What software do I need to teach online?
While Blackboard Learn and its associated tools will work across almost all browsers (except legacy browsers such as Internet Explorer), you may notice slight variations from one browser to the next. Generally, Blackboard is best accessed using the Firefox or Chrome browsers, and while Safari is technically supported, you may notice some loss of functionality with this browser so Firefox and Chrome are also recommended for Mac users. Keeping these browsers up to date with the latest version is important and is one of the first steps to try if you experience any problems. Blackboard provides more information on supported browsers and operating systems which can be accessed on the BlackBoard Help Browser Support page.
All faculty and students at the University of Windsor have access to Microsoft 365 Apps (Microsoft Office 365) and includes: Outlook,Word,Excel,Powerpoint,Teams,OneDrive and more.You can download and install the full client programs for Windows and Mac or use the on-line versions in a web browser. These tools allow for real-time document co-authoring and each user has up to 5TB of OneDrive space.
Files and folders can be shared using OneDrive or the Share button in the apps. Each Blackboard course site has a corresponding group that is automatically synced with the course roster. That group can be used for dynamic sharing of on-line resources and can easily be extended to a Microsoft Team for real time collaboration using meetings and chats. You can get more information here.
Faculty,Staff,and students can install Microsoft Office 365 for free. This service includes up to 5 TB of storage in OneDrive. Visit portal.office.com to download the software or use the online versions which require no additional software installation , and provide 80% of the functionality.
What hardware do I need to teach online?
If you are doing any kind of live online classes, or even live office hours, the quality of sound is very important to the experience. Poor quality sound will impact learning and sense of engagement, so it is worth investing in a device. While most laptops now come with pretty decent in-built microphones and webcams, they are not always the best choice for web conferencing as they speakers and microphone can sometimes cause echo or feedback that makes audio hard to hear for the participants.
Separating the audio inputs and outputs by using a headset and external microphone is the easiest way to achieve this. There are a number of affordable, reliable, and cross-platform compatible headsets that we recommend. The following are affordable and reliable models available online, at Staples, and at Bestbuy.
- Wired – Logitech h540
- Wireless (USB) – Logitech h600
- House of Marley Headphones - bluetooth (wireless)
While you may think you don’t want to be on camera, there are times when being able to see each other can be important, especially when dealing with sensitive topics, or generating enthusiasm for the course and its content. A good quality webcam is a good investment that will last forever, and like headsets, there are also many affordable but reliable and high quality options. Both cameras below are cross-platform compatible, easy to install and use, and record in up to HD quality.
- Logitech c920
- Logitech c615
You might wonder when you would need a web conferencing microphone, and the answer is that they are usually much better microphones to use in delivering live online classes because they are designed to minimise picking up unwanted sounds from the environment around you. An important consideration is that you want to use a USB microphone, rather than one that plugs into the microphone socket on your device. USB powered mics will be more easily recognised by your device, and tend to be more reliable.
There are two main types we recommend - a basic conferencing mic, and one that acts as a speakerphone. Both types are robust and will last forever if looked after.
- MXL AC-404 (USB conferencing microphone)
- MXL AC-406 (USB speakerphone conferencing mic) or the newer AC-424 model
- Jabra Speak 501 USB and bluetooth speakerphone (has the advantage of being wireless)
If you want to record lectures or provide audio feedback to students from home or in your office, or want to create some mini-tutorials with voice over, you might want to invest in a higher quality microphone designed specifically for recording. There are a vast array of good value microphones that will improve your audio recordings. Below are a few we recommend:
- Snowball Ice Blue USB microphone
- Audio-technica ATR2100-USB (or more recent versions)
- MXL Tempo USB condenser Microphone
At times, you may want the freedom to roam around while recording or broadcasting audio. In that case, a wireless USB microphone that has a USB receiver you plug into your laptop and a wireless microphone you either hold or wear is necessary. This is particularly useful if you teach hybrid or flexible classes where some people may be away and others are in the physical classroom.
- Samson Stage XPD1-(There are three versions available – handheld, lavalier (clip to your shirt), and headset style.)