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

Digital Productivity for Health & Social Care Staff

DPL

This month the Faculty of Health & Social Care (FoHSC) – with the added support of their Senior SOLSTICE Fellow (Laura Taylor) – introduced a brand new resource to provide its staff with the latest in e-learning tools and resources to help deliver ‘technology enhanced learning’ to its students.

The Digital Productivity Lab is a quiet work space for all FoHSC staff that gives access to every available e-learning resource within the institution, including the provision of audio and video peripherals. Located next to the main reception within the faculty building, the lab offers services exclusive to both academic and support staff within the faculty. FoHSC staff can either book the lab to work independently or to schedule private bespoke 1-2-1 sessions with one of their Faculty Learning Technology Development Officers (LTDOs).

The Digital Productivity Lab currently offers all FoHSC staff a shared platform to….

  • …the latest technology enhanced learning software to build engaging and exciting learning resoruces (Panopto, iSpring and Office Mix).
  • …an array of multimedia and HD recording equipment (both audio and video).
  • …iOS & Android mobile devices to plan and develop ‘Bring Your Own Device’ (BYOD) sessions.

To help faculty staff identify key people, places and processes currently in place. Learning Services and Laura Taylor have collaboratively developed a TEL Community reference tool (see below) to support staff who wish to seek support from specific advocates and enablers.

TEL Community FOHSC

Booking*

Bookings* for the lab are managed by the Customer Services Team (CST) and the FoHSC LTDOs within Learning Services.

  • For independent use: Please contact the Customer Services Team (Ext 7050) via the main reception to book the lab.
  • For 1-2-1 LTDO sessions: Appointments can be arranged via email or telephone on the following:

Picture of the authorPeter Beaumont
Learning Technology Development Officer (Undergraduate Programmes)
Ext 7749
Email: beaumonp@edgehill.ac.uk

 

Mark WilcockMark Wilcock
Learning Technology Development Officer (Postgraduate Programmes)
Ext:7069
Email: wilcockm@edgehill.ac.uk

 

* Please contact at least one week in advance to secure your preferred time and date.

Collaborate Ultra: Improved Features

Look who’s talking … 

On Saturday 20th February the web conferencing system, Blackboard Collaborate Ultra will be updated to ensure all Learning Edge users have the latest feature updates and of course to squash those pesky bugs!

Lets dig in to the top 3 improvements:

1) “See who is speaking …”

Microphone icons now appear next to the names of those speaking – outlined below in orange:

c2

 

2) See when you are “On Air”: If others can see your video there will be a small ‘Eye’ icon at the top of your preview window:

 

 

3) Feedback about participants having connectivity issues – visual and text information such as “Joining …” and “Error, redialing …”

 

 

For details about these and all the other improvements – please click here to see the Blackboard’s Release Notes.

David_Callaghan

David Callaghan
Learning Technology Development Officer (FoE)

 

 

 

PS – if you or your students need overview of Ultra here is an excellent series of short screencasts from Blackboard: Collaborating in Blackboard Collaborate.

Collaborate Ultra now available to all courses

Earlier today we upgraded the University’s web-conferencing system, Blackboard Collaborate, to the new, user-friendly, ‘Ultra’ experience.

All 2015 courses have a link from their main menu to the Collaborate system – users simply need to click on the Collaborate button on the left, then Join Room buttons to launch the web conferencing system:

CollaborateTool

Blackboard’s Collaborate Ultra Tutorials provide a good overview of the updated interface. Take a look at this Blackboard Collaborate video to see what it looks like in action.

You can also use Collaborate Ultra as you own ‘Virtual Office’ – to meet with students or colleagues remotely.  Here is a guide and a video showing how to do this:

Support and Guidance

Remember, the Learning Technology Development are always here to help you with your use of technologies – so, whether you are an existing Collaborate user who wants to talk about how the upgrade will affect your current practice, or whether you are a first time user who wants to take advantage of the new Ultra web-conferencing interface, please do get in touch.

