Defeating ‘The Beast from the East’: How Collaborate was used to run a ‘blended’ conference

Blackboard Collaborate is an online classroom tool. It is designed to allow presentations and tutorials to be given to students while they are off-campus. In this blog post we look at an unusual use of Collaborate, as it was used to run a ‘blended’ conference.

Meg Juss: Could you set the scene for us?

Peter Beaumont: The Every Child Counts conference had been organised to run at Edge Hill University in early March 2018, with speakers coming from all over the country. However a day before it was going to run it was clear that due to snow, with red and orange weather warnings in many parts of the country, most of the presenters and many attendees were not going to be able to make it.

Welcome to the Conference Sign

MJ: Can you explain what we did?

PB: First we posted to the very helpful ALT-MEMBERS mailing list to ask for advice from the learning technology community. It was useful to read personal experiences of others, and the advice influenced some of the specific decisions we took.

The key thing for us was to enable the speakers to present from home, but we also wanted distance attendees to be able to experience and take part in the conference as much as possible. We decided to try and run the conference through Blackboard Collaborate. Speakers would present through it, and their webcam video and slides could be displayed on the big screen in the lecture theatre, as well as on distance attendees computer screens. Distance attendees could post questions in chat when it was time for post-presentation questions, and we used a Catchbox microphone to ensure that questions asked in the room, could be heard at a distance.

Welcome to Delegates

MJ: What were the issues and concerns?

PB: Because the conference was suddenly moved online, presenters’ slides were not created with Collaborate in mind. Animations don’t work as slides are converted to images, and videos need taking out of the slides and presenting another way. The presenters were fantastic and flexible and spent extra time changing to fit the limitations of presenting this way. Obviously in an ideal world we’d want to work with presenters to make the most of the technology, rather than be limited by it, but there just wasn’t time for that.

There were some distance attendees who were finding that slides were not updating, and we worked with Blackboard to identify that these users were not using the Chrome browser. Although we sent out instructions advising the use of Chrome, we identified two issues which we will need to consider in future. Not all users have an understanding that different web browsers are available, and I think their mental model of using the web is that they click on the ‘e’ to ‘open the internet’. The other thing to consider is the amount of pre-conference information that can you send to attendees before you get into a TL;DR situation?

Finally, even with wonderful, understanding and flexible presenters, unexpected things can happen. For example a presenter in the room might do something in the room which cannot be followed at a distance, for example writing on a flip chart. When that happened at this conference, we copied what was being written using the Collaborate annotation tools, allowing the distance attendees to follow. There are moments like that when you are a bit unsure what you are going to do.

Online Presentation

MJ: What would be your advice to others trying to do this?

PB: Running a ‘blended’ conference felt successful and we got good feedback from attendees, but we did have three people working on Collaborate all day during the conference, and spending the day before planning, and speaking to the presenters. One person was supporting the presenters, doing things like switching between the slides and the videos, switching the room mics on so distance presenters could hear the audience during discussion times, and operating the Catchbox mic. One person was at home, meaning they were aware of how the distance attendees were experiencing the conference, and they offered support to those having issues, as well as advising the people supporting the conference on campus of how it sounded and looked. The third person, was monitoring chat to collect questions from the distance attendees, welcoming and supporting attendees, copying what was written on flipcharts, etc. This sort of support, from people who understand the Collaborate system, is not often available.

You need to prepare online presenters in advance, so that their slides and planned activities are appropriate for the presentation method. Presenting online doesn’t have to be a worse experience than a face-to-face presentation, but you need to understand the strengths and limitations of the medium.

A lot of small things are quite important too. We found that putting some ‘elevator’ music on in the room between sessions, gave some feedback to distance attendees that they were in the right place. We made sure that Collaborate notifications are turned off on the presenter PC at the front, so that it was not bleeping as people entered and left the session.

Collaborate is a good solution to enable people to present online, but you need to be aware of the risks. If the presenter’s home internet is poor, then the session could be frustrating for attendees to follow. The Every Child Counts team very wisely had back-up plans for an alternative session, in case something went wrong. However, there are risks with face-to-face presentations too, as we saw with this conference. There is no reason to be scared of online presentations, as long as you and the attendees are prepared.

All over

MJ: Can you share any quotes with us?

