An Elluminate screen shows a list of 35 participants of a meeting as well as videos of three of them. There's a screen for live chat, audio controls, a white board and the ability to share graphics or text.
When Andre Nel, chief of the Division of Nanomedicine at UCLA, was invited to give a one-hour presentation last month to about 50 people on the East Coast, his staff didn't have to scramble to make travel arrangements or break into his already-crammed schedule to find a large chunk of time for a quick trip.
Instead, they set up a live presentation on the Web that Nel gave right from UCLA at the UC Center for Environmental Implications of Nanotechnology, which he heads, to a bicoastal audience, complete with PowerPoint slides and a question-and-answer session.
It's all made possible by using Elluminate, a software package that campus departments are using to cut travel costs, save precious time and replace face-to-face meetings with Web-based meetings, presentations, workshops and seminars — all with audio, visual (using a webcam) and interactive features.
"It's really been useful for us, especially since we're a UC interdisciplinary research center. Not everybody in our center is at UCLA," said Catherine Nameth, education and outreach coordinator for the center. Affiliated faculty are also at UC Santa Barbara, Irvine and Riverside, as well as at partner institutions throughout the U.S. and overseas. Regardless of where they are, the software makes connections possible, said Nameth, who is responsible for teaching faculty and staff at the center how to use Elluminate.
""All they need is Internet access," Nameth said. "It's really been wonderful. And people find it easy to use."
Since Software Central at UCLA negotiated a university-wide agreement to make Elluminate available last April, about 20 departments have signed up to participate in, and share the cost of, this agreement. Participation in the agreement provides unlimited use by all department faculty, staff and students for $2,250 a year.
Faculty and staff are using the software in different ways.
At Communications Technology Services, Elluminate makes it possible to conduct meetings and training workshops on the Web. In addition to saving time and travel, said Allyson Kleinbrodt, training center manager, "it has been a great tool for real-time collaboration."
Participants can hold discussions, draw on a whiteboard that everyone can see and exchange graphics. They can participate with audio via either voice over IP (VoIP) or a telephone conference call, or can use the live chat feature. A designated meeting moderator has control over who can participate in the meeting, be heard, seen, chat, edit the white board, or even share content on a participant’s computer.
Some faculty are using Elluminate to webcast live lectures that can be recorded and archived. "Students can watch it live from wherever they are or watch it later if recorded," said Thomas Trappler, director of UCLA Software Licensing and the head of Software Central. "They can see and hear the lecturer, hear questions from the students in the lecture hall, see the chat dialog, slides, graphics and the white board." Those watching it live can even use the chat feature to ask questions. If the lecture is recorded, it can be downloaded to a laptop, iPod or other device to make later viewing portable.
Some faculty offer virtual office hours using the software. Faculty can even set up a virtual waiting room where students can queue up and see their position in line, Trappler explained.
At the School of Public Health, the Southern California Education and Research Center offers continuing education courses in occupational health and safety. A series of one-hour webinars on ergonomics was offered via Elluminate.
Last year, to respond to a huge demand for information on the flu, the center quickly put together a webinar that was seen by about 40 professionals at locations from Hawaii to Maine. "Elluminate allowed us to get the webinar out there quickly to the people who said they needed this information," said Cass Ben-Levi, the center's director of continuing education and outreach. She's in the process of creating another webinar on ethics for health and safety professionals.
The UCLA Career Center has been experimenting with Elluminate to deliver a virtual student workshop on how to write a personal statement. To answer all the questions that came in via the chat feature took time, the staff found. "For now, we still have questions whether Elluminate is the right way to go," said Joel Bellon, assistant director of IT for the center. "But we did get positive feedback from both the staff and students.
In fact, the software may someday make possible virtual job interviews between applicants at the UCLA Career Center and employers all over the country, "We're looking into it," Bellon said.
To share their experiences, questions and problems, Elluminate users participate in a monthly virtual Brown Bag session, hosted by Software Central, on the third Tuesday of every month. To see Elluminate live, feel free to click in on the one taking place February 16, noon to 1 p.m. The program requires Java, which you may have to download.
Software Central plans to hold a virtual presentation soon to demonstrate Elluminate’s features and explain how it is being used by UCLA departments. This presentation will be open to all. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for details. To see other software available to UCLA departments, go to www.softwarecentral.ucla.edu.
The UCLA-wide agreements negotiated and managed by Software Central save UCLA more than $6.5 million per year. More than 227 UCLA departments participate in these agreements.
To see a two-minute video on how Elluminate can be used, go here.