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.
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.”
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