Distance Attendee: “The day exceeded my expectations. The speakers were fantastic [… it was] all very informative and useful. The online conference was exceptional. It was very easy and smooth. The moderators were very helpful. A fantastic experience – would be a great way to deliver a course/ conference in the future.”

ECC Team: “[The Learning Technology Development team] managed a mixture of onsite and distant presenters and onsite and distant audiences that worked beautifully, was roundly praised by all concerned … and [the Every Child Count’s team are] very grateful”

Learning Technology Team: “We enjoyed the challenge and learnt a lot in the 12 working hours we had to prep, as well as during the event.”

Meg Juss, Learning Technology Development Manager

Meg Juss, Learning Technology Development Manager

Come and join us for a Nepal Earthquake Mapathon!

CaptureThursday 14th May 12-2 pm E10
Monday 18th May 12-2 pm E4

Saddend by the suffering in Nepal, and inspired by stories of ‘crisis mapping’ – where volunteers all over the world are helping to digitise satellite imagery to provide maps and data that can be used by rescuers and aid groups on the ground, I organised a lunchtime mapathon with my team yesterday.

Learning Technology Development got together in an IT room over lunch to learn how to map and contribute to the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap inititative.

In just 30 minutes we had created accounts, worked through the training videos, practiced adding and editing points, lines, shapes and custom information to the OSM (used to mark locations, roads, paths, rivers, buildings, lakes, fields, etc), and were ready to begin contributing to the international relief effort. We then spent the rest of our lunch working on the, ‘Gorkha, residential areas and buildings’ task, examining satellite imagery to look for hamlets and trace any buildings and paths or roads that connect to these residential areas.

Blake Girardot, activation coordinator of the initiative says, “Any mapping that people can contribute helps,” he adds. “It matters. It’s surprising that it matters so much, but it matters. People can feel good about half an hour of mapping, or 10 minutes. Every click turns into a data point. You do 20 clicks, that’s three buildings that nobody knew about, nobody had access to until you put it in there. Now suddenly those things are on the map.”

As a learning technology team this seemed like a fitting response to the terrible news of a second earthquake – working together and doing something to help.

9 people x 1.5 hours = ‪#‎contributing‬

We’ll be volunteering our time again on Thursday and Monday over lunch, and you are very welcome to join us. No experience necessary! We’d like to see you there.

Meg Juss, Learning Technology Development Manager

Meg Juss
Learning Technology Development Manager

Learning Edge Upgrade Success!

The scheduled summer upgrade has been completed successfully and you can now login to Learning Edge as normal.

The upgrade introduces a number of improvements – most significantly a new true student preview and anonymous & delegated grading options.

Where can you learn more?

As mentioned in a previous blog post, the LTD team will be hosting an online webinar (via Collaborate) at 2.00pm on Wednesday 23rd of July and Thursday 24th July. These sessions will introduce you to what’s new, provide you with an opportunity to ask questions and help you explore where and how to make the most of the new improved system.

Please Feedback

Take your time to explore the upgraded system and let us know what you think.

The LTD team have worked hard to test the upgrade so we are not expecting any unexpected behaviour! However, if you do spot any problems please let us know asap so we can investigate and get them resolved for you.

Contact the Learning Technology Development team to share any queries or comments you have regarding the upgrade or the online webinar– leave a comment below, email ltdsupport@edgehill.ac.uk or call 01695 650754.

Meg Juss, Learning Technology Development Manager

 

 

 

Meg Juss
Learning Technology Development Manager

Expired Passwords Need Your Attention

We’ve established an excellent record of Learning Edge Blackboard 9.1 availability (achieving 99.95% uptime last year) and we take your need to access the system very seriously. So, on Monday, having noted a higher volume of calls to the helpdesk and tweets from some of you saying that you’d been having trouble accessing Blackboard we immediately began investigating. What we discovered was that many of you had expired passwords, but didn’t realise it.

To maintain the security of your personal information, student passwords should be changed every 90 days (30 days for staff), but, as more and more of you are using your own devices (laptops, tablets and mobile phones) to log into the Edge Hill systems, you don’t always see the reminder that your password is due to expire. The first you know about it is when you can’t login to the resources you need.

