Teaching with Blackboard Collaborate

Last night, I had my second “Virtual Classroom” session with students from my online graduate course called “E-Learning and Education.” This time, a smaller group of three students from the class and I were able to connect for a videoconferencing session for just over an hour. It was much more successful than last time. We had no audio problems, only one student had difficulties transmitting video, and when another student could not see something on the whiteboard, I could explain why (she was experiencing delay on her whiteboard because the software told me so).

Whew! I was getting a little worried about championing the hybrid approach of using Collaborate to enhance asynchronous discussions in CLEW, the Sakai-based LMS that we currently use at UWindsor. My colleagues Glenn Rideout,Chris Greig and I are trying to use both technologies to teach the three online graduate courses that we are teaching for the first time in the Winter 2013 session. It looks that with some planning and tweaking, I can now see Collaborate enhancing the asynchronous discussion. But I can see how some faculty, especially those who are uncomfortable with integrating technology into their teaching, would get a bit discouraged.

I also use Collaborate in my preservice teaching, mostly to bring in guest lecturers from other institutions. This year, I was able to connect teachers and researchers from University of Toronto: Richard Messina, Dr. Cheryl Ann Madeira, and Michelle Lui. In each case, I had my guest engage my B.Ed. students in an informal conversation about their teaching and/or research experiences in two sections of my class. Inevitably, the first section wound up as the warm up and the second section benefitted from the earlier trial run, as I was able to work out the sound, screen share, powerpoint (with video clip), etc. issues for the second section. I keep trying because I could tell my students about this stuff, but I need to model teaching and troubleshooting with technology and the content is so much more inspiring and compelling coming from teachers who do the same and researchers who work at the cutting edge.

So it’s been very much an iterative process, by which I keep things that are working the way they are and improving things that don’t work, and not getting too discouraged when the technology makes my best laid plans flop. I get frustrated, but I know I can fix most of the technology-related problems, and it’s more of a time thing.


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