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Collaborate Virtual Classroom

Collaborate is a powerful web-based tool that provides the University community with access to a highly stable virtual classroom, office, and web conferencing facility at no cost to the individual or department.

Collaborate provides synchronous communication and interaction between students and faculty, students and other students, and for any groups who need to work in a flexible web-based platform. This tool eliminates the need to physically be in the same place to learn or collaborate on projects, and provides a more stable, higher quality service than free alternatives such as Skype. The highly flexible virtual classrooms/offices have video and audio capabilities, a whiteboard for sharing presentations and brainstorming, text chatting, breakout rooms, desktop and application sharing tools, web-tours, polling, and even a quizzing module.

Everything that happens in the virtual room can also be recorded so that students and other collaborators can go back and review as needed in a streaming format. Students and instructors can access the virtual classroom and recordings from a link in their CLEW sites, but the software is also flexible enough to be used outside of CLEW for other types of meetings. It also comes with two desktop applications to help instructors plan their lessons using Collaborate, and a simple tool for converting recordings of sessions to other downloadable audio and video formats.

Collaborate is available to all faculty, staff, sessional instructors, GAs and TAs, and students at the University of Windsor. It can also be used to facilitate collaboration, presentations, and other meetings with people from outside the University by sharing a link to the Collaborate room you will be using.

To access Collaborate, users need a computer or mobile device (currently only Apple products are supported) with internet access (it will even work on dial-up connections) and the latest version of Java. For more interactivity, speakers, a microphone, and webcam allow students to interact using video and audio. Collaborate works on Macs (MacOS), PCs (Windows) and Linux-based machines, and with the mobile app (available for download from the Apple App Store. It now also works on iPad 2 and above, iPhone 3 and above, and next generation iPods (4). Android devices are not currently supported, but the application is under development and expected to be released before the end of 2012.

Users access the system from a URL link that is typically placed in CLEW (for classes) or sent to users in an email.

Collaborate is a very flexible tool and it is currently being used on campus for a wide range of purposes, including:

  • Running live distance classes using real-time audio/video;
  • Recording lectures/classes for review or later viewing;
  • As a backup for students and instructors who can’t meet physically for whatever reason;
  • Bringing external experts to campus virtually for classes or other collaborations;
  • Running virtual office hours;
  • Facilitating interaction between distance students and on-campus students;
  • Creating reusable tutorial videos of particular concepts;
  • Facilitating project meetings for students and researchers;
  • Internal and external meetings;
  • Thesis defences or committee meetings;
  • Student presentations;
  • Simulations (such as patient interviews, role plays etc.); and
  • Running webinars or web conferences.

 

Two desktop applications are available free to download and use with Collaborate. These will help you plan your Collaborate sessions and manage recordings.

Plan!

Collaborate Plan! is an easy to use lesson (session) planning tool that comes with our Collaborate licence. It is a desktop application that allows users to prepare and organize all their content for a Collaborate session offline. The tool pulls all files needed for the session, as well as all the activities you want to use, together in the one file that can be uploaded to Collaborate at the start of the session. It is then just a matter of clicking through.

There are a number of advantages of using this tool including that all your resources and actions are together in the one file that can be shared and used or uploaded from any location, and that the planner helps ensure that all the activities make logical sense. It is also flexible enough that you can move around within a session plan or discard it at any time during a session.

Download Collaborate Plan! You will need to register the software after installation but it is free to University of Windsor users.

Publish!

Collaborate Publish! is a simple to use desktop application that allows you to create downloadable versions of your Collaborate recordings. Currently, you can convert Collaborate recordings to the following formats:

  • Audio: MP3/M4A/OGG/WAV
  • Video: MP4/MOV/AVI/FLV/H.264/WMV/MRF

Once converted, these recordings can be uploaded to the UView server for podcasting. See the CTL website [link to: /ctl/podcasting] for more details on podcasting.

Download Collaborate Publish! You will need to register the software after installation but it is free to University of Windsor users.

You can request a Collaborate virtual classroom or office by contacting: Terry Collins (email: tcollins@uwindsor.ca; extension 4836).

For technical assistance, please contact the ITS Helpdesk: email helpdesk@uwindsor.ca or call x4440.

Rooms can be requested for a class, or as your own personal virtual office that can be used for collaborating. Rooms can also be set up for particular events such as web conferences. Please contact Terry to discuss your needs.

 

Support for Collaborate is usually available at the CTL from 8:30-4:30 weekdays. Outside of these hours, please contact the ITS Helpdesk (x4440; email: helpdesk@uwindsor.ca).

You will also find self-help resources on the Collaborate support portal. In the case of an emergency outside of normal support hours (for example, if you are an instructor running a live class at 9pm and cannot connect), Blackboard Collaborate has live telephone support or text chat support 24 hrs/day, 7 days/week. This is a limited service and should not be used during the normal support hours as outlined above.

Collaborate is an externally hosted service and as with other IT tools, has regular maintenance windows when important upgrades and fixes are applied. The normal maintenance window is weekly starting on Saturday evenings from 10pm until 2am Sundays.

During this time, users may experience occasional disruptions and at times, the service will not be available during these hours. Information on any known or planned outages will be available on the ITS homepage in HotNews, and on the CTL website in Announcements.

For more information on Collaborate, contact Nick Baker in the CTL (nbaker@uwindsor.ca or call x4925). Nick can help you determine how Collaborate might be useful for you.

Also check the CTL’s events page for upcoming Collaborate workshops to get you started using the tool.