Category Archives: Collaborate

Web Conferencing Options

Information Services at the University of Stirling supports the use of two key web conferencing systems, Skype for Business and Blackboard Collaborate. This article talks about each in turn and when you might want to use them.

Skype for Business

Skype for Business is a peer-to-peer communication tool, Microsoft’s business version of the popular Skype communication platform that it acquired in 2011. Skype for Business is part of the Microsoft Office 2013 suite of programs and is thus already installed on all University of Stirling staff computers (you’ll find it in the Programs menu, under Microsoft Office 2013). As it is integrated with Outlook, Skype for Business shows your availability for meetings based on your Outlook calendar, although you may update your availability status in Skype for Business if you wish. It can be used for meetings with other University of Stirling staff, but also for meetings with external persons, who may be invited to join a Skype for Business session by email. Meetings may be scheduled in your Outlook calendar and may be recorded for later revisiting.

Once in the tool, Skype for Business supports online chat, delivery of PowerPoint presentations, application sharing and multiple whiteboard areas. Attachments may also be sent between meeting participants. Attendees of meetings may use all the features of the package.

Skype for Business is ideal for use in communicating with other University of Stirling staff who use it or for communicating with users off campus for meetings in a business context. The wide general use of the sister product Skype means that many users will pick up Skype for Business’ features quickly and anecdotal feedback suggests its audio quality is superior to that of Blackboard Collaborate.

Blackboard Collaborate

Blackboard Collaborate is an online virtual classroom/meeting space that allows users to connect via audio, see each other via webcams, use a chat tool, collaborate on documents and view presentations. It requires an up to date installation of Java on your machine to run effectively.

Its strengths lie in its use as a teaching and learning tool, although it also works well for online meetings. Meetings/teaching sessions may be scheduled using the web-based Blackboard Collaborate Session Administration System (SAS) and users may be sent email invitations with links in, which they then click to join the session at the relevant time. Users may be in one of two roles in the session: Moderator (teacher, chairperson of the meeting) or Participant (student, or meeting attendee). Moderators have privileges to turn the tools and features in Blackboard Collaborate on and off, better to tailor the session to their needs. All users may use a web cam and microphone to communicate, although in larger groups it’s worth knowing that Blackboard Collaborate will only support up to six open web cam and audio feeds at any one time. The Whiteboard area of the display in Blackboard Collaborate allows the session Moderator to do three tasks. First, they may load slides for presentation. The presentation feature allows slides to be annotated to enhance clarity and understanding. The second option is application sharing. This could be used, for example, collaboratively to work on a document, with Moderator handing control over the shared application to other users, so everyone may contribute to building up a resource. Finally, the Moderator may take session attendees on a web tour of a web site. Sessions in Blackboard Collaborate may be recorded for later playback.

Blackboard Collaborate is best used in a teaching and learning context, when a Moderators (presenter) wishes to run a session and have greater control over the other session participants. It has been used with great success in many Master’s programmes, especially in the School of Health Sciences.

For more details on using either Skype for Business or Blackboard Collaborate, please contact your eLD representative:

Microsoft Lync – Guides Available

Staff at the University of Stirling can install and make use of the peer-to-peer communication tool Microsoft Lync. Lync allows communication by audio, video and instant messaging, as well as the recording of sessions and distribution and sharing of content such as PowerPoint presentations. Users familiar with Skype or Blackboard Collaborate may wish to try out Lync to test how it compares for meetings and teaching and learning purposes. Lync is also fully integrated with Outlook, allowing meetings to be scheduled and placed in your work calendar, with invitations sent out by email.

A couple of guides to using this software have recently been created and are housed on a new Microsoft Lync page on the Information Services (IS) web site:

The guides are:

  • Using Microsoft Lync – An Introductory Guide
    This guide is aimed at staff wishing to run basic Microsoft Lync sessions, dealing with installing and setting up the software and how to connect to other staff and communicate with them.
  • Recording in Microsoft Lync
    This guide explains how to record sessions in Microsoft Lync, where the recordings are stored, how to change the location of stored recordings and how to process them through Camtasia Studio and Camtasia Relay in order to add them to a Listen Again page.

