developing a better understanding of how Adobe
authenticating to the PSU system. External users were
Connect is utilized within the Penn State Community. This
required to gain a Friends of Penn State Account prior to
approach highlighted the benefits of collaboration and the
accessing Adobe Connect . Over the past year, the
challenges of utilizing technology in ways that may exceed
system has increased its adoption and migrated from pilot
the intended use.
to production. ITS utilized focus groups to identify the
Keywords needs of their diverse user groups which included building
groupware, video conferencing, qualitative interviewing, online an online community, introductory and instructional
collaboration seminars, and building the conversation surrounding
Adobe Connect and its tools where "for fee" services are
currently implemented .
Geographically dispersed and academically diverse, Penn
State University (PSU) offers a unique environment for The present research investigates the existing user
education. PSU offers challenges for collaboration across a community associated with Adobe Connect, both at
large geographic space. “Penn State is a multi-campus University Park and at other campuses. It uses field
public land-grant university that improves the lives of the methods (interviews) to identify and analyze current usage
people of Pennsylvania, the nation, and the world through settings, successes and failures. The research contributes a
integrated, high-quality programs in teaching, research, and high level analysis of Adobe Connect as an example of
service… With its administrative and research hub at the new web-based collaborative technology that is being
University Park campus, Penn State has 23 additional promoted and adopted by an educational institution. This
locations across Pennsylvania” . This challenge has research begins to capture the impact of Adobe Connect
been addressed over the years in various approaches to and aid future efforts to enhance the collaboration of a
video conferencing. geographically dispersed organization.
In the past, PSU has explored vendors such as Centra, an COLLABORATION AND WEB CONFERENCING
online learning environment that combines interactive RESEARCH
virtual classroom learning, e-meeting, and web seminar Since the early 2000s, and as part of the development of a
platform , for establishing online meetings and second generation of Web services, Web 2.0, now
collaboration while keeping travel costs and time commonly termed collaborative or Web conferencing
constraints to a minimum. Centra was available across the software, have become available. Many factors have made
University's infrastructure but rendered itself difficult to this possible such as the spread of Internet accounts from
utilize and lacked adoption over conference calls and other research and university environments into schools, colleges
alternatives like NetMeeting. In the spring of 2006, PSU's and the commercial and domestic marketplace. This
Information Technology Services (ITS) announced the provides an inexpensive and convenient way to
pilot project, Adobe Connect Breeze (Connect) as a interconnect computers locally, nationally and
internationally. Educators have a rich source of material video captured. The main issue for participants has been
including text, images and video and can locate that they were not in a “real” classroom with “real”
instructional and resource materials on almost any topic students [12, 16].
and at almost any level . Other collaboration and web conferencing systems research
Groupware is defined as computer-based systems that informs this research with standards of practice and an
support groups of people engaged in a common task (or understanding of the implications of the technology usage.
goal) and that provide an interface to a shared environment Collaboration oriented technology focuses on connecting
. Awareness in groupware can reduce effort, increase people and therefore requires research that focuses on the
efficiency, and reduce errors for the activities of human influence. Several research efforts note that the
collaboration. One of the means of enhancing awareness is more personal the interaction needs are the less likely
embodiments- visible representation of each person’s body technology will offer a satisfying solution. They state that
in the workspace. Depending upon its expressiveness, a nothing can replace face-to-face communications.
workspace embodiment can provide information about who Collaboration technology works well for standardized
is working, where they are and what they are doing . practices such as announcements and presentations but
According to Kellogg et al, digital backchannels play an not for collaboration of larger groups. As the group
important role in group interactions with one-on-one chats increases, human behavior changes and becomes more
during classroom lectures and use of chat as public prone to inhibition and error [6, 12, 18]. Some research
backchannel in physically shared spaces like academic also notes that the integration of emerging technologies
conferences. Digital backchannels allow listeners to into online distance learning brings possible interactions in
provide non-interruptive feedback to the speaker . regard to social presence and the changing roles of the
instructor to that of a partner in learning .
