Here are some tips I’d like to share with you on using Blackboard Collaborate™. I’ll be using the term ‘participant’ instead of ‘student’ as I’m promoting the key word ‘collaboration’ here, especially at Higher Education. I’ve 30 in total, but thought I’d share the first 10 with you:
- Loose Privilege Control: Develop a culture of ‘participant-controlled spaces’ i.e. give out more privilege rights i.e. audio/video, chat box, whiteboard and application sharing permissions to all participants from the onset.
- Create a Culture of Dialogical Learning: Tell participants to feel free to jump in at any time and add their ideas to the slides – after all, the aim is to encourage them to populate the white screen with their ideas. Remember, your slides are not sacrosanct! Slides should be interactively and creatively engaged with. Otherwise we’re back to that old parable of pouring new wine into old wineskins or worse, continue to suffer from powerpointitis!
- Model Skills: Show participants how to use the writing tool on the page. I’d advise you do this in your first session to get them used to your style. You could already have a box ready on screen with instructions like:
To type on the page
Select the icon to the left with the A and 3 lines on it.
Place your cursor on the screen &
Type into the box.
This can be especially exciting with larger groups as it encourages inclusive engagement and the sharing of resources throughout the session, not to mention gauge the level of the group.
- Turn your Video On! Take the plunge and put your video permission on in the first session so that participants can actually see whose teaching! You’ll be surprised at how this can increase more personalised learning. Once you scaffold this, invite participants to follow suit and introduce themselves via webcam to ‘unknown faceless others’ so as to build up a trust and an online learning community.
- Identify Expectations: In the first session, invite participants to identify what they think they will learn from the course. This promotes open discussion, cuts through any confusion and kills the prescriptive model of learning early on.
- Ease into Sessions: Encourage free chat in the opening few seconds to ease students into the virtual classroom. Use a public page as a starter to find out a little about them e.g. what they teach, study etc.
- Icebreakers: While participants are waiting for a lesson to start, use an icebreaker to enthuse them to engage e.g. invite them to star pinpoint where they are tuning in from on a slide with a global map (or if only teaching within one country, a map of that)
- Regular Check-ins: Randomly check for understanding and test group dynamics throughout the course by using a public page and ask them to comment on how they think they’re all doing on the course so far.
- Posting Links: Encourage participants to post links throughout the session as a resource base for further exploration. I often revisit these links and then later post them onto the forum for deeper discussion.
- Tweet! Set up a twitter account for the course and tweet regularly to update the group on international practice, blogs and research journals. You could even use this account to serve as an entry point to a particular session.
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