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December 16, 2014

Blackboard Collaborate is Coming!

by SCCC OIT

Want to talk with a student face to face for a virtual office hour? Need to have a lecture online to make up for a snow closing? Want to have a meeting with your peers on another campus without wasting time in the car traveling? Blackboard Collaborate is here to help you with all of this and more.

Blackboard Collaborate can be best described as an online meeting room. Think Face Time, Skype or Microsoft Messenger on steroids. Collaborate essentially has the same functionality as other tools you may have used like Adobe Connect, Web-Ex or Zoom, but much simplified room management using Suffolk Online.

Collaborate has been installed as an integrated tool in Blackboard Learn – our learning management system where online, blended/hybrid and web enabled courses are taught. Each member of our Faculty and Guild has been given a test course in our Development System to allow them to familiarize themselves with how Collaborate works.

Collaborate allows you to work on a whiteboard, display PowerPoint or Keynote presentations and lets you to share your desktop and show the participants what you are doing live. The system permits for those with microphones and cameras to talk to each other ‘face to face.’

You even have the ability to let your students show you what is on their screen – a huge leap forward for anyone working with programming languages, engineering software, visual arts, mathematics and many more disciplines. No more asking the student ‘what does it look like?’ They can show you their work and you can respond to it live and talk the issue through as if you were in a classroom or your office.

Each person has three types of rooms:

A private room for each of your classes. This is used to hold group activities for your class such as lectures, extra help sessions, etc… The room can only be accessed by you and your students from that class.

  1. Your personal room. This is a room that transcends your classes and can be used any time you like for private meetings between you and a student for office hours or to connect with a peer.
  2. A scheduled room. This allows you to arrange a specific meeting in advance for a group of students not necessarily from one class to meet together, or for you to have meetings with colleagues such as a committee who are not in the same location as you.

 

What’s best is you control the rooms yourself. There is no requesting of rooms, times, scheduling or other administrative overhead. You choose what to use and when without needing our help. What you need is, in fact, already there today!

The following is a screen shot that shows what the choices look like when going to Course Tools, then Blackboard Collaborate:

BlackboardCollaborate

You have the ability to record your session(s.) After the session the recording is saved on the Collaborate server and can be made available to students, peers, committees, etc… for viewing at a later date. This is a great feature for students who miss a lecture and would like to catch it later on.

Between January and May the Office of Instructional Technology will offer forty training classes on how to use Collaborate. Class will be held in a lab setting on each campus on a rotating basis. Each Friday afternoon class will be held in the Distance Learning Classrooms so that faculty from all campuses have at least one class per week at their location. Additional classes will be offered over the Summer and Fall of 2015.

A quick breakdown of classes offered follows. All classes will require hands on activities by participants. Each person will use his or her own class in Development to test, learn and play. We recommend that production only be used for live courses and meetings.

 

  1. Blackboard Collaborate Basics. This class will discuss how to launch a room, invite participants, how to effectively use the whiteboard, pre-loading content, recording sessions, interaction tools like voting, how to be sure students are actively participating and general best practices.
  2. Sharing Desktops with Collaborate. This class will show how to display your desktop to students and vice versa. This will include best practices that help you avoid pitfalls and ensure the best collaboration possible. You must complete the Basics class before attending this session.
  3. Using Collaborate from Your Mobile Device. The good news is that participants can use their phones, tablets and any other device that uses the web to participate. Unfortunately presenters cannot yet use their mobile device to run a meeting. You must complete the Basics class before attending this session.

 

Collaborate uses Java to run on your computer. All SCCC Desktops already work with the system. There will be sessions unique to PCs and Macs as these systems run java slightly differently. Either way launching a room is straightforward, easy, and will open the door to a whole new world of live interaction with students on the web.

Collaborate will be installed in our production system over the winter break for your use with classes starting Spring 2015. We recommend that only those with experience and/or training use Collaborate as soon as it is released. We want to provide strong support to make sure you are comfortable using this new tool for instructional purposes. That said, if you really want to use it, we will not prevent that. Only you know how to best run your classroom.

Please be aware that depending on how many Faculty jump in right away, our resources for training and help will be understandably stressed for the first few months. Like the Blackboard Learn rollout, we suggest everyone make use of the Open SUNY Help Desk for first line support. Once everyone has gotten his or her bearings we expect to be able to help by phone and in person much more easily.

Plans are in an early stage for running a pilot group of fully synchronous online courses for Fall 2015. The teaching dynamic is very similar to the existing mode of instruction in the Distance Learning Classrooms. Students will meet on a regular schedule. The difference is that it will be a virtual room, not viewing a remote instructor on televisions at each SCCC campus.

The great positive is that students who have difficulty traveling to and from campus will be able for the very first time to get a live, interactive classroom from any place they have access to the web. We are very excited about the potential this has to improve service to students faced with the financial and time constraints getting to campus.

A separate communication regarding the Pilot will be sent out early in the Spring semester 2015. This will cover the process of course selection, training, development, etc… A good first step for anyone interested is to get training now and to begin working with the tool in your development course(s.)

The Winter/Spring 2015 Collaborate training schedule will be posted just prior to the Christmas break. Registration will work the same as all other Blackboard training using Eventbrite to guarantee you a seat. Please note that seating is limited to provide a strong student/instructor ratio.

We are thrilled to bring this technology to the classroom for our Faculty and Students. Our hope is that it will enable a closer relationship between our online Faculty and Students that results in improved teaching and learning for all.

If anyone has questions about Blackboard Collaborate, please contact Doug Kahn in the Office of Instructional Technology on 451-4575 or by email at kahnd@sunysuffolk.edu .

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