Josh Lund of FITS has uncovered an issue with a class using the Blackboard Collaborate tool (Online Rooms) in D2L.
One of his instructors reported to him that although he was advancing through his slides while talking, the students were only seeing the first slide. The only thing he said was different from previous sessions was that a red border appeared around his slide and was there for the whole session.
Josh did some digging, and it looks like the Follow option was de-selected. When you load slides into the Main Room to show to the class, it opens a popup “Page Explorer” window. You can use this window or close it and use the forward or back arrow keys to navigate, normally. However, in that popup window there is a checkbox marked Follow. Normally this is checked by default, but must have been unchecked accidentally. The documentation he has seen says that the red border is an indication to students that they can freely browse slides (which of course neither they nor the instructor knew at the time). So the instructor was going through his slides as he talked, but of course since the Follow option was off, he was only looking at his own copy and it was not synced to the student view.
The power of a checkbox...
I had a pleasant conversation with Conor Noonan from BlikBook this morning. BlikBook positions itself as “an online platform helping lecturers manage workload and improve student engagement.” Essentially it is a discussion area that can be used by students and academics. It is free to use.
We use Desire2Learn, Blackboard Collaborate (known internally as “Online Rooms”) and Scopia extensively within the College of Business, so there is little impetus to use another platform for discussion and collaboration unless the new platform has these two features:
- Improved ease of use
- Full integration with the Desire2Learn gradebook
My present understanding of the BlikBook value proposition is:
- Increased participation
- Anonymous posting
- “Ownership” (i.e. engagement)
So BlikBook is not a fit for our needs at the moment (we have all that already), but may be of interest to faculty wishing to experiment with new discussion platforms.
BlikBook has a freemium business model. Universities can elect to pay for analytics data and a customized dashboard.
Josh Lund and his colleagues in FITS have some useful advice for those of you using Online Classrooms (Blackboard Collaborate) in Desire2Learn:
When you are running an Online Classrooms session, there is a command to copy breakout whiteboards to the main room. This will bring them in as separate areas under the pull-down box that usually says "public room" in the upper righthand corner of your screen.
For example, you might create three rooms, and the participants each drew on the whiteboard. When copied them back in, they showed up in the menu as Room 1-1, Room 2-1 and Room 3-1. This also means that if they had created additional pages in the whiteboard, they would have been copied in as 2-2, 2-3, etc.
It may be that you have to copy the stuff back in before you close the rooms and bring participants back, so here's the order FITS suggests:
- When participants are ready to return, copy the breakout whiteboards to the main room.
- Then bring back the participants to the main room.
- Finally, close the empty breakout rooms. You should have access to all the whiteboards now.
Josh Lund and his colleagues had an interesting experience trying to get recording files from Online Rooms, as they had assumed that it would generate a downloadable, playable video file like Wimba does. This is not the case, however. The upside is that the archives can be viewed online through a native player by anyone who has access to the room, so they can't be downloaded, which might be good for students viewing group presentations, etc.
There is software available to download that will let you generate a video file and transcripts of text chat, etc. if you do need to. It's available for download free here:
The newest version of Java uses some settings by default that can make it hard for the Collaborate program to start on Macs. If you go to System Preferences, you will see a new icon for the Java Console:
The Java Console will open in a separate window. Go to the Advanced tab and scroll down until you see the following dialogue:
By default, the system is set to prompt the user to accept a .jnlp file, which the Collaborate application does not do, so the classroom doesn’t launch the Java Console and open the room. Change the setting as follows:
This seems to fix the issue, and has worked so far. The file that gets downloaded when you start Online rooms will be automatically triggered to open, which will allow the application to load.
DePaul is launching a new synchronous learning platform called Collaborate during Spring Quarter 2012. If you are interested in potentially holding a synchronous class session in Collaborate, please submit this form to indicate your interest and a representative from Faculty Instructional Technology Services (FITS) will add you to a mailing list to receive updates when training opportunities and documentation become available.