When your password expires you can’t:

  • Connect your mobile devices or laptop to Eduroam WIFI
  • Connect to the internet via the Captive Portal on hall PCs
  • Login to the Go Portal on or off campus
  • Login to learningedge.edgehill.ac.uk or the Blackboard Mobile Learn app

If you find you can’t access any Edge Hill systems, the first thing to try is resetting your password. You can do this via the GO Portal login page, providing you’ve added an alternative email address to your GO account. If you haven’t added an alternative email address, we recommend you do this now – edit ‘settings’ in GO. Of course, you’ll need an internet connection to access the GO portal, so if you’re in your halls, or using a mobile device or laptop on campus, you’ll need to use one of the open access PCs to do this.

It will also be a good idea to make a note in your diary every time you set a new password to remind you when you’ll need to change it again. This way, if you miss the on-campus reminder, you still won’t get locked out!

I hope this information has been helpful and I trust that you are now logged in. If you need any further information or assistance please contact the Learning Services help desk on 01695 584286 or visit www.ehu.ac.uk/askus.

Meg Juss, Learning Technology Development Manager

Meg Juss, Learning Technology Development Manager

Facts and Figures about Mobile Technology

Over the last 40 years, mobile technology developments have changed the way we engage with content, communicate, collaborate and learn. Device ownership has reached a critical mass globally, with CISCO (2013) reporting that by the end of this year there will be more mobile-connected devices than there are people on earth!

In the UK, 61% of over 16s use a smartphone (Nielson, 2013) and at Edge Hill, our 2012 annual student eLearning survey revealed comparable results – 63% use an internet enabled mobile phone and 32% use tablet devices. This increasing ubiquity of access to advanced mobile technology is important to us as educators, as we strive to leverage the benefits for teaching and learning, through improving our infrastructure, services and support. Huge advances have been made at Edge Hill in reccent years, and staff and students now have a mobile rich environment to work in. Here are some of the highlights:

The Blackboard Mobile Learn app, introduced in September 2011, has proved a real hit with our students. They tell us that easy access to announcements, lecture notes and grades is really important to them and usage data backs this up, as we can see the app is being used now more than ever – visits to Learning Edge via the app in September 2013 totalled 53,785 compared with 17,703 in the same period in 2012 – a 204% increase.

Users of Blackboard Collaborate have enjoyed taking advantage of the Collaborate Mobile app to participate in live web-conferencing sessions from their iPhone and iPads, and in May 2013 we upgraded the service to support Android and Kindle devices as well. In October 2013, an inbuilt recording conversion feature was also added, allowing instructors to easily create industry standard MP4 and MP3 formats of their session recordings for playback on mobile devices.

During the summer, the EHU Central app (also known as Edge Hill Central) was redeveloped to include a number of improvements including three fantastic new tools: computer availability, campus map and Ask Us. The new release of Edge Hill Central is available for Android users (with iOS and web app versions to follow) and early feedback has been incredibly positive. Students love that they can find a PC, find their way around campus and ask for help from wherever they are.

Students have also found the mobile-friendly library resources invaluable. As well as the mobile compatible catalogue search tool, we now have Discover More on mobile and over 80,000 downloadable eResources – from Ebrary, DawsonEra (on iOS / Android) and MyiLibrary.

In August the Turnitin for iPad app arrived allowing academic staff using iPads to access student assignments and provide feedback, with options to view originality reports, grade with rubrics, and annotate with QuickMark, highlights, bubble, inline, voice comments. Assignments can even be downloaded to enable offline working.

Students are regularly using their smartphones in EHU’s WIFI spaces (65% of respondents to the 2012 student e-Learning survey) and student enquires suggested connecting to campus WIFI had presented some challenges. As a result, Learning Services initiated a #EHUGetConnected campaign which has seen 16 roadshow events in the first term help around 2000 students access the Eduroam WiFi service and learn all about our fabulous mobile facilites!

The next #EHUGetConnected event is this Friday, 29th November, in the University Library, where we’ll be talking about using apps and eBooks. Get your questions ready, we’re looking forward to seeing you (both staff and students) there!

If you’d like to discuss how you could exploit the potential of mobile technologies in your practice, leave a comment below, contact your learning technologist or come to one of our staff development sessions.

Meg Juss, Learning Technology Development Manager

Meg Juss, Learning Technology Development Manager

 

Learning Edge Gets Community Engagement

Following the recent acquisition (Oct 2013) of Blackboard Community Engagement, an add on to our current Blackboard Learn 9.1 platform, Learning Services will be working with staff across the university to improve the design and functionality of Learning Edge.

