I am one of those people, I use a Mac. My schools and online students do not know this, as I am mainstream about most things loaded on it. I use Safari, but have Firefox loaded for certain application. I use the MS Office 2008 for Mac, so student papers do not come back in some strange format. I always ask schools about the compatibility of their online platforms with the Mac, and no issues have come. I am a Mac and I am proud of it!
I started teaching a synchronous class last week with students from all over the United States coming together for 5 hours of weekly research methods. The system the school uses is Saba Centra, a very easy to use web-conferencing platform with all sorts of instructional capabilities. We have a white board, application sharing, web camera sharing, remote computer control, and great mark-up tools. The classes can be recorded so that students can play back areas where they want to re-visit concepts or view it if they miss the live class. You can learn more at: http://www.saba.com/products/centra/
When I agreed to this job on January, I asked about my Mac usage. I was told it would be OK if my system was a newer one. After a quick check of my “About this Macbook” screen, I jumped on the opportunity to teach the class. I attended training at a local campus and used the school’s PC to learn the program. It was intuitive and easy to use, so I did not stress too much about my upcoming class after training.
In order to view Word documents and PowerPoint slide shows within the Saba platform (this is important so you can still see the class tools), the documents and PowerPoint presentations need to be loaded before class into the agenda. There is a great agenda builder tool to assist with this. The tool uploads your presentation, turns it into a web-friendly file format, and places it into the agenda so you can easily scroll through the slides.
My class starts at 5:00 p.m.. Last week on class day, I went to load my agenda early in the morning so that I could have it ready to go. I loaded my 52 slide presentation into the agenda and then went to test my classroom. The camera worked, my voice-over-IP was set up, and then I checked my agenda. To my horror, it was blank. The presentation was there in the agenda, but there were not any slides. I figured I must have done something wrong, so I went to re-load the slides into the agenda. When I checked again, still nothing. I went and watched the agenda builder tutorial and found a step was not popping up to my computer-this must be the problem-so I called IT support at the school and was told I should call Saba Centra support.
I was sure glad I tried this early in the day, because Saba support was on EST and they close many hours before my class started. When I called Saba and explained I was using a Mac, I was told I would have to be transfered to a Level 2 specialist. I started thinking to myself, oh no, now the Mac is going to be a problem. The nice gentleman at Level 2 support was able to talk me through the issue, I needed to convert my slides into .jpeg’s before I could load them to Saba Centra on the Mac. I figured this would be no big deal, thanked him, and then set off to load the slides. It worked, but not nearly as slick as the PC load. When I used the PC, I was able to pull up huge presentations in a matter of a minute. With the Mac, I could not seem to get an entire presentation into one jpeg, so I had to convert 52 times and load 52 slides. I finally found something that my trusty Mac was just not that good at.
I have been wanting a new desktop computer. Having two computers (or at a minimum, two screens) is the best way to teach online. You can have the online grade book and the document you are grading at the same time and work in both. I broke down and bought a PC this weekend. I loaded this week’s class on the PC, but I will teach from the MacBook. I guess now I am a Mac and a PC.