Few research projects have begun to explore the
possibilities of enriching CSCL environments with tools THE ADOBE CONNECT SYSTEM
that support collaborative interaction. Some have attempted Adobe Connect is a collaboration tool that includes video
to propose classification frameworks built on a simple conferencing, application sharing, live polling, chat,
model of coaching by reviewing an array of systems. It is whiteboards, and presentations. Live, synchronous
acknowledged that the concept of supporting (as opposed interactions with small or large groups can take place right
to enabling) peer-to-peer interaction in computer-supported on the desktop. A meeting can have as few as two or as
collaborative learning is still in its infancy . Others many as several hundred attendees.
have explored the benefits of using emerging technologies, It is an online meeting tool that can be joined by navigating
especially second-generation Web tools to take interactivity to a specific URL with a browser, which supports the
to the next level and create engaging collaborative presentation of rich media content that can include video,
environments . animations and software simulations. The Adobe Connect
Studies have been conducted in various universities trying meeting tool operates via Adobe Flash
to implement similar web conferencing technologies. For
example, Southern Utah University, located in a primarily
rural setting with an increased need for a virtual campus,
has adopted Breeze (now known as Adobe Connect) on all
its online courses. They have made efforts to improve
bandwidth issues to prove the long-term economic viability
of distance education. They attribute the “slow
implementation of Breeze into the institutional fabric” for
its success and acceptance .
There are many hurdles during the implementation of new
technology in educational settings. When working with any
new medium of communication, there are inevitable Figure 1: Screen shot of Adobe Connect Meeting room
difficulties. The most common problem in any project is to
simply get the technology working at the various sites
involved. Participants also have to spend time getting Player and also allows creation of personalized URL’s that
acclimated to the system of communication . Though are also customizable.
teachers look to use technology within their classrooms, the Features of Adobe Connect
implementation is limited to technology that compliments In Adobe Connect, a meeting room consists of a number of
or enhances the teaching strategies learned in traditional display panels, called pods. There are eight types of pods,
classrooms. Web and video conferencing technology are each with its own function: Camera and Voice, Chat,
seen as not reliable or practical for classroom interaction. Question and Answer, Interactive Whiteboard, Notes, Poll,
The social presence is not clearly conveyed through the Share, File Share [1, 26]. Both the File Sharing and the
Share pod enable users to share files within Adobe Once in a meeting, one can see and hear various types of
Connect. media, such as a live video broadcast of the Presenter, a
The File Sharing pod allows Hosts and Participants to Microsoft PowerPoint presentation, or a video. In real time,
upload files to a meeting and have attendees download a Presenters can demonstrate software on the computer or
copy of the file to their computer. All file types can be use a whiteboard to draw or annotate images or text.
uploaded to this pod. On the other hand, the Share pod will Roles
actually display the file that is uploaded, but is limited in
the types of files it will accommodate. The Share pod can There are three different roles each having a different level
display the following kinds of media which can be of control and permissions for meeting room attendees.
uploaded by a host or presenter: These are the Hosts, who have full control over the
Microsoft PowerPoint presentations (.PPT)
Images (.JPG, .GIF, and .PNG)
Flash files (.SWF)
Flash Video files (.FLV)
Activities that the Share pod can be used for include:
Content display: The Share pod can display
various kinds of media, including presentations,
images, and documents.
Whiteboard: Presenters and Hosts can annotate
text and drawings collaboratively, in real time.
Screen sharing and application sharing
A whiteboard allows users to create text, lines, circles, Figure 2: Video Pod in Adobe Connect
squares, and other free-hand drawings in real time during a
meeting. All Presenters and Hosts can use a created meeting room, the Presenters who have moderate control
whiteboard, and multiple whiteboards can be used per and finally the participants who have limited control. Hosts
meeting [1, 26]. can set up a meeting room, invite guests, manage attendees,
add content, and switch, add, or edit layouts.
