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A Tale of Two Online Classes

I am taking a couple of online classes: a CISSP Prep Class with Global Knowledge, and a Intrusion Detection class with SANS. Global Knowledge currently uses a tool from iLinc Communications to provide the class. SANS is using a tool from Elluminate. Having sat through 7 sessions with Global Knowledge and only 1 session with SANS, I can say that the tool SANS is using is far better.

Both tools are designed for an instructor to present material and gather a small amount of feedback from students. There may be a chat window. There may be some buttons. The voice channel may either be over the PSTN or VoIP (these tools both use VoIP).

The Elluminate software is far and away better than iLinc. Here’s why:

  • More options for interactivity. In addition to the chat window, you have a/b/c/d/e buttons for random questions, a “raise hand” option, a way to show your facial expression (smile, confused, thumbs down, and clapping). Video also appears to be supported in this tool, though we’re not using it in this class.
  • iLinc requires Windows as it relies on ActiveX, which as we know, is not the most secure thing in the world. Elluminate will run on Windows, Mac OS, Linux, Solaris, and any other system that supports Java Web Run. It runs in a sandboxed environment, which should be more secure than ActiveX. I can say it works very well on my Mac. Update: My instructor is using a Mac to present, so it must work to serve presentations as well. Trey cool!
  • The iLinc client seems to be unstable. Last week, I had numerous crashes. Some students in my CISSP class continue to experience crashes. While it’s too early to say how stable the Elluminate client is, I can say it handles disconnects and reconnects very gracefully, which happened a couple of times–once while on WiFi and once when I switched back to Ethernet. It did it automatically without me telling it to do so.

Also, I think the SANS instructor seems a bit more enthusiastic than my Global Knowledge instructor. The material is very different, but having an excited instructor makes a huge difference in the enjoyment level of the class. Between that and the (in)effectiveness of the tools, I have to say the SANS class wins hands-down.


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