eLearning Technology Blog

Wow! I Didn't Know I Could Do That

by WSU Online 28. December 2012 14:53

I have been hearing those words quite a bit lately as I met with faculty about WSU’s web conferencing software, Blackboard Collaborate. Many users know that Blackboard Collaborate can be used to host synchronous class sessions and discussions with students at a distance. However, the possible uses of the software and many of its features often go unrecognized.

One of the discussions that often takes place is around using Blackboard Collaborate to serve our students outside of the class environment. One example of this is connecting with online students one on one. For that, Blackboard Collaborate is a great option to host virtual office hours. To create an accessible Collaborate space for just such a purpose, we recommend scheduling a Blackboard Collaborate room to be open throughout the semester, set aside virtual office hour times, and identify them clearly in the class syllabus. It is also important to take into account that online students will likely be living in a variety of time zones, so a couple of different options for time and availability will be essential to these students. Many instructors like to arrange virtual office hours by appointment to meet these needs.

With that, you are ready to host office hours from anywhere with a computer and an internet connection. Students can attend from wherever they happen to be. And let’s not forget the great private discussion options within Blackboard Collaborate. To meet privately with your student, simply create a “private breakout room” and you are ready to go.

Breakout rooms also offer students the opportunity to meet in small groups and work collaboratively on class projects or in group study sessions. Simply create a number of breakout rooms within the Blackboard Collaborate space and then select the option to allow participants to move themselves into breakout rooms. These rooms will stay open in the Collaborate session and provide a place for students to meet, share resources, and work together anytime throughout the semester. Again, this is a great alternative to the asynchronous methodology behind a traditional discussion board. Team work and group discussions can be facilitated in real-time, at any time during the day.

There are quite a few things you can do with Blackboard Collaborate to enhance outcomes in your class. To learn more about how to use Blackboard Collaborate and tips for effective use of web conferencing in your class, visit elearning.wsu.edu and sign up for one of our web conferencing trainings.

Charlie Snyder

A Little Face to Face Time

by WSU Online 12. December 2012 14:33

Collaborate Screenshot

Have you ever wanted to see your online students face to face? Or have you thought about how easy communication would be if you could just speak with a specific student?  Luckily, these often taken-for-granted elements of traditional classrooms are also a reality for online classrooms.  At Washington State University, we have a license with Blackboard Collaborate. Collaborate is the next generation of Elluminate Live, and you’ll find it has a much more simple and modern look and feel as well as better audio features.

The enhanced audio features of Blackboard Collaborate make it a more user-friendly tool than the older versions of Elluminate Live. Of course, audio still works best if every participant, and the speaker, has a noise-cancelling headset and microphone to use.  However, it isn’t necessarily a make-it-or-break it scenario.  Any head set (or even turning off the mic when not speaking) can keep feedback levels low. To use Blackboard Collaborate, simply log into your Angel course space and create a room for you and your students to use.  Follow the steps in our tutorial, here.  Secondly, let students know the room is available and when you will be in the Collaborate room to take questions or deliver material.   To make sure your first session runs without a hitch, here’s some best practices we always recommend:

1. Invite Students: Let students know the time and location: Where should they go and when to access the virtual meeting place.
2. Test your System: Complete a system check, here and log into your room early to test your audio by completing the audio set up wizard (located under Tools). Likewise, instruct your students to do the same.
3. Welcome Students: Acknowledge each student who enters the room. This is important to make the experience feel more genuine. You can simply address them by name as you see their name appear in the participant panel.
4. Explain Protocol: Clearly explain how the room will be run. For example, are you taking questions via chat box only? Should they ask before using their microphone? Are you turning off the microphone feature so that it can’t use it? Have you disabled any other features?
5. Personalize: Remember, students want to feel connected to their instructor. So, feel free to use your webcam or insert a photo of yourself in your profile.

There are a variety of effective ways to both communicate with and share content with students via Blackboard Collaborate.  To learn more about these features, please consider attending a Web Conferencing Training through the Global Campus.   These are free and available all year long, so there’s no better time than the present to sign up. 

You can start learning more about Blackboard Collaborate right now be exploring our in house resources, here or exploring the variety of resources and trainings on Blackboard Collaborate’s website. Gone are the days of feeling isolated in the online classroom! Connecting with your students in a face-to-face manner is just a click away, and we encourage you to utilize the many tools and systems available to you.

Rebecca L Stull


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