Adobe Connect Usage
Presenters can broadcast live audio/video and share content
An Adobe Connect meeting room exists before a scheduled from their computer, but have less control over the meeting
meeting time and continues to exist after the scheduled room than Hosts. Presenters have no control over the
meeting time has passed. A meeting room can be used over Attendee List and cannot change a layout or change from
and over. The Host can leave the meeting room open or one layout to another. Participants can view content and
closed between scheduled meetings. If a meeting room is participate in interactive resources made available by Hosts
open between meetings, one can enter the room at any time or Presenters (such as text chat and polls), but cannot
to view content or meet with other group members. broadcast audio/video, share content, or manage the
From a Share pod, Hosts and Presenters can broadcast a meeting room.
desktop, window, or application to all Attendees in a Awareness
meeting room. For meeting Attendees to see the shared
item, it must be in full view on the Host or Presenter's One of the means of creating awareness in Adobe Connect
screen. Any changes the sharing Host or Presenter makes is emoticons. Emoticons are useful for asking group
to the application are visible to the Attendees, including questions and getting group responses. An example of the
related windows such as dialog boxes. Overlapping use of emoticons would be to have everyone give you a
windows from applications not selected for sharing appear "thumbs up" if they can hear. Participants who don't
as a blue cross-hatch pattern. respond may be having technical issues and may need help
from a tech support moderator.
Levels of Usage
Figure 3: Screen shot of Emoticons
Meeting types supported by Adobe Connect can have four
levels: One-on-one, small group meetings, Presenting to a In Adobe Connect, Hosts and Presenters can broadcast live
dispersed or gathered audience and broadcasting a live audio and video using the Camera and Voice pod. All
event. In Penn State, Adobe Connect service has been attendees can hear and see the broadcast audio and video.
deployed by Information Technology Services to meet the Reviewability, Revisability
needs of faculty and staff who would like to use desktop Adobe Connect meetings can be recorded and saved for
video conferencing for: playback at any time. There are many advantages to
Synchronous group meetings recording meetings, including allowing users to review and
Resident and blended course activities even interact with old meetings. Adobe Connect records
Training sessions events rather than screen shots, which means that users can
• A PhD student in IST at PSU with experience as a
software implementer, database administrator,
webmaster and computer support.
• A master’s student in IST specializing in the
social aspects of Information Technology drawing
upon eight years of experience in corporate and
higher education technology organizations.
play the recording at whatever size they would like, and all • A master’s student in the College of Architecture
the interactive SWF files that a typical participant would at PSU with a professional degree in Architecture
manipulate can be manipulated during playback. and experience working on a large-scale
In Adobe Connect, chat pods and question and answer pods distributed design collaboration research project
also allow for digital backchannels to occur . Adobe utilizing high bandwidth connection.
Connect allows participants to chat with specific With their different backgrounds as well as common
participants in the meeting room creating backchannels that experience in information technology, their interpretations
may not be obvious. are expected to contribute towards enriching the quality
and validity of the findings.
The study developed an understanding of the applications DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS
and experiences surrounding the adoption of Adobe The researchers with aid from the Information Technology
Connect at Penn State. The finding sought to identify Services department (ITS) at Penn State identified units
opportunities for improvement and successful applications within the University with a strong likelihood of Adobe
of Adobe Connect. The specific research question was: Connect adoption. The likelihood was determined through
“How does the Penn State Community utilize Adobe attendance statistics of ITS Adobe Connet open sessions.
Connect?” The units Adobe Connect contact person was emailed and
recruited to interview or identify other users to interview.
