Collaborate is an application that has been designed to create a virtual classroom environment where hundreds of learners and trainers can interact and learn in real-time through slow internet connections.Its main features include: User Logon, User text colour, Bandwidth selector, User list, Multiple Text chat, 3 user Video chat. 3 user Audio chat, Shared whiteboard over the top of the shared swf/jpg

It has Host Controlled features such as: Shared files (swf / jpg), Whiteboard opacity control, Whiteboard/shared file clearing, Shared cursor. Issues relating to traditional long distance communication include: The cost of phone calls & difficulty of setting them up, difficulty in illustrating points - currently a popular route is to create word documents, then email them to relevant parties, then print them out and talk about them over the phone, calls cutting off mid-conversation, MSN messenger is limited to text chat, goes through the MSN server and is unreliable, the inability to share information concurrently, you are unable to see the person you are interacting with, there is a lack of control over emailed documents / images

Collaborate uses Flash Communication Server, a Macromedia product making it available to any internet/intranet connected user with the Flash player. It is currently hosted by FlashComstudio.com and is currently limited to 10 connections but has the potential for up to 5000 concurrent connections. Bandwidth is limited by the hosting company depending on the level of service required. Latency / upload / download speed are displayed on the application. There is a live administrative console to view connection information & usage. It is extremely easy to setup ¬ just drop the files on your server and it’s ready.

Collaborate would be an ideal application for:

Long distance Video and audio conferencing where infrastructure and equipment is not readily available.
Online presentations / demonstrations.
Building online communities.
Learners that cannot get to a classroom. They can learn live from teachers in any location at any time.
Interacting with different cultures over the Internet in a real-time environment.

Collaborate is in use in an eLearning company to help it’s branches in London and Mumbai, India share information, brief the development team, discuss feedback on course development and conduct video conferencing. The office in India has an internet connection equivalent to a home ADSL line which limits the bandwidth but video and audio conferencing between people is still possible.

Collaborate has been used by Canon Europe to help train their technicians on new products; the trainer uploads an animation or presentation on a new printer/camera/copier and points out it’s features to the technician in another country. The technician can draw over the image of the product to illustrate any questions whilst talking to the trainer and seeing them face to face. This has reduced the need to bring trainers and technicians from across Europe all together significantly, and saved Canon a lot of expenditure in travel / accommodation and downtime.