Going virtual at Mizzou

By Charles Rigdon, Educational Technologies Specialist

Blackboard Collaborate is approaching its two-year anniversary of being implemented at Mizzou. This virtual web conferencing tool is most often used for fully online classes, but it is also popular for group meetings, guest lectures, exam reviews, and office hours. Since introducing it in a pilot phase at Mizzou in 2011, usage has steadily increased on campus. Over the past two months over 2,000 instructors and students have used the tool.

Kerri McBee-Black, from the Department of Textile and Apparel Management, was completely new to web conferencing when she agreed to participate in our pilot in 2011. “I began using Collaborate to accommodate the need for a one-day a week online chat with my class. I was hesitant, initially, with over 90 students enrolled. It has turned out to be a great resource and my students enjoy the flexibility it provides. I have had discussion sections as well as lecture sessions and I have easily managed the students. It is easy to operate and share content with students,” said Kerri, who continues to use Collaborate in her courses.

As many as 95 students were logging into Kerri’s Blackboard Collaborate sessions for these weekly discussions. One of her students, Kerri Williams, states, “Blackboard Collaborate has been a tremendous asset to my learning in TAM 1200. In a large lecture, it can be difficult for everyone’s voice to be heard. The video, audio, and chat technology of BC creates an intimate classroom environment where people are free to ask questions and hold discussions that would normally be interruptive. Overall I believe Blackboard Collaborate in union with lectures creates a balanced, well-rounded learning experience.”

To keep up with our students’ technology trends ET@MO recently enabled support for using Collaborate with mobile devices such as iPhones and iPads. This is a convenient way for students to attend Collaborate sessions on-the-go if they do not have access to a laptop or network connection. Another new feature is the ability to quickly convert recordings to MP3 or MP4 format which allows greater flexibility over when and where the archived sessions can be reviewed.

Blackboard Collaborate is available as a course tool in both Blackboard Learn and Sakai. Instructors can setup as many sessions as they would like and there is no real limit to how many students can be online at once. Instructors can control who has access to the sessions and even invite guest speakers. ET@MO staff can schedule a group or one-on-one overview on using Blackboard Collaborate.