Web conferencing allows you to meet with your students synchronously (at the same time) and mimics a face-to-face classroom experience. These are scheduled live online meetings with students using browser-based tools such as Blackboard Collaborate, Microsoft Teams or Zoom. These tools are available to all NIU faculty, staff, and students for free.
Web conferencing tools provide the following teaching and learning capabilities:
real-time multi-point video
voice-over-IP (VOIP) audio
public/private text chat
document or presentation sharing
record, edit, and playback meetings
break out rooms
The above list sounds fairly technical. Here are some examples of what you can do with web conferencing tools:
Have students give live presentations from a distance
Invite a guest speaker to interact with your students
Poll students on their thoughts about a current event
Hold live office hours and use the white board to draw an example of a statistical equation
Demonstrate how to use a software application
Blackboard Collaborate is a web conferencing tool that is available for all faculty to use for credit courses as well as for non-course related purposes. Blackboard Collaborate runs directly in a browser (Google Chrome or Firefox natively; other browsers may require the free Flash plug-in) and sessions can be easily created and managed directly from within any Blackboard course. Students can participate fully in Blackboard Collaborate sessions on their smartphone or tablet using the Blackboard mobile application (faculty can participate in sessions with audio, video, and text chat, with the Blackboard Instructor mobile app, but they cannot present slides from a mobile device at this time).
Blackboard Collaborate has 24/7 technical support at 877-382-2293. The Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning offers workshops for faculty, instructors, teaching assistants, and NIU staff on using Blackboard Collaborate.
Microsoft Teamsis a unified communications tool that allows for persistent 1:1 or group chat, video/audio calls and conferencing, and has integration with the full suite of O365 applications we’ve come to rely upon at NIU.