Collaborating all over the world

Using Blackboard Collaborate to support students based outside the UK

Pam Nicol has a number of roles at the University – this posting involves her work on the Masters in International Higher Education. Pam has been using Collaborate since it was introduced to the MIHE team about four years ago, and previously to that used the Wimba system.  This piece is derived from an interview I did with Pam on 6th August 2014.

“I teach on the Masters in International Higher Education – specifically a series of six sessions about strategic management, via Collaborate, to students located all over the world. Collaborate has been really useful – allowing me to present live and to recorded the sessions for students who can’t join at the time.

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Blackboard Collaborate ©

Collaborate is a great piece of technology – it’s been very reliable – it hasn’t let me down once!

When I was first asked to teach using web conferencing technologies I was quite nervous, but quite quickly it became evident how easy it was to use – to the extent that an IT novice like myself could use the technology quite effectively.

My introduction to the Collaborate system was hardly ideal – consisting of a quick run through from colleagues about half an hour before I was due to give a session. Needless to say, there were a few problems with that first session, but now I have a big ‘Press the Record Button’ above my monitor as a reminder!

The structure of my sessions are an hour for a lecture, then an hour for follow-up questions / individual tutorial. The six sessions are delivered around 5:30pm, for an hour, with tutorials / questions between 6:30 and 7:30. The twilight timing seems to fit in with students across multiple time zones.

Students use the mic or the chat window to ask questions during the session, and I remain online for up to an hour after the lecture to pick up on individual questions that students don’t want to raise in front of the group.

One of the main issues I’ve had to overcome is finding a quiet space – a shared office is not ideal. My currently favourite location is one of the small rooms in the SIC – as beyond 5pm it gets very quiet and I can borrow their headphones and camera.

Other issues I’ve experienced is unsuitable equipment that students or visiting lectures might try to use. We’ve also had some issues with visiting lecturers using Mac equipment. However, on the whole we’ve not had many issues with student’s equipment – noting that the instructions that Blackboard and Edge Hill have put in place to support students is very good (http://www.eshare.edgehill.ac.uk/1642/)– most students who are experiencing problems try to solve it themselves using the guides before they contact me.  A new guide is available via eShare on equipment that has been tested by Learning Services and is consdered to work well with Blackboard Collaborate (http://www.eshare.edgehill.ac.uk/5262/).

I’ve also noticed that teams in the Faculty of Health are more ready to try new technologies such as Collaborate.

I don’t think we would be able to deliver the qualification without Collaborate – I can’t see a way of getting students from all over the world involved in a class discussion except through web conferencing technologies.

My advice to staff thinking of doing some sessions with their students is just to have a go – and don’t get put off by the first few steps (that can be a little daunting for the novice). Also, write a script and print this out to have with you as you deliver – this is very useful for ‘filling in’ when there are gaps in the flow – and include comments such as what the weather’s been like recently. And if you are in a shared office, find somewhere else, or book a classroom.

My advice to the institution would be to see if Collaborate might be used to make courses that are not viable due to low numbers open to a wider audience.

And finally, one thing I’d really like is a feature to enable me to have a room available to invite students from anywhere in – not needing to setup a course area for them.”

 

BestofTEL_SMALLPam Nicol
Learning Facilitator
Student Services

Telephone:  01695 584190 x 4190
Email: [email protected]

 

It’s evident that Pam is very enthusiastic about the Collaborate technology – and she is demonstrating excellent practice in terms of delivery and recording. Pam would be pleased to discuss this with anyone at Edge Hill – her contact details are above.

I have also helped Pam achieve her final request above – using a tutor room in a course area. I’ll be creating a guide and blog post about this technique in a later posting, but it you want to know about this or any of the tools within the Learning Edge Suite contact your Learning Technologist (see the Faculty Contacts on this page) or email the LTD Team on [email protected] or x7754.

What Equipment do I Need to Collaborate?

Classroom PCs with Blackboard Collaborate Logo insetBlackboard Collaborate is a real-time web conferencing and online learning tool that can be used to support teaching and learning and other collaborative projects, and is generating a great deal of interest within Faculties and Departments at Edge Hill University. There has been a major increase in its use for taught sessions, meetings and student support.Close-up of Plantronics Headset

Learning Technology Development (LTD) is often asked, “what equipment do I need to fully participate in a Blackboard Collaborate session?”  So we have come-up with a document and resources that allow you to “try before you buy”.