The research sought a high level initial effort to capture the The group also posted on the Adobe Connect ITS Forum
uses of Adobe Connect. The Penn State environment and utilized their networks to aid in interviewee
presented a diverse and geographically dispersed user identification.
group. This challenged the usage of a specific theory in the
research. Grounded Theory, or the practice of gathering The eight interviewees were chosen based on having
data and interpreting the data for themes and theories , experience with Adobe Connect at any level. The
addressed this challenge. Grounded theory allowed the researchers sought out a diverse group from units across
high level approach to reveal themes for further the University which included people at University Park
exploration. and other locations. The geographic dispersion required
Qualitative methods of research were employed by some of the interviews to be conducted over the phone
interviewing eight people who have used Adobe Connect while a majority of them were conducted in person.
as implementers, moderators or users. The interviews were The interviews were audio recorded after obtaining signed
semi-structured with open ended questions using the consent forms from the participants. These recordings were
interview guide (Appendix 1). used for later analysis by tabulating the responses of each
The interpretive lens framed the analysis of the interviews. participant for each question. The responses for each
Interpretive studies assume that “people create and question were summarized to draw predominant themes.
associate their own subjective and inter-subjective Finally, the researchers discussed and compared their
meanings as they interact with the world around them” interpretations with each other. This method of
. The interpretivist lens is based on the ontological triangulation is expected to increase the validity of the
assumption that reality and our knowledge of it are socially findings. The interview questions were designed to seek
constructed. In IS research, interpretive methods are aimed information in three categories: educational and technical
at understanding the context within which an information background, experience with web communication
system exists and how it influences and is influenced by technologies, and usage of Adobe Connect. A copy of the
this context . The interpretivist epistemology enabled interview guideline is attached (Appendix 1).
the construction of the social reality of Adobe Connect Educational and Technical Background
A majority of the participants held college degrees. Only
The research team was comprised of three diverse
two participants had a degree in computer
science/engineering. One of them was not an Adobe
Connect user but was involved during its implementation
and piloting. These are listed in Table1 below.
All participants used the Windows operating systems. Two
of them also used Macintosh and one used Linux most of
Highest No. of Major
the time. Most of the participants had experience in web
development, albeit in varying degrees from some web
pages using html to web designing using Java. All of them
High School 1 - perceived themselves as heavy users of information
Bachelors 4 Eng, Bio, CompSc, Phy,
German Experience with Web Communication Technologies
The second section of the interviews focused on the
Masters 2 CompSc/Engg, Adult participants’ experience with web communication
Edn technologies. With the web continuing to play a growing
role in everyday life, the research sought to understand the
participants’ familiarity with it. Usage of Web 2.0
Ph.D 1 Edn &
technologies was limited to a basic understanding of the
words blogs, wikis, tagging, etc. Most participants
identified themselves as dabbling and curious but not
Table 1: Educational Background focused on the technology. Experience with web
communication technologies other than Adobe Connect
The participants came from diverse professional included WebX, Horizon, Skype and Netmeeting. Two
backgrounds as listed in Table 2. Two of them were staff video centric technologies, Mediasite Live and Centra were
assistants; one was a regional director in charge of multiple incorrectly identified as web communication technologies.
counties across Pennsylvania after retiring from military
service; one of them conducted training sessions on
When asked how they choose to use Adobe Connect or
different software applications such as Dreamweaver and
another platform, the University support of Adobe Connect
Microsoft Office products and also provided technical
and ease of use was cited by 88% of the participants. The
support; another taught an online course; one was an
one outlier did not use Adobe Connect because of
educational technologist; one was currently a research
operating system compatibility issues. Participants
grant writer with experience in web designing after
appreciated that the access, setup and structure of the
working in the area of conservation in a zoo; one was staff
Adobe Connect event relies on them and not an outside
member in a human resource office; and one was working
resource. In addition, the costs to entry with Adobe
as a part of research network for the UNIX and LINUX
Connect are minimal with few technology requirements.
systems. Thus, the diversity of their perspectives on the
The alternative tools were also identified as free and
subject of the study enabled the research team to generate
well rounded and generalizable interpretations as far as
generalizing to the sample is concerned.
