By 2010, the University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN) aims to be one of the
leading providers of e-learning programmes in the UK. To achieve this, new and
emerging technologies must be exploited and embedded as standard practice in
teaching methods to enable learners to fulfil their potential. As the University
e-learning portfolio continues to grow and mature, technology is becoming an
integral measure of the quality of the student learning experience. Over the
past five years WebCT has become the accepted Virtual Learning Environment at
UCLAN, with over 2500 live modules supporting approximately 20,000 student users.
The growth in demand for enhanced interactive learning technologies and the
submission of the Learning and Teaching strategy to the Higher Education Funding
Council for England (HEFCE), initiated the research undertaken by the University’s
Learning Development Unit to enable rich multimedia content to be easily integrated
into the WebCT environment.
The new technology had to be flexible, easy to use and versatile in the delivery
of content and able to enrich the current system for online communication with
students. Macromedia Breeze 5 was found to be a rich e-learning system that
provided everything needed to rapidly create, manage, deploy and track highly
engaging online interaction available to any user with an Internet connection.
Breeze enables the combination of video, audio, software simulations, and
other multimedia content to produce e-learning and training packages that are
engaging and effective, while providing tracking and reporting capabilities
that academic staff can access from their online account. Breeze can be used
both as a tool to record high quality PowerPoint presentations for on-demand
access and also to engage with students online in a highly interactive environment.
Breeze content is delivered through the Flash Player technology; Macromedia
state that 98% of the world’s Macs and PCs have the Flash Player already
installed, making access relatively straightforward. The Flash Player provides
audio, visual and interactive content to users, through varying bandwidth speeds,
although the preferred connection speed would be broadband 512k or above to
ensure the quality of the user experience.
The Breeze v5 solution
There are four modules in Breeze, covering:
Content creation – based around Microsoft’s PowerPoint
software, the Breeze Presenter module allows users to convert
PowerPoint presentations into Flash-based content, complete with voice-overs,
integrated video and Flash animations and the capability to add quiz and survey
questions through a simple wizard-like interface. Presentations can contain
notes, which are accessible via screen-readers. Users can either watch a self-contained
presentation or can move back and forth via the navigation links. Presenter
information, contact details and photos can be added to the presentations, as
can “talking-head” videos. A theme creator enables the user to select
the style of layout, colours and logos that each presentation uses.
e-learning – the Breeze Training module
allows you to create courses and curricula out of the content provided through
the Breeze Presenter or from any Flash-based e-learning Content, including Macromedia
Authorware generated courseware. These courses and curricula can be assigned
to students and student groups, who then access the learning materials via a
browser. User activity can be tracked, for example, who has taken what course
and when, and results of quiz and survey questions can be monitored to test
understanding and progress. Each quiz can be used to guide the learner onto
the next step, for example, a high pass can mean the student skips the next
course section, or a failure can mean mandatory re-start of the whole course.
Student scores and progress can be easily transferred to a Learning Management
System (LMS) (via adapters) and can be stored in SCORM or AICC formats.
Web conferencing – Breeze Meeting allows
anyone with a standard web cam and an Internet connection to take part in real-time
web conferencing. Meeting rooms can be quickly created – uploading presentations,
documents, videos, and Flash content as required. All meeting participants can
take part in video conferencing, white-boarding, polls and screen or application
sharing, which is a particularly useful tool for offering technical support
online. A new Breeze meeting room can be created spontaneously, e.g. if a student
fails a course quiz, or wants to ask a question: one click and they can enter
into a conference with their tutor. All pre-populated content remains in the
meeting room, e.g. notes and documents from the last meeting for approving or
Seminars and events – the Breeze Event
module allows for the rapid creation, invitation and tracking of users for an
online seminar, where many people can view a presentation or lecture using Breeze,
whether or not they have a Breeze licence. Breeze Event facilitates the creation
of customized homepages with details of your lecture, biography and how to register
for the event. Users can also be directly invited and all users are tracked
with automatic reminder emails and post-lecture emails too.
Creating and using e-learning content with Breeze
Creating content requires the installation of the Breeze Presenter plugin to
Microsoft PowerPoint. Once this has been installed PowerPoint presentations
can be produced as normal and then published from the new Breeze plugin menu.
The Publish button uploads content to the Breeze server for online access from
a given URL, or the presentation can be published locally for delivery on a
network or CD Rom. The menu also allows the insertion of Flash files (which
can contain any combination of video, animations, business functions, demonstrations
and simulations) into PowerPoint.
Breeze Presenter allows voice-over to be added to slides, so that the presentation
can run self-contained. Although PowerPoint already has this capability, Breeze
audio is of a higher quality and has a smaller file size – making the
student experience that much better. There is also an intuitive tool that allows
voice-overs to be edited, enabling easy removal of unwanted pauses and sounds.
Adding a quiz or survey is done by selecting the Quiz Manager and following
the wizard. There is a wide range of question types, from simple true/false
to short answers and rating (likert) scales. Answers are in SCORM or AICC format,
allowing an LMS or Breeze itself to track student progress. The quiz feature
supports conditional branching and there is a wide array of responses you can
make depending on whether the student answered correctly or not, so you retain
the power to move students to different parts of the presentation, or course,
or other materials to support their understanding.
Pricing and availability
There are two options for purchasing Breeze: hosted and the licensed model.
For the hosted option, space is ‘rented’ on a Breeze server that
is managed and operated by Macromedia or an associated partner. This relieves
any problems of capacity and maintenance, whilst the hosted operator ensures
security and service-levels. The licensed option offers the software with no
additional server side maintenance or management.
Educational prices for Breeze are available to academic establishments and
LEAs and starts from £2,610 for a school and £5,850 for a college
Academic staff feedback
Some final comments from academic staff from across the University regularly
using Breeze in their teaching:
"Breeze is an important, even vital, addition to our e-learning toolbox”.
Francois Nel, Course Leader, MA Strategic Communication
“Breeze to me is an awesome product, very easy to learn and to put
to use. Over the past academic year I have delivered recorded Breeze presentations,
conducted live group seminars and tutorials, conducted live one to one advise
sessions and attended live Breeze lectures. All of these have been very successful
in terms of the feedback collected.”
Peter Clare, Course Leader, BSc Electronically Mediated Education and Training
“We have been supporting online courses for three years using WebCT
to deliver content and online seminars. This academic year we started using
Breeze, which added voice, vision from webcams, and presentation facilities.
Just one semester after this experimental introduction I tried running text-only
online seminars (because I did not have a webcam at the time). The student response
was rapid, angry and - to me at least - almost a total shock, I had underestimated
the strength of feeling that students attached to being able to see and hear
their online tutors. In a matter of weeks they had come to expect this mode
of interaction, to see it as a right, not a privilege, and most certainly to
express a clear preference for the sot of interactivity that it allows. Of course,
I raised my game to suit the new expectation, but I was left with the clear
impression that the route towards greater interactivity is strictly a one-way
street - there is no turning back and no standing still. The students will simply
not stand for it.”
Paul Elmer, MA Public Relations
Macromedia Breeze: http://www.macromedia.com/software/breeze/
Senior eLearning Developer
Learning Development Unit
University of Central Lancashire