Recently, I had the opportunity to give a short presentation about Vidyo vs. Adobe Connect in a meeting about video conferencing on campus. Many people see these two products as completing technologies. I currently don’t see it that way. Both products have their strengths, some feature overlaps and limitations. I’ll try to identify those in this write up. Both of these products are software based conferencing solutions which rely on computers to be connected to the internet to work correctly. Some of the advantages of software-based conferencing solutions is that they can be much less expensive than hardware based solutions and they can scale much faster in your organization (at the expense of bandwidth on your network).
Vidyo is a video based conferencing solution that has a great video quality. I really like the easy to use interface. It’s clean, easy to create and manage meetings and easy to use the different features in the app. Vidyo has ability to have multiple video feeds showing (up to 8 feeds) at the same time. I really like the voice activated feature that allows the person who’s talking to be in the largest video frame on your screen. Slides can also be shared through a video stream.
The biggest limitation to Vidyo as I see it is their licensing model. Each user needs to download and install an application to be able to use Vidyo. Each installation requires a license to install (that you pay for up front). If you have a one-time guest lecturer you’d like to have talk with your online class, you’ll have to use one of your licenses to have them use Vidyo. As far as I can tell, that license is not recoverable so you just burned one of your licenses for a single event. That doesn’t seem like a very efficient way to manage resources.
One thing that caught me as a surprise was archived video streams export to be used offline are saved out as Flash video (.flv) files. We’ll need to re-encode those files (an already compressed file) so they can be available to iOS devices. Vidyo does have mobile apps for iOS devices and Android to view streams online.
I’ve been really impressed in the way some faculty and staff on campus have used Vidyo to bring in experts from around the world to talk with students in class. I’ve seen impressive examples mentored learning experiences for students in groups or individually. Conducting internship or externship interviews with students who are located around the world is another great use of this technology.
Adobe Connect is also used by faculty on our campus to facilitate learning. As a disclaimer, I am the manager of our on premise Adobe Connect server on campus. I get to see all kinds of great uses that faculty are doing to use video conferencing for teaching and learning. Being able to combine chat, with shared notes, polls and presentation slides can be a highly engaging learning activity.
Adobe Connect is different than Vidyo in that it has a lot more collaborative features. You can share your screen, documents, a collaborative whiteboard and even pre-created course content with participants. Polls, online chat, a question and answer window that allows you to check off questions as they are answered, file sharing, notes, video, and web links windows (all known as pods in Connect) are all available for use to engage students in the learning process. I think these collaborative features lend themselves to more of a virtual classroom type of experience.
The licensing structure for Adobe Connect is based on concurrent users and is not tied to a specific installation. Because Connect is based on Flash, which continues to be highly ubiquitous on desktop computers, participating in an Adobe Connect session can take less time for the end user to get setup to actually see your session. There are also mobile apps for Adobe Connect on iOS and Android that support chat, polling, video sharing and other collaborative features.
It’s important to note that Adobe Connect does support multiple video feeds. In fact, you can create your own video wall interface with the video of your participants broadcast to all users. I’ve found that the video isn’t quite as robust as the Vidyo product and multiple video feeds and can definitely tax your network and server. There is actually an extension for Adobe Connect to integrate Vidyo. It allows you to embed a Vidyo meeting room inside an Adobe Connect session. That way you get the best of both worlds, high quality video feeds and the collaborative features of Adobe Connect.
One huge limitation to Adobe Connect is the time it takes to export a session online. It’s done in real-time so a 2 hour lecture will take 2 hours to export. Also, the exported file is in .flv format which requires a re-encode (again, of an already compressed file) to make it available for iOS devices.
Both of these video conferencing solutions lend themselves well for learning. Vidyo works very well for high quality video broadcasts. Adobe Connect works great for collaborative online learning activities. I believe we’re just realizing the tip of the iceberg in how video conferencing can be used effectively for teaching and learning. I think it could be a seriously disruptive learning technology.
Got experience with one of these products? I’d be interested in hearing your experiences with using these tools for teaching and learning.