Usage of Adobe Connect
Job No. of Participants The interviewees’ experience with using Adobe Connect
Description ranged from two and a half years (since pilot) to as little as
one month. Seven of them were mostly Hosts
and Presenters. Three had also played the role of
Staff Asst. 2
Participant. One interviewee had played with all the roles
during the pilot run. They generally used Adobe Connect
IT Related Jobs 4 for sharing documents, demonstrating a PowerPoint
(Web Designer, Edl Technologist, presentation and sharing their desktop during meetings or
Programmer/Analyst, Technical trainings. If they did not need to share they could either use
Support, IT Training)
conference calling or just pick up the phone. One
participant used Adobe Connect in conjunction with
Ph.D Student-Instructor in 1 conference call for audio. One participant mentioned trying
IT this strategy but found it “crazy”. This was generally done
when some of the meeting participants did not have
microphones. They found Adobe Connect helpful for
Regional Director 1
training purposes, holding meetings with groups of people
and researchers at other institutions.
Table 2: Professional Background
Participants liked the following features: problems. They also mentioned challenges due to dial-up
• Chat networks and problems with sharing microphones when
• File Share more than 5 people were involved in a meeting.
• Desktop Sharing
• Polling features Most of the participants were aware of the Adobe Connect
• Sessions recorded and reused asynchronously PSU Forum and web resources. With the exception of two,
• Set up independent from IT the participants utilized it and feel comfortable posting
However they did not like technical issues with audio and questions.
felt that the need for adjustment to listening to delayed A majority of the participants utilize the desktop sharing
responses in audio could turn off some people from using it with minimal concern for security. Participants identified
rather than using the phone. The full screen mode was that in the past they had utilized NetMeeting and have
difficult to toggle. Also the attendee list did not provide found Adobe Connect as an improved resource.
anonymity. It was difficult to add an attendee as a guest.
There were also cross platform compatibility issues. The All of the active Adobe Connect participants preferred to
desktop sharing feature could be used only across Mac and personalize their layout within Adobe Connect. They
Windows operating systems. Also, videos files could not displayed enthusiasm in how they could move the pods and
be uploaded. If groups got larger than five people it was put their personal preferences in place. Some emphasized
difficult to have a discussion. Most of them reported not the customized entrances and personalized approaches they
having any breakdowns except when there was a give to the look upon entrance, identifying that it sets the
“connection issue related to the infrastructure of the tone for the meeting. Only one interviewee did not use the
hardware and not due to the Adobe Connect software” layout mode but this was because her co-instructor took
such as in the case of a storm. care of it.
Participants often described other’s impression of using In regards to the features, Figure 4 lists the usage of
Adobe Connect positively. They observed that the comfort features as rated by the participants. Chat was the most
level of new users only increased with frequency of use. A widely used feature followed closely by video and
few participants complained of new user’s impatience with fileshare. The Q&A feature was the least popular, followed
new technology and lack of equipment such as cameras and by Poll, Whiteboard and Notes, respectively. There was
microphones as reasons for the under utilization of Adobe only one participant who used the Q&A “always”. The
Connect. remaining participants reported “never” using Q&A, citing
they were unfamiliar or unaware of the feature. The Audio
It was encouraging to see that overall, participants felt that was
Adobe Connect was indeed useful and a great cost savings
tool. Though one participant valued face-to-face interaction
over Adobe Connect, most participants wanted to motivate
more users to utilize Adobe Connect. They suggested
leader support, fund allocation, involving faculty members
along with increased training and demonstrations to a
wider audience. Most importantly, a participant commented
on maintaining higher speed, reliability and quality of the
bandwidth connection along with dedicated service to help
reduce technical issues, thereby encouraging greater use.
While four participants used LAN connections, some
participants also used Cable and DSL connections and have
attended Adobe Connect meetings with users on Dial up
connections. One participant also experimented with
wireless networks. Figure 4: Participant Identified Feature Usage Rate
One of the recurring and most common technical problems never used by two participants but those who did use it
experienced by the participants was audio feedback delay. reported “always” using it.
