Synchronous Session Tips

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Real-Time (Synchronous) Tips for Instructors

The University of Windsor supports two tools for synchronous sessions that can be used for online classes – Blackboard Collaborate Ultra, and MS Teams. We have compiled resources for some common questions and problems such as how to prevent students from taking over a session, or uninvited whiteboard use. Therefore, we are providing a few hints and tips that will hopefully make things easier to manage and provide a better experience for all.

Blackboard (Bb) Collaborate Virtual Classroom Settings

An Ounce of Prevention – Whiteboard, Roles, Settings

Set up Course Room Before Session

You should change a few of the default settings in your room to prevent students from accidentally taking over the session. This step occurs before you are actually in the Course Room and is accessible by clicking the edit circle with three dots. "Edit Circle"

  1. Ensure the default role is set to ‘Participant’, otherwise students will be able to control the session.
  2. Make sure the boxes for ‘Draw on whiteboard and files’ and ‘Allow attendees to join the session using a telephone’ are unchecked.
"Virtual Classroom Settings"
Virtual Classroom Settings (outside session) - click on image to expand
"Settings to change during live session"
My Settings - Session Settings (within the session) - click on image to expand

Keeping the default role as ‘Participant’ gives student-level privileges to non-moderators. Turning off ‘Draw on whiteboard’ prevents students from taking control of the screen and drawing on it, and disabling telephony is important as it doesn’t allow students to dial into the session, which currently uses a US number and will likely lead to large phone bills for students who use it (see image left).

View the 'Collaborate Ultra for Instructors: Accessing Rooms and Recordings, Settings, and Sessions' video (4:02) if you prefer to watch how to set up the classroom settings before going into the room.

About Groups

Setting up and using Break-out rooms in Bb Collaborate can take some practice, but this video (7:57) shows you how to optimize the break-out room options available to make your session interactive or use the Break-out rooms for office hours. Please note that Groups set up in your Blackboard course site, DO NOT translate directly into the Virtual Classroom - Course Room (or any Sessions created). You can enable each group to have their own Blackboard Collaborate Ultra (virtual classroom) tool for their group work, but those groups won't be available to select in the main Virtual Classroom - Course room for break-out rooms.

Changing settings when in the Virtual Classroom

You can also control settings live within the classroom, via the My Settings- Session Settings area (see image right):

Large Class (over 250 students) Tips

"Enabling Large Scale Session Option"
Enable Large Scale Session option

If you have a class of over 250 and you are using the Blackboard Collaborate Virtual Classroom for real-time/live classes, please be aware that there is a 250 seat cap by default, but you can change that to allow up to 500 to enter at once by changing the session settings in your virtual classroom. Here is a short video to help you Set up a "Large Session" in the Virtual Classroom

Some things to know about these large sessions:

  1. You must enable the large class setting in the Session Settings before the class starts and before anyone has entered the room. If you try to change it on the fly, it will not work, and students could be blocked from accessing the room if 250 users are already in the room.
  2. A large class can’t repeat and can’t last longer than 24hrs, so cannot be left open for the term.
  3. By default, all student permissions will be switched off, including the chat. The chat can be re-enabled in the room by the instructor, but cameras and microphones cannot be used.
  4. Breakout rooms are not available to large classes over 250 participants.

Please note that these limitations are similar across all major web conferencing platforms.

Helpful Videos and Articles on Bb Collaborate

If you are an instructor looking for a refresher on the virtual classroom the resources below might help:

Access a full video playlist for instructors on using Collaborate, including videos on:

Accessing rooms and recordings, settings and sessions (4:02);
Recording and Audio and Video (2:54);
Using Chat, Participant Panel and Screen Sharing (4:08);
Various Ways to Use Breakout Rooms (7:57);
Generate Poll and Attendance Report (1:05) and
Large Sessions (over 250 people) (2:30).
  • To enable public access for your recordings, follow the steps listed in the online article on how to Share your Recordings.
  • Access Bb Collaborate instructor Help Pages for more detailed information.

Student Help

If students need help with Blackboard Collaborate, the student tutorial (Virtual Classroom Tutorial) should be on every Blackboard course site for you to direct your student to. Otherwise this short playlist (2 videos) for students on Virtual Classroom might help.

Getting Help - Bb Collaborate

Finally, if you run into any issues, there are a number of places to go to get help.

MS Teams

Whiteboard Settings

"Collaborate on Whiteboard Option"
Collaborate on Whiteboard Option

When starting the whiteboard, there is a prompt to present or collaborate – if you select “Present Whiteboard” this will present others from editing on the whiteboard.

"Give Other Participants the Ability to Edit"
Give Other Participants the Ability to Edit

If you want to give others the ability to edit after presenting, you can click the gear icon in the upper right and select the gear icon in the upper right-hand corner of the whiteboard and toggle the “Other participants can edit” to On.

Scheduled Meeting Settings and Option

An Ounce of Prevention -If you notice students writing on slides or moving them forward, they may have requested control of the instructor’s screen.

By default, everyone in a MS Teams meeting is a presenter. If the session is a scheduled meeting, it would be a good idea for the instructor/organizer to modify the meeting options so participants are attendees – if it is a scheduled meeting (where a calendar invite was sent) instructors can modify this setting through the calendar invite in Outlook or Teams after it has been created. Instructors/organizers can also modify this setting before people start coming into the meeting; if participants are already in the meeting, they have to be adjusted individually.

  • Review this article to find out how to adjust settings and describe the differences between roles such as presenter or attendee.
  • An attendee can always be promoted to presenter mode if they need to present, share their screen, etc. by going to the participant list, clicking the three dots next to the person’s name, and selecting “Make a presenter.”
  • There is also an option when sharing a PowerPoint presentation to allow participants to move through the slides on their own – this does not affect the main slide presentation. To disable this, when sharing the PowerPoint, click the button to “prevent participants from moving through shared presentation on their own” which is done through this setting circled in red below:

"Prevent Participants from Moving Through Shared Presentation"

Up and Coming on the Roadmap – Hard Mute

By the end of September, 2020, is a hard mute option, so organizers can put everyone on hard mute and attendees can’t individually unmute themselves, and a spotlight option, allowing the organizer to lock on an individual video/screen share feed that will be the main video shown to all participants.

Managing Chat

Managing your chat tool is more of a pedagogy situation, not a technology problem and should be addressed through the course ground rules in the syllabus or at the beginning of the live session, student code of conduct or a chat with the instructor & student.

It is not currently possible to disable the chat in a meeting as it is meant to be a collaborative space, and this is no different than a real in person class session with disruptive students or students asking questions that aren’t on topic. There is also the option to remove a disruptive attendee through the participant list (find the name, click the three dots and click remove from meeting).

  • Prepare an attendance log (if follow-up to a disruptive situation is required) before leaving the session by:
  • Clicking or tap the Participants icon on the meeting controls to reveal the right column.
  • From the "Participants" column, click or tap the three-dots icon.
  • A drop-down menu appears. Click or tap Download the attendance list.

Student Help

A good resource to share with students is this Remote Learning with 365 for Students Link.

The article Describes how to log in, download the Teams app (recommended) or use Teams from the web and gives a quick overview on how to access Class Teams, chat etc.

Getting Help

Some of the most common problems IT Services are dealing with regarding Teams involve students not seeing their Team. To sort that out, instructors can enable and activate their course site Team (which maps to their Blackboard course enrolment). To get started, instructors will need to follow the process outlined in the Getting Started by Adding a Team From your Class List Video.

If an instructor has manually added members to a Team (or private channels), they need to ensure the correct students are added. If still experiencing issues, submit a ticket HERE.

Related Articles

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