Virtual Classroom & Webconferencing

Web conferencing

Using web-based conferencing tools to synchronously communicate with students is an important component of many online and hybrid courses that can improve the sense of connection, and provide a way to facilitate dialogue. In hybrid classes, it can allow students who are at a distance to connect with the class in real time and communicate to you and their peers.

Most web conferencing tools will allow you to see and hear multiple people in a discussion at the same time, record sessions, draw on a digital whiteboard, present/upload files (PowerPoint, PDF, and images), and share your screen or an application.

There are a number of tools available to facilitate web conferencing for a course or event, and OOL can help you determine the best tool for your specific needs.

Blackboard Collaborate

Blackboard Collaborate is our institutionally supported web conferencing system for teaching. Blackboard Collaborate Ultra is the latest version of this tool, and works across PC, Mac, iOS and Android operating systems. It can be used either from your browser or via the Bb apps. Collaborate is embedded in Blackboard Learn and can be added to your Bb course sites as a tool. While the legacy Collaborate Original experience is still available, we do not recommend using it for most applications. Collaborate provides an easy to use, reliable, teaching-focused web conferencing tool/virtual classroom for you and your students, and can even be used for collaborative meetings outside the classroom.

Microsoft Teams

Teams is the ultimate collaboration tool in O365. Teams brings everything together into one interface that is available as a desktop program, mobile device app, or online in your Internet browser. You can manage and be a memebr of multiple “teams”, allowing you to separate different groups or projects based on who is involved or needs access. A “team” can be divided into subtopics or subprojects using “channels.” For example, you might have a team for your entire department, with separate channels for social events, official announcements, department-wide projects, etc. These can be viewed by anyone in your team, allowing you to keep things organized. Every channel has its own group messaging thread (all communications are instantly on screen), a shared file storage space, and the ability to add various other Office 365 applications directly to the channel. For example, every channel can have a Planner plan built into it to track tasks in different projects. Ultimately, Teams is designed to give you a platform for getting everything done in one place: communication, editing and collaborating on files, sharing information and updates, and more.  

Our office can support your use, provide handy tutorials, and offer training/support.

(Microsoft Teams is being continuously improved, and now supports the display of up to 49 participant cameras in 'grid' or 'theatre mode' layouts. Teams will support up to 1,000 active participants by the end of 2020, and new features for 2020 are : Support for 20,000 'view-only' participants, additional controls to hard-mute participants,automatic break-out rooms, live reactions, refelcting live polls, and more.)

 

Alternative options

Looking for other web conferencing options? If you are looking for some free options, a few of the more popular applications are shown below, with considerations you should keep in mind when using them:

This is an open source web conferencing solution.  If you have a server, you can download the code for free and host it yourself.  You can also try it out for free through their site.

This is a free open source video conferencing solution that does not require an account to use.  Simply specify a name and either share the link or invite people to join.  You can even password-protect the room, so only those you notify can join.

This has both a free plan and premium versions.  The free plan requires you to create an account, but then you can host up to 100 participants for up to 40 minutes at a time. Zoom works across all platforms. Zoom is also a hybrid video and web-conferencing system that can be integrated to traditional video conferencing platforms to allow simultaneous point to point conferencing and web conferencing where some participants are joining online.