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Blackboard Collaborate’s Live Virtual Classrooms in New Era of Learning


Blackboard Collaborate’s Live Virtual Classrooms in New Era of Learning

Participants can join live sessions from anywhere:

Blackboard, a recognized leader in enterprise technology products for education and training use, is now making its mark in delivering live collaboration for the virtual classroom with Blackboard Collaborate.

Since acquiring the Elluminate and Wimba web conferencing products a couple years back, the company developed the newer product offering Blackboard Collaborate to integrate web, video, and voice conferencing as well as IM features that facilitate live learning anywhere with one product.

To understand the need for virtual classrooms as a platform, the education sector in particular has several broader objectives to contend with.

Cost, class availability, and broader learning objectives:

Facing tough budget constraints, educational organizations are able to deploy virtual classroom learning for far less than traditional brick and mortar costs. Although facilities are not going to be eliminated, capital expansion costs devoted to training spaces or classrooms can be avoided, says Valerie Schreiner, vice president of product management and marketing for the Blackboard Collaborate product.

There are ways to expand class availability at the same time complement needs for distance learning. Essentially, virtual live collaboration can fill a hybrid segment of distance learning that once meant isolation for students. Schreiner explained how expanding the in-class experience to remote attendees works at Babson College. “You can integrate virtual participation using a teacher assistant (TA) to receive questions from remote participants. Instructors can give those participants live attention and the benefit of being close with what’s going on in-class.”

Advancing the development of technology capabilities has also become a means to deliver enhanced education and student services. The student services organizations provide interactive learning and meeting places online for clubs and group activities. Students are motivated among themselves to share information and engage more spontaneously anywhere whether it is on campus or from home.

The learning objectives for today’s tech savvy students also has spurred on access to more technologies used in and out of the classroom. Engaging students in higher learning and innovation skills requiring science, technology, and math are becoming mission critical factors for a new era--the generations growing up with mobile and always connected. Taking advantage of cost effective web-based technologies not only makes economic sense but enables focus on access to programs and resources that can address far reaching outcomes such as a better educated population and better jobs.

Standard technology capabilities:

Learning management systems (LMS) that tracks student attendance, records, and grades as well as provide a platform for scheduling sessions and listing course catalogs fully integrate with Blackboard Collaborate. Whether organizations have deployed separate LMS products or use Blackboard Learn, its own in-house LMS, Blackboard Collaborate has no dependencies on other technologies, other than an Internet connection.

Most educational institutions favor SaaS to minimize equipment costs and overhead costs to manage that equipment. However, on-premise deployments are more useful to regulated or secured environments, such as government defense operations.

Unique teaching and learning design for a higher level of interaction:

The virtual classroom has a main room with global permissions you can imagine to turn on and off the various interactive web conference features, including two-way audio, video, chat, whiteboard, application sharing, and web tour. The instructor can create breakout rooms during the live session to divide participants into teams to work on projects or exercises.

Sychronous learning, sometimes referred as real time, allows everybody to use the interactive whiteboards, to share, point at, and mark up things. Instructors have visibility of each individual’s interaction and still maintain control.

IM is a favorite interactive tool for communication and learning, which can be monitored by the instructor, for example, turning it off until after the lecture. But participants can sprinkle emoticons in IMs and push hand raising icons to get the instructor’s attention.

Asynchronous learning tools include Voice Authoring in various output types (voice authored recording, voice over content, or podcast); Plan for organizing an instructional agenda; and Publish for recording HD video of the sessions. Instructors can record the live sessions as the interactive live experience unfolds--chat, notes, application sharing, polling, and files shared during the live session--and then is able to send out the recorded session link for playback.

The most versatile use of Blackboard Collaborate that meets the needs of today’s students is from a mobile device to join the web conference anywhere - from an email link, calendar invite, or LMS.

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