The eShare guide (LTD5032: Blackboard Collaborate: Audio and Video Equipment) outlines best practices and suggests equipment recommended by LTD based on our own experience of using it with Blackboard Collaborate.

Open boc with Blackboard Collaborate logo floating aboveNow, the try before you buy element comes from the investment made by Learning Services in quality equipment that you can borrow from the Library and testing it prior to your own or departmental purchase.

Want to learn more about Blackboard Collaborate and the benefits for staff and students who need real-time virtual collaboration.  Contact your LTDO for more information, consultation and any training you wish to explore.

Martin Baxter

 

 

Martin Baxter
Learning Technology Development Officer

 

 

Let’s use PowerPoint to move away from PowerPoint with iSpring!

Love it or hate it, Microsoft PowerPoint has been the go-to tool for learning content for many years now and it will more than likely continue to be a staple in the Learning Edge tool box for years to come.  As we all know PowerPoint does have its limitations when incorporating multimedia + instructional tools if you’re trying to accommodate diverse learning styles and more equally trying to enable content accessibility via mobile devices (Edge Hill Central and Learning Edge Apps). Everywhere we look these days, we can see the impact that mobile technology continues to have on our society. According to Cisco Visual Networking Index, by the end of 2014 the number of mobile devices will exceed the number of people on earth, and by 2018 predicts there will nearly 1.4 mobile devices for every person. Mobile Learners with iSpringSince January 2014 here in the Learning Technology Development Team we’ve been exploring the capabilities of the iSpring application as an additional plugin to PowerPoint to meet the needs of academic staff and to also enhance the online/mobile learning experience of our students. For those new to iSpring, it’s fundamentally an e-learning authoring tool that integrates with PowerPoint, so no special skills are needed to start using it. iSpring gives PowerPoint the ability to add multimedia easily and include instructional functionality to slides.  This also ensures accessibility for both traditional desktop and mobile users by transforming your PowerPoint file into HTML5! (This means that it will play on pretty much any device without the need for additional software or apps!)

iSpring RibbonOn Thursday 3rd July 2014 I presented an introductory iSpring webinar via Blackboard Collaborate to 26 Edge Hill University Staff, which demonstrated the concepts of multimedia usage and instructional design within PowerPoint.  (I really wanted to title the session “The Jerry iSpringer Show’ though I wasn’t too sure how that would go down!) The webinar enlightened staff to the main differences between an ordinary PowerPoint presentation and a presentation energised with the features of iSpring. During the webinar I explained and demonstrated a variety of methods on how multimedia resources can be incorporated into your current or new PowerPoint presentations by just a few clicks using iSpring. All the tools I covered in the webinar have been approved as ‘mobile & desktop friendly’ solutions, which enables users to utilise resources online or in class.

Feel free to watch the webinar on YouTube by clicking on the link below:

I really value the quick feedback we receive from staff. I’d like to share some of those comments I’ve received from staff within the Faculty of Health and Social Care:

“The software is user friendly; you can make the most of this resource by embedding exercises, discussion, video, web links, reading, references etc.   It is possible to have a student centered, interactive resource recorded and available online in a short period of time.  Students have given very positive feedback and they value the ‘discussional’ approach we use, which makes online learning personal.  One student said that it was like having a one to one tutorial.”  Trish Prescott, Senior Lecturer CPD

“I find it much easier to use .ppt and dropping in audio from Audacity.  Being able to drop in other items really enhances the presentation”  Elaine Hughes, Senior Lecturer Adult Nursing

“The thing I like most about iSpring is that my PowerPoint presentations can be combined with sound files in three strokes of the mouse, and hey presto! My Learning Edge presentations can be viewed by students on their iPhones and iPads.”  Chris Jones, Senior Lecturer CPD

“iSpring is enabling me to teach  in all the ways that I was imagining – all in one package!”  Sertip Zangana Senior lecturer CPD

“iSpring allows me to build and edit material very easily in the way I want it to look on the page for the student.” Jeremy Brown, Reader in Health Service Research

