Not sure how many of you know of Labcasts. The MSDN Virtual Lab team have been delivering content to you guys through Webcasts, Virtualized Hands-on labs. Now they have created a hybrid "Virtual Instructor Led Lab", called Guided Hands-on through combining a Webcast with the Virtual Labs.

So the experience is that you'll be guided by an Instructor via a Live Meeting (ala Webcast), being able to look at slides and see what the instructor is doing on the lab, mouse clicks and all. At the same time, you can log onto a Virtual Lab environment either through a full Live Meeting client or through an Active X control embedded onto the webpage, which allows you to access a reserved virtual VPC session that is created on the fly. Pretty cool stuff. They've ran a couple of Labcasts already and I signed up and joined the Windows Mobile 5.0 development lab today presented by  Jim Wilson, Microsoft MVP, JW Hedgehog, Inc.

The entire lab was recorded and you can view it here : http://msevents.microsoft.com/CUI/WebCastEventDetails.aspx?EventID=1032304344&EventCategory=5&culture=en-US&CountryCode=US

Just register for the event and it'll bring you to the "View Recording" page where they'll install the Live Meeting 2005 Replay Wrapper. After that, you're good to go!

Since this is new, they're still trying to figure out what works and what doesn't. I'm all for helping them improve so here's my feedback:

  1. Screen is too cluttered
    • You'll end up switching back and forth between the Instructor Webcast and your Hands-on session. Would be good if you had dual screens to play with.
    • you'll also have to wrestle with the Lab Manual.
    • Feature: Should either provide a keyboard shortcut to switch between screens.
  2. Lab sessions should have longer timeouts.
    • Feature: Extend Labcasts to 90mins as Instructor requires time to allow attendees to catch up.
    • Instructor's Lab timed out early, having to restart the whole lab.
  3. Proctoring *Correction: I've been told there were proctors. Silly me*
    1. Should allow attendees to ask for help and allow a proctor to take control of the VPC session to help attendees.
    2. Once they're done, release control back to the attendee.
  4. Provide single sign-in lobby
    1. instead of opening almost 6 windows just to instantiate the webcast and Lab.
    2. Link to start webcast in the Custom Window is too small and inconspicuous.

If you've participated, please send us comments and suggestions as to what you want changed etc. Let us know and we'll make sure they're fixed / enhanced.