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 or Adobe Connect. Both 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
- integrated teleconferencing
- public/private text chat
- shared whiteboard
- document or presentation sharing
- desktop 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 desktop 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 Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center offers workshops for faculty, instructors, teaching assistants, and NIU staff on using Blackboard Collaborate.
Adobe Connect only requires a standard web browser and free Adobe plug-ins to participate in live online meetings. It is also available for all major mobile devices, available within Blackboard or as a stand-alone product for business meetings. Access Adobe Connect with your NIU login credentials at connect.niu.edu.
For technical assistance with Adobe Connect call the NIU Service Desk at 815-753-8100.