This screencast showcases how the new features, which include personalised Tabs, Panels and Organisations, could be developed to enhance our Learning Edge facilities, for current and prospective students, staff, alumni and other guests.

Community Pre-Login Mock UpClick the image above to watch a 5 minute YouTube video tour.

Learning Technology Development will be holding face-to-face and live online web-conference demonstrations over the next few weeks. In addition discussions will take place at Faculty TEL Steering Groups and the team hope to attend team meetings and speak with interested individuals about the potential of Community.

If you would like to arrange a meeting to discuss how your department could benefit from these new Community features, please speak with your faculty Learning Technologist directly or email ltdsupport@edgehill.ac.uk.

NEW! Blackboard Profile Cards

Take control of your online academic identity with the new Cloud Profile Tools

You probably noticed a nice big welcome if you recently logged into Learning Edge, as we’ve switched on a new tool called Cloud Profiles.

Blackboard Welcome Profiles ScreenshotThe information screen you’ll see when you log in explains what’s new and how to set up your profile (or opt to “do it later”), but I thought it would be useful to explain what it all means.

I’d also like to ask you if you think this will be useful?


What are the new Cloud Profile Tools in Learning Edge?

Cloud Profiles are a new set of cloud-based features available in Learning Edge Blackboard 9.1, that consist of basic Profiles called Profile Cards, the People tool, and enhancements to the Posts tool.

Using your Profile Card you can personalise your online presence in Blackboard by sharing a photo of yourself, information about your area of study/work, and an “about me” description.

Blackboard Profile Card Screenshot

The tool is optional, so if you don’t want to create a profile just yet, that’s fine, you’ll still be able to use the system. If you do complete your profile, your information will be saved to the cloud (on Blackboard’s servers) and your picture will appear in various places throughout Learning Edge Blackboard 9.1, such as Discussion Boards, Blogs, Journals, and Wikis. When someone hover’s over this picture, your profile card will automatically pop-up so they can learn more about you.

In some areas a small thumbnail is used:

Discussion Profile Image 1 Screenshot

In other areas a large version is displayed – so it’s worth choosing a good quality likeness of yourself:

Discussion Profile Image 2 Screenshot

Your profile can appear in the new People Tool – a tool to help students, teaching staff and support staff put a face to your name, and when Social Profiles are enabled, connect with you. There are privacy options, so you can choose whether you want to keep your profile hidden, make it available to just the people who are enrolled into the same courses as you, or make it available to everyone at Edge Hill.

Blackboard People Tool Screenshot

Your profile can also appear in the Posts page which displays the latest discussion, blog and wiki activity taking place in the courses you are enrolled in.

Blackboard Posts Tool Screenshot

If you want to create a Profile Card:

You can edit your Blackboard profile from the Welcome screen – click Facebook, Twitter or ‘I’ll update it myself’. If you select ‘I’ll do it later’, you won’t see the welcome screen next time you log in – so you’ll need to click the profile icon in the global navigation bar (top right).

When you first create your profile, you have the option to start by pulling in information from Facebook or Twitter – such as your profile picture or the “about me” description. If you do choose to do this, you must make sure the information you pull in to share is suitable for this professional academic environment. Also be mindful of your own safety and don’t share anything too personal. We recommend you require others’ request permission to follow you.

You can also choose to add a link to your Facebook or Twitter profiles on your Blackboard Profile Card to help people who view your profile to connect with you outside of the Blackboard environment. Again this is entirely optional. If you don’t use these services, or want to keep them separate from your work at the University that is ok – you don’t need to link to these social networks for profiles to work.

Finally, you will be asked to add a personal email address to verify your account. This is because by creating a Cloud Profile, your information will be saved to Blackboard servers and you’ll have the option to use the same profile on other Blackboard platforms, perhaps if you take a MOOC on Coursesites, or work at another Institution. We recommend that you do not display your email address on your profile card. Staff and students at the University will be able to contact you via your Edge Hill email address should they need to.

*Social Profiles Coming Soon!

In addition to the Cloud Profile tools discussed here, we will also soon be adding Social Profiles.

Social Profiles will introduce an additional set of cloud-based features that consist of full Profiles, Spaces, Messages, and even more enhancements to Profile Cards, the People tool, and the Posts tool.

These enhanced Social Profiles and Tools are not available just yet as we still need to do a bit of work behind the scenes, but you’ll hopefully see them next month (subject to testing). We’ll tell you more about these features in a later post!