David Callaghan
Learning Technology Development Officer

Collaborate to be upgraded on Mon 16th November

We’ve listened to your feedback and will be upgrading the university’s web-conferencing system, Blackboard Collaborate, to a new, user-friendly, ‘Ultra’ experience on Mon 16th November at 2 am.

Improvement Highlights

  • Online sessions can be accessed easily and quickly from within the browser;
  • An intuitive and clutter-free interface;
  • Your course room stays open 24/7 allowing independent student work;
  • Live closed captioning features.

Take a look at this Blackboard Collaborate video to see what it looks like in action.

 

 

Blackboard’s Collaborate Ultra Tutorials provide a good overview of the updated interface and their release notes will tell you more about the Ultra Experience and the Ultra Changes.

Collaborate Briefing

Full details of the upgrade and planned improvements are covered in this Collaborate Upgrade Briefing Document.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Support and Guidance

Remember, the Learning Technology Development division are always here to help you with your use of technologies – so, whether you are an existing Collaborate user who wants to talk about how the upgrade will affect your current practice, or whether you are a first time user who wants to take advantage of the new Ultra web-conferencing interface, please do get in touch.

David Callaghan
Learning Technology Development Officer

Upgrade to our web conferencing tool

Blackboard Collaborate Ultra

Next month LTD will be upgrading our web conferencing system Collaborate Ultra, a faster, easier, and more intuitive system that has been well received during stakeholder testing.

YouTube video of Ultra Here’s a great introductory video from Blackboard that covers most of the features effectively:

Our testers found the system to be very easy to get into and use. Note that as this is an early version of the system some of the features of the current version of Collaborate, such as polling, breakout rooms and support for iPhones and iPads are still in development.  LTD have a handful of ‘Classic’ Collaborate rooms available for users who need to use the earlier version of the system.

All courses from 2015 onward have a link in the course menu to Collaborate, and when the upgrade is complete anyone clicking on those links, staff or student, will be taken to a Collaborate Ultra room.

Please get in touch with us for further information about the Collaborate Ultra upgrade – if you want to use the system with your students now we can create a few of the new types of Collaborate rooms ahead of the general release of the upgrade.

For further help and support on this or any others aspect of Learning Technology, please contact your faculty Learning Technologist.

David Callaghan

Blackboard Collaborate Case Study 2 of 3

Blog 2 Bb Collab Case Study cropLesley Briscoe, Senior Lecturer on the International Midwifery Programme.  Lesley explains in this the second in a series of three video case studies (click to view the first in the series), the challenges of delivering a programme aimed at both conventional students and those accessing the programme online and from overseas.

She goes on to mention the solutions Blackboard Collaborate provided her, the Midwifery Team and the students studying the programme, particularly those attending from all corners of the world.

Lesley’s video outlines her personal experience and the significance that technology can play to instil confidence in developing an online course that is able to deliver all that it promises.

Click the YouTube image below to hear more about Lesley’s experience…LB youtube_player

If you feel inspired by this and other videos in the series and want to learn more about web conferencing (Blackboard Collaborate), your Learning Technologist can help.

In addition, you can access to Blackboard Collaborate training, talk to your Learning Technologist for more information.

Martin Baxter
Martin Baxter
Learning Technology Development Officer

Blackboard Collaborate – Video Case Study 1 of 3

David Callaghan is a Learning Technologist and an Associate Tutor for the Faculty of Education on the Undergraduate Professional DevelopmentStudent participating in an online video conference session. Programme, a blended course – delivered mostly online – via our Blackboard VLE and the Collaborate web conferencing system, with some face to face conference days.  So, he can also practice what he preaches.

Collaborate is used by David and his colleagues for student inductions; it’s also used for tutorials giving an equivalent experience to that of distance learners. The feedback from students indicates that Collaborate has made them feel part of the University community.

