Digital Content

  e/merge 2004, the first online conference on educational technology held in Southern Africa, recently successfully used Macromedia’s Breeze Server to deliver presentations and live audio-visual events to nearly 200 education practitioners, researchers and policy-makers.

  According to project manager Stephen Marquard of UCT’s Multimedia Education Group, the conference producers faced the challenge of delivering multi-media content to a geographically dispersed audience using a wide variety of desktop environments, with a range of web browsers. “Cross-platform support for the full range of file formats and technologies used was particularly important,” he noted.

  The quality of participants’ internet access also varied, with about 23% using ISDN or analogue dialup accounts, 57% using institutional networks and only 14% using a broadband connection.  The chosen technology thus had to work well across a wide range of bandwidth conditions.

  Following a recommendation from local distributors Direct Distribution Services and a meeting with a Macromedia representative who answered detailed technical questions, the e/merge team decided Breeze was “a compelling and attractive proposition”, says Marquard.  The use of Flash, the most commonly installed media player across all browsers, as the client-side interface provided cross-platform support for multiple desktop environments and browsers.

  Two specific applications were used. The first, Breeze Presentations, provided a bandwidth-friendly and cross-platform way of allowing participants with relatively slow connections to view slide shows with audio narration.  The second, Breeze Live, provided an environment for live meetings, including audio and video streaming, that was “extremely easy to use”, according to Marquard.

  Presenters were able to use Breeze successfully on the basis of simple email instructions, and participants could view the resulting presentations, and participate in meetings, with few or no problems.

  Feedback from users was extremely positive, with one noting that “a highlight of the conference was being given the opportunity to use Breeze”. About 40% of those who completed the evaluation survey for the conference listed “Breeze” and “live events” as highlights of the conference.

  “The deployment of Breeze Server was rapid and largely uncomplicated,” said Marquard, “and it was an easy and feature-rich platform that demanded almost no technical knowledge from presenters and participants.”