Krista Wolcott

  • COLLABORATE REVIEW
  • Krista Wolcott RN, MSN, PhDc
  • Dept. of Nursing, SSU
  • 10/27/14

Project Description

I was co-teaching with Dr. Deborah Roberts for summer session post-licensure course that is fully online (except first day of orientation and introductions). We planned, during spring, to incorporate the use of Blackboard Collaborate in this course for a couple of real-time sessions with the students and take the opportunity to bring a guest to the course at the same time. Students in the course were new to SSU and many were new to online learning, so incorporating this mode was potentially an added challenge for providing support and instruction to get them functioning adequately to participate in a real-time class on Collaborate. However, students adapted as easily to this modality as they did to the remainder of the online style of learning throughout the rest of the course. I had used this platform previously and had idea of some of the potential issues for students to access the platform from their computers, so I developed a set of instructions, including links to practice sessions and tutorials (found on the web) for Blackboard Collaborate. Students were instructed on the basics of accessing the links for the session and given opportunity to access practice sessions with classmates in preparation for the real-time class session. The guest speaker, Dr Roberts and I did a couple of practice sessions, one with Tim Hensel. I initially had added both Dr Roberts and our guest as “facilitators” so they could access the management features, but that didn’t work and I learned that I needed to do it manually after they had logged into the site. Students were instructed to use earpieces to minimize background/ambient sound when they were talking, and this mostly worked. They did have to plan ahead and download the link/shortcut to open the collaborate session. I sent the guest link to our guest speaker, as she didn’t have moodle access. Otherwise, we as teachers, and students were able to access the Collaborate session via moodle links.

(editor's note: Speakers from outside of SSU do not have access to Moodle. They enter directly into Collaborate as they do not have access to log into the SSU system.)

Project Day(s)Execution

The first session went fairly well. I opened the site 15 min before class start time. Several students showed up early to check out their systems and visuals and sound worked fine for those who were there. One student had connectivity issues, I think they were on campus in the library, and wifi is inconsistent there. Our guest speaker used the “white board” to project a power point presentation and engaged the students via the chat box on the main page for comments and responses to discussion points. I had to upload and then forward the slides for her since she didn’t have the facilitator access I had intended for her to have (we figured out afterward how to manually give her the permissions). But it went fine overall. Students were engaged via the chat window, and some chose to also verbally/visually step into the conversation as well, which was good. The platform only allows for a maximum of 6 speakers at a time, so students were instructed to “Click Off” their audio and visual connection unless they were actually speaking to the class. This worked well with students checking in before speaking. For our second session Dr Roberts was the primary facilitator. We tried the breakout rooms for some group discussion and collaboration on an in-class project. This was challenging and wasn’t as smooth as it could have been. See Dr. Robert’s evaluation for specifics on this.

Results

Pluses

It was great to connect in real time with the students and have some “face time” with some of them as well.  Students reported really appreciating the chance to connect “in person” and appreciated the content presented by our guest speaker as well as the modality.  They got good information and were able to ask questions and begin to directly apply the material. This is a feasible option for incorporating guests, and face time into an online course.

Minuses

There were some glitches with sound for some, and the preparation process is essential for all students (and faculty) to learn how to navigate the system from their own computer.  Not every student had taken the opportunity to visit the practice sessions, and it showed.

Challenges/Recommendations

It would  be great to develop some standardized tutorials for students that directly relate to accessing Collaborate through Moodle.  The current available sites for info about Collaborate are generic and confuse students who think that they need to create accounts and have different logins etc.  It would also be great to establish baseline computer requirements that students (and faculty) need for them to use the platform on their computer, in terms of software versions, operating system requirements, Java requirements etc.  We noted that each session required a new “shortcut/link” which confused students who tried to use the first session link to access the second session. Using an earpiece generally works to cut out echoes and the loud squealing that sometimes happens, but not always – and that is very distracting during class. Overall, students gave good feedback about the two sessions we had, and appreciated the opportunities it presented.  I will be using Collaborate again in spring.