While two participants claimed to have never experienced
any technical issues, some complained of an occasional FINDINGS
video freeze while screen sharing during the pilot. One of Web Communication Technologies allow people to interact
the participants commented on how large number of users and collaborate while minimizing or removing the factor of
always tended to pull down the network and cause latency geographic dispersion. Adobe Connect provides the Penn
State Community this service. In an effort to answer the Organizational support can also be utilized in increasing
initial research question, the findings are discussed in two awareness. Participants note that awareness of Adobe
categories: benefits and challenges of Adobe Connect Connect influences its adoption. One user noted “I think
within the Penn State Community. most people are unaware of its capabilities. I did not use it
until I had to because of bad past experiences (with Pigtail
Benefits of Adobe Connect
and Centra)”. This same user now finds Adobe Connect
Collaboration technology works well for standardized invaluable in meeting settings with remote attendees.
practices such as announcements and presentations . Similar feedback from other participants speaks to a
This has been true in the case of Adobe Connect especially potential marketing need to promote adoption at Penn
in departments that use it for the purpose of training. One State.
of the interviewees was excited to use Adobe Connect to
The second challenge of Adobe Connect is technical. The
conduct her meetings with the extension educators. She had
research revealed that Adobe Connect is not always
a high level of familiarity and comfort with Adobe Connect
feasible because of bandwidth limitations. Though Penn
and had claimed to use it quite often as a host. They would
State itself has a high bandwidth network, similar
“customize the meeting room for training, create a Lobby
universities have made efforts to improve bandwidth issues
with welcome note and learning objectives, analysis
to prove the long-term economic viability . Some
layout... and use poll pod".
participants of Adobe Connect are located outside the Penn
Most of the interviewees were using Adobe Connect to State network, where there is variation in bandwidth. This
conduct online meetings and courses with remote can create hurdles in the communication causing
participants. They found it "good for training purposes" disruptions in the audio. Participants had various levels of
and useful for "remote meetings with groups of frustration with the bandwidth issues. One said that "There
people/researchers at other institutions". There are are audio issues - sometimes I can be heard sometimes I
altogether about 67 extension offices spread across the am not - like fading in and out. Sometimes audio recording
state so "the extension educators find it wonderful". has not worked.” Whereas another felt that “Audio
A couple of participants were excited about using the feedback is a huge problem, dial-up can have bandwidth
recording feature in Adobe Connect. One of them recorded issues“. There were however, instances where some
the training sessions, which were then utilized by the participants tried to work around this problem: “You got to
attendees to review the sessions asynchronously. Absences learn how to adjust according to the bandwidth to make it
to meetings no longer meant the content was not comfortable to other participants. Takes practice to adjust
communicated; people who missed the session could view to the delay between the time you speak to the time to hear
it later. the response.”
All participants reported using file sharing and 5 out of 8 Generally in situations where there was a variation in the
reported using desktop sharing. Sharing was by far bandwidth connection of the participants, the Lowest
perceived as the most important feature of Adobe Connect. Common Denominator, or the slowest connection would
One participant commented that if he did not need to share, decide the efficacy of the meeting. Participants would try to
he would prefer using the phone. overcome this problem by using additional tools for
communication. “Sometimes the interaction and the new
Challenges of Adobe Connect technology are overwhelming to our users so we still have
All of our participants had positive feedback for Adobe the phone as a backup in case they want to ask questions
Connect in various areas. Participants also noted areas of instead of using the chat...but in our small group we use
challenges. Adobe Connect’s usage at Penn State faces audio, chat... there is a different interface and a different
three main categories of challenges: organizational, mentality of using the tool between the two groups".
technical, and social.
Users also found it difficult to manage sessions when the
The support of organization has always been acknowledged
number of attendees increased especially when it involved
as playing a key role in the successful adoption and
discussions. It was felt that about 4-5 attendees were ideal
implementation of technology. One participant commented
for meetings/courses that involved discussions. “As the
that sometimes he has had to cancel a meeting because the
number of attendees increases the picture becomes smaller
other attendees (in leadership ranks) did not have the
and smaller and then it is difficult to hold a proper
equipment (microphones and web cams). The leadership
discussion." Moreover, there were technical issues that
should encourage adoption by setting a role model for their
arose as the number of attendees increased. “Large number
subordinates. "I think its (Adobe Connect) underutilized
of participants pull down network, takes longer time,
because meetings occur where a few of them did not have
microphone is not used effectively.” However, one
the equipment - so if the leadership of the organization is
participant reported using Adobe Connect for anywhere
not using the technology, the people in that organization
between 12-20 attendees for training sessions. The same
will also not use it either."
