I had another bad Elluminate experience yesterday.

I suggested to the head of a group that I am a member of that we could try using Elluminate instead of the awkward teleconferencing set-up that the group typically uses. We decided to trial it with just the two of us before the group meeting.

She couldn’t connect at all to start with.  I’m aware that this has been a problem for some people who have tried to access elluminate from inside their work’s firewall, so I asked her about her computer’s firewall.  She said that a friend of hers had installed some firewall software that I’d never heard of, and when she checked she found that this firewall was blocking elluminate (without any messages).

Once unblocked she tried again and started to connect to elluminate but her computer crashed.  She tried 4 more times, and it crashed each time.  Our IT support told me that the only thing elluminate accesses on your computer is java, so suggested that she uninstall & reinstall this application.  She did this, but it still crashed.

Her boyfriend was in the same room at this stage, so she tried using his computer, which also crashed.  After 45 minutes of this we decided to give up.

I had no trouble connecting, and neither did our IT support person so at the end of all of this, I still have no idea why there were problems.

I was pondering this experience last night after another frustratingly pointless session in second life, thinking “what am I getting myself into?”.  Realistically I guess I should expect to spend a reasonable proportion of my life from the start of next year troubleshooting computer problems :-(.

OK, enough self-pity.  How can I turn this experience into something positive?

Benefits of Elluminate

  • Potential for excellent media-rich engagement with students
  • Synchronous socialisation

Problems with Elluminate

  • Sometimes people are unable to access the system
  • When they are having access problems typically the facilitator will be engaged with a class of people & will be unable to support them
  • Teachers typically have a limited understanding of the technicalities of using elluminate & therefore a limited ability to troubleshoot students problems anyway
  • Sometimes the server is not accessible &  no-one can access it

I think we discussed this last point adequately in a previous elluminate session.

With respect to an individual student having trouble with access, it seems to me that students need to be provided with an elluminate troubleshooting resource that they can use.  Ideally this would be a help-desk tech, but if this was not possible a text-based or screen-based reference might do the job.

Elluminate has a few resources that might be used.

  1. Set-up wizard
  2. User manuals & recorded instructional sessions (in elluminate)
  3. A support page for troubleshooting

These could help many of the issues, but they still wouldn’t help my friend at the top of this posting.  The support page, is fairly technical and is probably only useful to people who already feel quite confident in the use of a computer.

Perhaps the best solution is just to not worry about it, and take the attitude that some students will be able to participate, some won’t.  You can always record the session & make it available to the non-participants.

I’m not sure what the answer is here.