David Callaghan Associate Tutor

David’s video tells us how using web conferencing can help create an equitable experience – by bringing students together online they are able to support and challenge each other and build a community of inquiry, as they would do in an on-campus classroom.

Learning Edge Blog Post – Student account:
“The experience for me was absolutely invaluable on every level and absolutely without a doubt was a contributing factor to achieving a first class honours.”

Read more in this blog post: Technologies are an “absolute lifeline” for our students!

If you feel inspired by this and other videos in the series and want to learn more about web conferencing (Blackboard Collaborate), your Learning Technologist can help.

In addition, you can access to Blackboard Collaborate training, talk to your Learning Technologist for more information.

Martin Baxter
Martin Baxter
Learning Technology Development Officer

 

Get your own ‘Quick Hit’ video case study

Celebrate your success with Collaborate

We are creating a series of brief video case studies showcasing the success colleagues have been having with the Collaborate web conferencing system this year.Screen shot of YouTube video player

David Callaghan (also a member of the LTD team) is the first of a number of contributors to get involved from each Faculty (in his case Education).  Click on the YouTube image to see an example of the kind of short videos we are creating.

So, please let us know if you’d like your own case study, and watch out for the series that we’ll be launching in September. Call LTD Support on 01695 650754 or email LTDsupport@edgehill.ac.uk.

Martin Baxter

 

 

Martin Baxter
Learning Technology Development Officer

Engaging learners with Blackboard Collaborate

How the Inclusion Team is using our web conferencing platform to engage students, enhance communication and improve outcomes.

Anne McLoughlin is  the leader of Edge Hill’s dyslexia programme.  The programme is a blended course – mostly online – delivered via our Blackboard VLE and the Collaborate web conferencing system, with some face to face conference days.

I interviewed Anne in September.  This 10 minute recording* is a mini-case study:

[eshare version of the recording and transcript: http://www.eshare.edgehill.ac.uk/5767/]

Here are some highlights:

  • One of the aims of using Collaborate was to give a more engaging experience for remote learners;
  • Sessions delivered with Collaborate are recorded – thus students are able to re-visit the sessions;
  • Collaborate is used for student inductions – with presentations by Learning Services staff;
  • It’s also used for tutorials – attempting to give an equivalent experience to distance students;
  • Issues revolve around students confidence with technology and ‘Java’[2];
  • The Collaborate mobile app has been very reliable;
  • The LTD guides have been useful [3];
  • The support from LTD has been “really good” [4];
  • The feedback from students indicates that Collaborate has made them feel part of the University community.

And, finally, Anne’s advice to staff: “Have a go …, perhaps a small number [of students] to start with, and then just go for it!”  And really finally, Anne’s last word: “I love it …”

BestofTEL_SMALLAnne McLoughlin
Senior Lecturer
Faculty of Education
Professional Development
Extension:  7163
Telephone:  01695 657163
Email: mclougha@edgehill.ac.uk

 

Anne would be pleased to discuss her approach to using Collaborate with anyone at Edge Hill – her contact details are above.

If you have more general questions about the Collaborate service 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 LTDSupport@edgehill.ac.uk or 01695 650754 x7754.

*Note that the recording was made on my mobile phone – illustrating the quality that is possible from a device most of us have in our pockets.


[1] Note that I’m creating a blog post on how to have a virtual office link at the end of your signature – so watch out for that in a few days time – or contact one of the LTD team if you want to do it now.

[2] Blackboard have removed the need for Java in the next version of Collaborate.

[3] We have many guides and resources – here are some that we understand have been very useful to colleagues:

Building and teaching in Learning Edge
Blackboard Collaborate: Audio and Video Equipment (Device Guide and Recommendations)
Planning Collaborate Session: An Overview
Introduction by Blackboard: Collaborate Web Conferencing Online Orientation
The LTD Best of TEL Blogs – such as: Collaborating all over the world

[4] Developing Digital Excellence sessions – such as:
Basic Introduction to Blackboard Collaborate (Student Services Webinar) 22/07/14