Here are several entry points to prepare you for teaching remotely whether you're new to using Blackboard or if you have been using it for years.
- Give a lecture. If you were planning to share content with your students in the form of an in person lecture, you don't have to scrap your plans. Add your lecture notes to your PowerPoint slides as a low-tech option, or deliver the lecture live using Collaborate Ultra, Blackboard's web conferencing tool and record the presentation so students can review it later.
- Make an announcement. Communication is key - reach all your students via Blackboard Announcements and Qwickly.
- Facilitate a discussion. Foster and facilitate conversations from afar using the Discussion tool. If you're a Collaborate Ultra user, try breakout groups.
- Give a quiz. Check-in on your students' learning with quizzes and other low-stakes (or no-stakes) assessments with Tests and Surveys.
- Share learning materials. Share handouts by uploading them to Blackboard as course content. You can also easily share links to Library resources, web content, videos, and more.
- Be flexible. Be flexible with yourself and your students in the eventuality of a campus shut down. Remember that you and your students "signed up" for a face-to-face class - remote learning may not have been on anyone's mind and the shift will likely be jarring for all of you. Don't try to recreate your classroom in an online environment, and don't expect your students to find their footing immediately. If you're asking students to complete assessments in a new environment, consider making these low-stakes or even no-stakes initially. Give thought to the strictness of your attendance policy in light of a shut-down.
- Communicate. Reach out to your students and let them know what's going on in your class. Above all be transparent. Clearly communicate your expectations and outline what will change and what will stay the same in terms of assignments, due dates, etc. and explain why you're making these changes. Use Qwickly in Blackboard to simplify communication across multiple course sections.
- Prioritize. Identify the most essential elements of your course content and make that the focus of your remote teaching effort. Whether you're creating video lectures, planning a synchronous session in Collaborate Ultra, or translating assignments into an online environment, put your effort into what matters most in students meeting your course outcomes.
- Ask for help. Campus teaching partners and faculty support services will be available in the event that face-to-face classes are canceled. Reach out to the instructional designers and instructional technologists in Learning Technologies. Ask a Librarian. Bookmark this page as your go-to entry point for remote teaching assistance and make yourself familiar with the Learning Technologies Knowledge Base. Browse LT Community topics and post questions of your own.
- Be kind to yourself. Shifting from face-to-face teaching to teaching remotely can be work-intensive and frustrating. Depending on how many new skills, tools, and strategies you decide to take on, your learning curve could range from steep to staggering. Cut yourself some slack and do the best you can. Experiment and be open to something less than perfect. Ask for help when you can and be okay with changing course.
- Remind. You know that communication is key when classes are canceled, but you also know that your students don't check their email. Use Remind, a simple-to-use messaging tool as your first line of communication. Send a message that your students can't miss and direct them to where they need to be (even if that place is email!). [free]
- YuJa. With YuJa, you can record lectures and embed them into Blackboard, create video quizzes, stream live content, and view analytics data to see which students are viewing a video. All video and audio content is automatically captioned, creating a searchable transcript that is accessible and convenient. Check out their helpful video tutorials to get started. [COD login required]
- WAVE: Website Accessibility Evaluation Tool. While Ally is a great tool for assessing if the content items in your course are accessible, it doesn't check everything. What about the content of webpages that you're using in your course (or, gasp, your course page itself)? How do you assess if the contrast is good, you have all images tagged with alt-text, and are properly linking items? Learn more at www.codlearningtech.org.
- Screencast-O-Matic. Making video recording easy with simple, intuitive tools. They have a robust training and tutorial collection to help get you (or your students!). [Free]
- Google Docs. Google Docs is more than just a web-based word processor - it's an easy-to-use tool for real-time collaboration. Expand your toolbox by including Google Hangouts as a tool for office hours or class meetings. [free]
- Use the tool that works for you. Learning Technologies can support you when things go awry in Blackboard Collaborate Ultra, but if you use Zoom all the time, are more comfortable with Hangouts, or know your students are Skype power-users, don't hesitate to turn to those tools. They all have excellent online support in the form of tutorials and guides.
- Get to know your online classroom. Before you invite your students in, take time to get to know the features of the web conferencing tool you're using. Blackboard has a short user interface tour and step-by-step directions for getting started using Collaborate.
- Prepare your students. When you share the link to your online classroom with your students, provide them with as much support as you can. Include links to select Blackboard Collaborate Help tutorials for students; outline the many ways they can join a session; share the Troubleshooting guide with them. Most importantly, be clear about your flexibility - acknowledge that these are unusual circumstances and that you are willing to make accommodations/relax your attendance policies/etc.
- Record your session. Not everyone in your class will be able to attend your online meeting and that's okay. Hit "Record" and Blackboard Collaborate will do the rest for you. Learn how to share that recording from the Knowledge Base.
- Don't panic. Facilitating an online class session can be a little unnerving if you've never done it before (or even if you have!). Things can go wrong that you have no control over. If your students can't hear you, or you can't hear them; if participants keep dropping in and out of the classroom; if you can't remember how to share your screen - let it go. Just proceed as best you can and follow up with your whole class afterward with a synopsis, recording, or old-fashioned PowerPoint slides.
For more tips and tricks, read Mike Maxse's Best Practices for Hosting Engaging Webinars with Blackboard Collaborate Ultra in the Learning Technologies Knowledge Base.
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