“The beauty of iSpring for me, is in its potential to create a learning experience that addresses the needs of both the campus based and distance student.  With the increased functionality over other methods that I would have relied on previously, I can see opportunities to develop more engaging materials!”  Irene Dudley-Swarbrick, Senior Lecturer Applied Health & Social Care

Since the webinar took place Edge Hill University now has 43 iSpringers who originated from the early adopters project – who are taking e-learning to a whole new level. These users are located as followed:

15 x Faculty of Health and Social Care

12 x Faculty of Arts & Sciences

10 x Faculty of Education

5 x Learning Services

1 x Directorate

LTD have extended the outline of the original webinar in the form of a ‘digital hand-out’ for all current and new users…. just to make things even smoother over this academic year and beyond. Feel free view the resource by clicking on the below image and then bookmarking it in your browser or within your eShare account.

iSpring 1 So maybe you’re thinking “I’d like to give this a try”.  Have no fear, you are all more than welcome to join this technological revolution in teaching and learning in the form our LTD ‘Hot Desk’ options.  Within the LTD office (LINC 2nd Floor Room S2) we have a laptop which is bookable by all staff as well as 2 hot desks fully loaded with iSpring and many other exclusive software packages.

To book yourself onto any of the ‘Hot Desk’ options simply email [email protected] or phone us on Ext 7754 and we’d be more than happy to help you with one of the available options at a time that suits you best! Post a comment below if you have any questions. You can also get in touch with us if you would simply like to know more!

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Mark Wilcock Learning Technology Development Officer

 

Games for Health UK Conference at Coventry – 14th May 2014

1On Wednesday 14th May I attended the Games for Health UK conference, held at Coventry University’s Simulation Centre. This was a satellite event linked to Games for Health Europe, which is an organisation based in Amsterdam.

Jurriaan van Rijswijk spoke first, talking about Games for Health’s vision of using games as a way to change education, promoting active learning and behavioural change. As an organisation they want to help game creators in institutions to share their work more widely. He also said that the ‘Games for Health’ book that they had published, which contained proceedings from their 3rd annual conference, encouraged people to take the organisation more seriously.

Next, Sebastian Yuen talked about wearable technology and how this can be used to change patient behaviours. He was able to talk about his own experience using Fitbit and talked about the possibilities around using badges.

Charlotte Lambden who is a Research Therapist at Newcastle University spoke about a game that they had developed to help with the rehabilitation of people such as stroke victims. It is called Limbs Alive and encouraged people to perform a range of movements and tasks, helping the patient see their progress.

Paul Canty from Preloaded spoke about a range of games for health. You can explore further on the Games with Purpose and Games for Change websites, but examples were FoldIt, Family of Heroes, The Walk, Dys4ia, Actual Sunlight, and Touch Surgery.

Pamela Kato talked about the future of games for health. She says we need research to help us understand if games work, for whom, when and how. We need quality games, and distribution channels so there are places where people know that they will find high quality games. She also gave advice on making games saying to be precise about what you want when dealing with game development studios, because they cannot do your job as a medical professional or academic. She was keen on people hiring artists to work on the game to make them look better, and including the target group in development at each stage to make sure there is nothing that would prevent that group using the game. Games she mentioned were Re-Mission 2, and Plan-It Commander.

Jamie MacDonald from Fosse Games shared from his long experience in the games industry, again pointing out the importance of quality and customer recommendations in making a game a success. He said a key area to look at is innovation. This can be leading in new categories of games, with new audiences, and in using new hardware, but it can also be smaller scale evolutionary innovation within an existing genre.

Finally Adrian Raudaschl spoke about gamification, John Blakely spoke about games to improve the training of Junior Doctors, and Alex Woolner about growing Games for Health UK.

Over all I was impressed by the organisation and its aims. There was a focus on the importance of producing quality games, and on sharing games that have been created. Because of the cost of creating quality games, the reuse and sharing of what has been created seems vital if the use of them is to grow and make the investment worthwhile.

It is certainly going to be useful to keep in touch with what is going on in this organisation, to know what sort of educational games are being created and how people are using them in health contexts.

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Peter Beaumont
Learning Technology Development Officer