Learn More

If you want to learn more before you decide whether to use these features you can check out the videos and information pages provided by Blackboard:

So, what do you think?

If have questions about setting up your profile or want to let us know what you think about these features please leave a comment here and we’ll get back to you. You can also speak to someone in person at the Learning Services #EHUGetConnected Roadshow, on every day next week in the HUB.

Meg Juss, Learning Technology Development Manager

Meg Juss
Learning Technology Development Manager

 

 

 

An app update you don’t want to miss! Blackboard Mobile Learn 4.0

app-updatesDo you update your apps?

With obvious alerts to let you know when an app update is available, this might seem like a strange question, but not everybody updates.

I, for example, have an embarrasing nummber of app updates waiting for my attention, because I, “just haven’t got around to it yet”. I know I ought to do it, but I only really make time to update when I know it will fix a problem that’s been annoying me, or if I like the look of a new feature. Mobile Learn 4.0 is one of those anticipated app updates – let me explain why …

Blackboard Mobile Learn™ 4.0 Coming Soon!
Provisional release date: August 26th

The new version update will do away with the old cork-board and replace it with a fresh new ‘clean’ design, display a wider variety of rich content styles (including, bold, italics, underline, bullets, block quotes, links, images etc.), introduce the ability to personalise course list (by hiding, coloring, and reordering courses) AND ‘favorite‘ different areas of the app for quick access!

Blackboard Mobile Learn Screenshots

Check out the full feature list in this new guide

M-Learn-4-feature-guide

Mobile Learn 4.0 Feature Guide

 

Look out for the update next month, and let us know what you think!

Contact the Learning Technology Development team to share any queries or comments you have regarding the new app.  Help us by leaving a comment below. Email ltdsupport@edgehill.ac.uk or call 01695 650754.

Meg Juss, Learning Technology Development Manager

 

Meg Juss
Learning Technology Development Manager

 

 

Turnitin for iPad has arrived!

What do a sofa and a bus have in common? They are both places you can use the new Turnitin for iPad app to give your students really good feedback! 

OK, so maybe you don’t imagine yourself on a bus… but a lot of you have been asking for an app to help you mark your students’ work at a time and place that suits you – so hopefully this will be exciting news.

This is fresh off the press so we’re just getting up to speed with the new features ourselves, but what we can say is that it looks good!

Tii appClick the image above to launch a video.

The app has lots of features to help you give your students really great feedback on their writing. You can view your students originality reports, grade with rubrics, and annotate with QuickMark, highlights, bubble, inline, voice comments, and more. You can even sync assignments to your device to carry on grading in those annoying no internet zones!

Learn More

Try it!

We have created a Quick Guide to Getting Started with the Turnitin for iPad App as you will need to change a few settings and generate an ‘access code’ to see assignment submissions in your courses. It’s a bit fiddly but you only need to do it once.

Let us know how you get on – we’d love to hear how and where you use the app to evaluate your students work and help them improve their academic writing skills.

Contact the Learning Technology Development team to share any queries or comments you have regarding the new app – leave a comment below, email ltdsupport@edgehill.ac.uk or call 01695 650754.

Meg Juss, Learning Technology Development Manager

 

 

 

 

Meg Juss
Learning Technology Development Manager

Learning Edge Upgrade: Now Completed

Upgrade Sucess

The scheduled Leaning Edge Blackboard 9.1 upgrade has been completed successfully and you can now login as normal.

As well as ensuring the highest level of performance and stability this upgrade will ensure Edge Hill staff and students have access to a modern feature rich system. We hope you like it!

As with any upgrade, you may find some unexpected behaviour– if you do spot any problems please let us know asap so we can investigate and get them resolved for you.

Where can you learn more?

As mentioned in a previous blog post, the LTD team are facilitating an online webinar (via Collaborate) at 2.30pm on Wednesday 24th July. This session will introduce you to what’s new, provide you with an opportunity to ask questions and help you explore where and how to make the most of the new improved system.

Please Feedback

Take your time to explore the upgraded system and let us know what you think.

Contact the Learning Technology Development team to share any queries or comments you have regarding the upgrade or the online webinar– leave a comment below, email ltdsupport@edgehill.ac.uk or call 01695 650754.

Meg Juss, Learning Technology Development Manager

Meg Juss
Learning Technology Development Manager

Learning Services: Learning Technology Development Division