Since its acquisition of Macromedia, Adobe Systems appears to be pushing Breeze as its flagship elearning product (even though it is the company's entry-level one) and has all but abandoned its high-end Authorware system, which is powerful but somewhat complex. Adobe may sense that Authorware is a tool for elite specialists, while Breeze is a grassroots product for a much larger audience.
"Breeze gives people opportunities for focusing on creating and sharing the content about which they are expert, without having to worry so much about being a programmer," says Ellen Wagner, Adobe's senior director of worldwide elearning solutions. "For people who are responsible for a line of business and have to be able to share information quickly and reliably, Breeze gives them a way to do that both synchronously and asynchronously. "People don't have to be great programmers and don't have to depend on the IT department. This is something people can actually manage for themselves," says Wagner.
Macromedia Breeze, now a product of Adobe, currently dominates the Rapid Elearning space. "Breeze is our number one competitor," says Brainshark's Gustafson. "It is a very fast-growing product. But Breeze is PC-based; you need to install software on your PC. Then you need to plug in a microphone to create the content. Then you take that file that you've created on your PC and you ftp it or upload it to a server that Breeze has, and then that's where it gets deployed and reported on." Gustafson considers that whole process cumbersome compared to his solution.
Yet one person's cumbersome is another's feature-rich. Adobe's Wagner defines Breeze as an "engagement platform solution." It combines a streaming media server with a simple authoring tool, and it includes real-time Web conferencing with integrated VoIP for phone conferencing and live meetings. Wagner points out that it also includes a tracking and management system "for people who want to keep track of the learning experiences that are taking place." While Wagner says, "it's not an LMS per se." "Breeze gives people who are more interested in doing business communications a powerful tool. They don't have to worry about how it works. They just share information."
It the past few years Breeze has won many fans in many companies and organizations, including Sony Communication Network Corporation (So-net). An ISP in Japan decided to give up its expensive and inconvenient classroom sessions and try a Breeze approach to information security training. Today, So-net's 1,400 employees no longer sit in classrooms; they log on to interactive, Web-based seminars. The company claims that the Breeze approach has reduced content development costs while bolstering security, reduced test scoring, and analysis time from one week to one day, and allowed content to be frequently updated cost-effectively. And So-net believes that its new on-demand, interactive, self-paced format has significantly increased knowledge retention. So-net claims to have recovered its investment in Breeze in three months and to have saved approximately ten million Yen (U.S.$83,333) by enabling the organization to develop content for four courses in-house as opposed to outsourcing development.
Another Breeze customer, the Career Development Office of the U.S. Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR), uses the product for career development training. By taking advantage of Breeze's XML-based API, NAVAIR has been able to integrate its Breeze solution with its legacy LMS. "Now we can access and provide consolidated training data from across the Command and create customized curriculum management functionality," says Robert Bartlett, senior developer, Web applications team, NAVAIR. "With easy access to the Web site's data on personnel, course records, scores, competency levels, and locations, instructors can easily track the fulfillment of personnel's training requirements through the Breeze interface." According to Bartlett, Breeze has helped NAVAIR deliver more courses with rich and interactive multimedia experiences, helped to motivate learners, improved learning outcomes, and significantly reduced the cost of delivering training. At NAVAIR more than 30,000 Breeze sessions, available over a variety of bandwidths, have been completed to date, adding up to more than 11,000 successfully completed courses.
Breeze has also been successfully deployed in a variety of traditional educational environments: The Santa Clara County Office of Education (in California) decided to make Breeze available to teachers and staff in all the 32 school districts for which it is responsible. And they were surprised by the quick adoption and the variety of uses that people found for the tool. In the Gilroy Unified School District, instructional technology manager Rob van Herk used the Breeze Training module to create a Rapid Elearning solution for introducing a new email system. The district needed to roll out the system, but didn't have the budget or the time to train teachers and staff face to face. Van Herk created brief online Breeze tutorials on how to log on and use the email system, which busy teachers and staff could review whenever it was convenient. And fifth-grade teacher Sharon Regner at Loma Prieta Elementary School in Los Gatos, developed online tutorials for her kids on topics like long division and decimals. "These tutorials can act as reinforcement for what I've taught in class, or as enrichment for students who can view them without first receiving my instruction," says Regner. "So I'm able to have my students working at different levels."