Cardiff University Blackboard
Students and instructors using Cardiff University Learning Central can get the Blackboard Mobile Learn app for free. This will provide access to your modules and content on your mobile device. For more information on the features of the app, go to the Blackboard Mobile site. (Note: you can also connect your device to Cardiff University Wifi).
- Android App: (Download) or search for “Blackboard Mobile Learn” in the Google Play app on your device.
- Apple App: (Download), or search for “Blackboard Mobile Learn” in the iTunes Store app on your device.
Once you have the app installed, open it, search for “Cardiff University”, tap to select and login with your University username and password.
Having used Blackboard Collaborate at another institution, it did not come as a total surprise that a number of students struggled to successfully access the sessions due to technical barriers, most of which were related to the infrastructure of Collaborate but compounded by other factors.
For example, Collaborate relies on Java to launch, and while the exact nature of problems varied, most students who had problems opening Collaborate were accessing from their workplace (local authorities across Wales) or from a work laptop, and restrictions and firewalls prevented many from either installing the Collaborate launcher or opening the necessary ‘meeting.collab’ file for entry into the room.
Nearly all of the students who accessed from the workplace needed the help of their local IT support team; in most cases this helped them resolve problems and get access but a few were still unable to access even with this help. Most students who accessed from home were able to do so without significant problems.
A number of students who had problems claimed to have accessed the Collaborate configuration room successfully beforehand as recommended; this suggests that the Collaborate configuration room might not be as useful as previously thought as a preparatory and diagnostic tool. It may in future be better to ask students to test their computer set-up within Learning Central, possibly using one of the default module rooms.
Running the sessions
The academic who ran the sessions managed to access Collaborate without issue from a number of locations and also was quickly able to grasp the interface and all the main functionality for running sessions. He was also very happy with how the sessions themselves went, with good levels of enthusiasm and engagement from students.
A number of students did not have headsets but still managed to engage well with the session using the text box. Those students who did have headsets mostly managed to set-up their audio and talk in the session without many problems. The student feedback about the sessions themselves was very positive; they appreciated the opportunity to engage in real-time with both their tutor and with fellow students.
The Collaborate sessions were a significant commitment in terms of time; overall, six sessions were facilitated, and although the sessions were scheduled to be an hour each the time commitment for each was closer to two hours, taking into account accessing early to help and welcome students and also running overtime due to late starts (or catching up with students who accessed late). It would have been possible to run fewer sessions but this would have affected levels of participation and, if resulting in larger numbers in each session, may have had an impact on the quality of engagement from students.
There was also a significant amount of time commitment from the project eLearning Officer, though this was overall less than the academic (dependant on scale of student access problems) and largely focused at the start of and prior to each session. This support requirement is crucial when starting to use Collaborate, and having more than one moderator is good practice within a session, particularly at the start. It is hoped that this support requirement may diminish somewhat as a cohort of students become more familiar with Collaborate.
Summary of lessons learned
- The vast majority of students did manage to successfully access Collaborate at some stage. A significant number of students accessed first time without any problems.
- There were a significant number of access problems, of varying severity. There were very few problems once students were inside the Collaborate session (e.g. connection issues, or audio problems).
- It is extremely important for students to check their set-up beforehand, particularly when accessing from a work setting. Ideally this should use a permanent Learning Central room rather than using the general collaborate configuration room.
- Students should be advised that they will need help of their local IT support team if accessing from work PCs or laptops.
- Students should be advised that they should attempt to access Collaborate in plenty of time – at least 15 minutes before the session starts, and for the first time they are using Collaborate half an hour is recommended.
- Students should contact the eLearning Team (and the academic) as soon as possible when having problems accessing Collaborate. For this purpose a ‘Collaborate Access and Troubleshooting’ discussion board should be created within the appropriate Learning Central module, which should be closely monitored prior to a session.
- ‘Overflow’ sessions for students who fail to engage or access should be taken into account when scheduling sessions.