participant also used Adobe Connect for online meetings
with up to 5 attendees. Finally, utilizing the findings of this research, future efforts
could use the socio-technical framework to frame
The final challenge for Adobe Connect is social. Several challenges discovered. The socio-technical theory (STT)
research efforts note that the more personal the interaction emerged from the work of the Tavistock Institute in the
needs are the less likely technology will offer a satisfying British coal mining industry in the 50s . The theory was
solution. They state that nothing can replace face-to-face an approach to the analysis and design of organizational
communications [6,11,17]. As pointed out by Lehman et al structures. The failure of many of the experiments in the
and Hughes et al., the main issue for teachers in online UK coal industry to take hold was seen by Tavistock
classrooms has been that they were not in a “real” researchers as a sign that the social aspect was not fully
classroom with “real” students [11, 15]. Similarly, although addressed in the organizational structure design.
most users of Adobe Connect found it very useful, they
agreed that it couldn’t replace face-to-face interaction. One The STS approach STS  argues that any design/redesign
interviewee valued face-to-face interaction to such an of work system must deal jointly with the technical and
extent that he/she was not willing to encourage the social systems – two jointly independent, but correlative
adoption of Web 2.0 technologies. Another felt that Adobe interacting systems that make up a “work system.” The
Connect was a great tool that reduced his travel time and technical sub-system is concerned with the processes,
cost. However, it was still important for him to meet with tasks, and technology necessary to transform inputs to
his colleagues face-to-face since "nothing can ever replace outputs. The social sub-system is concerned with the
face-to-face". attributes of people (eg, attitudes, skills, and values), the
relationships among people, reward systems, and authority
structures. It is assumed that the outputs of the work
The findings illustrated benefits and challenges within
system are the result of joint interactions between these two
Adobe Connect. The research is bound by the small
sub-systems. Thus, any design or redesign of a work
sample size of the data. The research question attempted to
system must deal with both systems in an integrated form.
gather an initial landscape of Adobe Connect within the
The environmental subsystem can also be considered by
Penn State Community. Taking the Penn State
taking into account customers, suppliers, and the rules and
Community’s size into account, to portray a true image of
regulations, formal and informal, which govern the
Adobe Connect a much larger population is needed. This
relations of the organization to society at large.
research is therefore limited to acknowledging initial
themes in the findings. Further efforts can be made from
A single technology can be used in many, and sometimes
the groundwork of this research and further detail is
unexpected, ways. However, in each different use, the
available within implications.
technology is embedded in a complex set of other
IMPLICATIONS technologies, physical surroundings, people, procedures,
It is important to acknowledge that the consequences of etc. that together make up the socio-technical system .
technological implementation evolve over time. In such a Only by understanding the system can we parse out the
context, groupware that offers technology for broader and issues surrounding its effective implementation. Future
more open participation in collaborative tasks is seen as work can study the different contextual surroundings of
both promising and threatening. Adobe Connect users and how it impacted their
The findings also speak to reinvention or the process of motivations for adoption. From this study, we found that
users working through for themselves the nature of their the tool was mostly used for meetings, training sessions
tools and how they are to be used . The users of Adobe and course delivery. Each of these required different
Connect, the faculty, staff and students, can be seen as tool combinations of features in the layout mode and different
re-inventors who define what the tools do in practice and adjustments to the bandwidth. Future work can be
the effect they have on the context. addressed towards investigating the unique issues
surrounding the different types of usage. Some of the
Evaluation criteria to examine the usability of Adobe
participants felt constrained by privacy and security issues.
