Cisco Systems under their brand name of WebEx is offering a full suite of enterprise-wide applications or collaborative network learning (CNL) software in the form of WebEx Meeting Center, WebEx Event Center, WebEx Training Center and WebEx Remote Support. WebEx fulfills the need for value-added learning, training and communication through intra-personal, inter personal and group communication in a fast paced world.
WebEx Meeting with its multipoint video capability provides intra-personal communication, in the form of interpreting other people’s non-verbal communication, and interpersonal communication which apart from video is augmented with voice, chat, notes, and annotation tools. Visualization capabilities of the software include allowing participants to share their desktops with other participants and accessing a virtual whiteboard that allows everyone to illustrate their thoughts and ideas. Additionally, shared visuals can include files and applications like PowerPoint presentations or charts, graphs, and system learning applications.
Most importantly, all of the knowledge sharing and comments that takes place during a meeting can be recorded and shared with others in a secure environment. The recording tool allows networked teams to keep everyone updated on the latest status of a project, issue, or situation and can be viewed anytime, anywhere. In a classroom environment WebEx Training Center provides all the functionality of WebEx Meeting but focused on a learning environment offering breakout rooms, hands on labs, and integrated testing capabilities.
One of the key features of WebEx Meeting that supports group engagement is the ability to chat with one person or everyone, allowing side conversations between members that are common in F2F meetings. There is also a hand raising feature so you can make sure you get the chance to ask your question without intruding on the current speaker. Other key features include a whiteboard that allows meeting members to draw up ideas or produce answers in a group effort and the ability for the host to pass control to other members so that they can share their desktop or any other information they may have in an orderly fashion so everyone is not trying to share their creative ideas at once. WebEx also offers the option to mute one or more persons when necessary.
WebEx Meeting promotes communication flexibility and user access by extending its platform beyond the PC to iPad, iPhone, BlackBerry, Android, and other mobile devices. WebEx Meeting promotes interactivity in a meeting or classroom learning environment.
General considerations to stimulate your thinking
We need to support the different roles of humans in their effort to use a CNL and a CWL by creating new processes that make their work more efficient. Processes such as WebEx do this. As noted in Eisenberg, Goodall, et al (2010), we need to create team learning environments so that all members function as a whole which will “enhance a team’s capacity to think and act in new, synergistic ways, with full coordination and a sense of unity among team members.” (p226) Today humans transcend over large areas to do their work, they need simple yet robust programs, processes and connections to their employees, employers and customers allowing them to serve their needs. The same dimensions of teamwork in a physical workplace need to operate in a virtual world so that each employee is able to feel a part of a team and do their job to the best of their ability.
Facilitation and leadership--throughput
To support the learning process with a CNL program such as WebEx Meeting, teams need to meet on a regular basis. To encourage dialogue, brainstorm ideas, attend a learning seminar and to feel a part of a group, a video conference is beneficial. WebEx provides tools that allow people to listen, make comments and contributions and participate in a learning atmosphere that create an advanced virtual world where anyone with internet access can go. Prompts such as a whiteboard for sharing thoughts and comments, raising hands to ask questions, areas to make and build on diagrams, pictures, graphs, and notes are essential for facilitating a group/team feeling.
The power to connect anyone, anytime, anywhere is bringing learning workers together like never before. The old constructs that once dictated formal ideation (the process of generating, developing, and communicating new ideas) has been replaced by a worker’s ability to connect with friends, associates, and colleagues immediately in the WebEx Meeting Center and gather instant feedback to new, untested ideas. Knowledge sharing and knowledge polling can be spontaneous, raw, unencumbered, and very advantageous for team collaboration.
Some of the key tools available in WebEx Meeting Center include chat, notes, live annotation, and polls which are very useful in determining how workers really feel about a given subject or idea. Anonymous polling allows every worker to respond truthfully without worrying about the politics of the question. Additional features include:
· WebEx Meeting Center Product Features
· Supports from 25 to 500 participants
· Unlimited meetings
· High-quality video conferencing
· Integrated voice conferencing
· Network-based recording
· Meet on your mobile device
· Compatible with Windows, Mac, Linux, Unix, and Solaris
· Localization for 10 languages
Representational tools and knowledge access—input
Tools and strategies such as blogs allow people to put their own thoughts in a place where others can view them at their convenience. Families that live distant from one another or virtual work groups can also blog about the days events so that all members of the team and family can stay updated. Features such as Wi-Fi, 3G, and 4G with smart phones, ipads, laptops etc. allow access to this information from inside or outside an organization.
Representational tools such as WebEx Training Center allows for live interactive online instruction and training. This program will help expand and improve the learning experience of students or team members in a work environment. Some of the features include:
· WebEx Training Center Product Features
· Ability to share documents, applications, streaming videos, and more
· Multi-point video
· Breakout sessions and hands-on labs
· Online polls and quizzes
· Chat and threaded Q&A
· Attendance registration and tracking
· Integrated audio (using a telephone bridge,VoIP, or a mix of both)
· LMS support
· Up to 1,000 participants per session
Socio-emotional messages and trust--throughput
All of the features in WebEx Meeting and WebEx Training Center are essential for a collaborative learning environment and originally designed to enhance productivity. However, a number of features like multipoint video, active talker, on-demand record, and polling provide a context where members can build and maintain trust with one another. Of all the features, I would argue that video and active talker promote trust the most. Sensing the verbal and non-verbal communication between members allows us to give our trust and thereby gaining trust from others.
WebEx Meeting allows the host to pass control to other members in the meeting just as would be expected if all the members were having a F2F meeting experience. Communication norms can easily be managed by the host allowing a loosely-coupled structure on one end to a highly structured presentation format on the other. Feedback can be in the form of chat and notes or even more integrated through document, application, and desktop sharing and file transfer
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