Connect can also be generated. In their paper on
Future study can also find out if these concerns are valid
comparison of usage evaluation and inspection methods for
and how they can be overcome.
assessing groupware usability, Potts et al have created a
“Mechanics of Collaboration”. They study the usability of
The baseline research identifying the benefits and
a groupware based on the following: Explicit
challenges of Adobe Connect with the Penn State
Communication, Implicit Communication, Coordination of
Community offers a foundation for further research into the
Action, Planning, Monitoring, Assistance and Protection
social realms of its application. We believe that our
. Future research could frame the findings with the
research aids in further investigation of the following:
“Mechanics of Collaboration” for greater clarity of Adobe
1. What are the barriers to the effective use of Adobe
Connect? 11. Harker, E.J, Ellis, C.O, Harraf, A, Richards, M.D.
a) Technical barriers? (2005). Pioneering the Potential of IP Video:
b) Social Barriers? Integrating Macromedia Breeze Live and Breeze
Presentation Software into a Learning Environment.
2. What changes would need to be made to the Proceedings of the 2005 UCEA conference: Looking
technical and social realms for Adobe Connect to be more West: Adventures, Challenges, and Opportunities.
widely accepted/used. 12. Hughes, C. & Hewson L. (1998) Online Interactions:
Developing a neglected aspect of the virtual classroom,
CONCLUSION Educational Technology V4 , Englewood Cliffs, N.J.
This study is a formative evaluation to guide the Adobe
Connect community at Penn State to broaden and increase 13. Gutwin, C. and Greenberg S., (2002), A Descriptive
the effectiveness of the usage of this tool in their work Framework of Workspace Awareness for Real-Time
practices. We hope that the findings will be used by Groupware, Computer Supported Cooperative Work 11,
designers to guide improvements in the features of the tool. pp. 411-446, Netherlands, Kluver Academic publishers.
14. Kellogg, W.A., et al. 2006. Leveraging digital
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS backchannels to enhance user experience in
We thank the Penn State Information Technology Services electronically mediated communication. Proceedings of
department for aiding us in accessing the Penn State Adobe CSCW 2006 (pp. 451-460).
Connect Community. 15. Land, F.F., (2000), Evaluation in a Socio-Technical
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INTERVIEW QUESTIONS GUIDELINE
The purpose of this study is to investigate the existing user community associated with Adobe Connect, both at University
Park and at other campuses. The following interview questions will cover three categories designed to aid in identifying
trends that arise while utilizing Adobe Connect.
Education and Skills
What is your academic background (i.e. Computer Science, Geography, etc)?
Please share a brief history of your career path.
What computer/ OS do you use?
What do you consider your computer/technical expertise? (i.e. light user: email, web, etc; developer: web
development, database etc.)
Web Communication Technologies
What experience do you have with web 2.0 technologies (i.e. IM, blogs, wikis, etc)?
Have you used web communication technologies other than Adobe Connect?
If yes, what technology? Which do you prefer/how do you choose which to apply?
Do you have access to other alternatives such as video conferencing?
What drives the decision to use Adobe Connect versus other video conferencing alternatives?
Adobe Connect Usage
How long have you been using Adobe Connect?
For what purpose would you use/not use Adobe Connect?
Please describe some of the features you like/dislike in Adobe Connect
What role do you usually play in the Adobe Connect meetings? eg. participant, Host/ presenter?
How many people do you generally use Adobe Connect to collaborate with?
Please describe your impressions on how other users are perceiving this tool
Do you think Adobe Connect is useful?
How can users be motivated to use it more?
What bandwidth connection do you have access to when using Adobe Connect? Does it allow you to use all
Have you ever experienced technical problems and of what kind while using Adobe Connect?
How often, if at all do you use the Adobe Connect website resources? Do you think they are helpful? eg. forums etc.
Have you ever shared your desktop using Adobe Connect? If yes, why and did you find it helpful? If No, why? eg.
don't know how or are not comfortable etc.
Which layout do you generally prefer to use? Have you ever customized it?
Which of the following pods do you use in your collaborative sessions and how frequently?:
File upload eg. powerpt presentation