Further guides on using Lync are in the pipeline, including a guide on how to make use of the presentation features within the product. Watch this space.

eLearning Forum

The first meeting of the 2014/15 academic year will be on 5th September from 12.30 – 14.00 in the Enterprise Zone (in the Library). There will be a single presentation:

We know lectures don’t work but anyway, here’s a lecture: reflections on opportunities in the 21st Century – Iain Atherton, School of Health Sciences

Iain’s talk discusses an innovate use of Blackboard Collaborate to deliver statistics teaching to post graduates taking the Masters in Research in the School . Come and find out where learning really takes place!

We’ll be starting at 12.30 with lunch. The presentation will start around 13.00.

To register for the event please contact Kirsteen Young  (ext 6876).

eLearning Forum

The second meeting of 2014 will be from 12.30 – 14.00 on Wednesday, 11th June in the Enterprise Zone (in the Library). There are two presentations:

We know lectures don’t work but anyway, here’s a lecture: reflections on opportunities in the 21st Century – Iain Atherton, School of Nursing, Midwifery and Health

Video – Annotations/Crowd Sourcing – Kevin Brosnan & Edward Moran, School of Education, & Derek Robertson, e-Learning Liaison and Development Team

Iain’s talk discusses an innovate use of Blackboard Collaborate to deliver statistics teaching to post graduates taking the Masters in Research in the School. Come and find out where learning really takes place! The second session covers  a system that tracks how students interact with ‘Listen Again’ recordings and a prototype system that allows students and lecturers to make textual annotations on video recordings of teaching practice.

We’ll be starting at 12.30 with lunch. The presentations will start around 13.00. We’re aiming to finish by 14.00.

To register for the event please contact Kirsteen Young  (ext 6876).

New Help Page for Students using Blackboard Collaborate

A new page has been created on the Information Services (IS) web site to provide students with information on the peer-to-peer communication tool Blackboard Collaborate:

If you have students who use Blackboard Collaborate you may want to alert them to this page. It contains a guide to using the package, and also links to the Collaborate web site where users can run tests to check they have a compatible browser and a compatible version of Java installed before trying to run the software.

Teaching Bites

We have organised a series of 1 hour lunchtime sessions on various features of Succeed. The first three are:

12th March: 12.00-13.00: Module Design — Make Your Succeed a Better Place
Building a module in Succeed where the content is easy for the students to navigate is not as straight-forward as it might first appear. This session looks at some easy wins:

  • Using Content Areas affectively
  • Naming Content and the Description area
  • Use of the Table of Content (left-hand menu/navigation)
  • Consistency

19th March: 12.00-13.00: Blackboard Collaborate (Succeed Classroom)
This session will look at the peer-to-peer Conferencing tool Blackboard Collaborate (Succeed Classroom) and how you may use this in your teaching. Collaborate allows a meeting or teaching session to take place online, with audio, video and a working whiteboard area which can be used to share slides, work collaboratively on documents or conduct a web tour. The session will cover the equipment needed to run a Blackboard Collaborate session, how to set a session up, get started and some tips and tricks on its use.

 26th March: 12.00-13.00: Quizzes/Surveys
The session will look at the Tests, Surveys and Pools area of Succeed. Users will be shown how to set up a test or a survey and how to add questions to it. An explanation of the available question types will be given. The session will also cover how to edit the settings for a test or survey so it is made available to the relevant users at the relevant time, including how to set up exceptions for AAA students who require more time to complete their assessments. An explanation will also be given of the question pool, and how to add questions to this pool, and how to select questions from the pool to add to tests and surveys.

To sign-up go into Succeed and then to Learning & Development – My Learning, IT & Information Skills, Succeed Training. Also don’t forget to bring along your sandwiches!

These sessions will be available to remote campuses. To register for remote access please email Simon Booth.

Blackboard Collaborate Update

Blackboard are soon to release an update to their Collaborate web conferencing system. It will be version 12.6, an update from 12.5, released to fix a range of reported issues.

Full details will be available on the Collaborate Support Portal after the release date, 6th February:

Amongst the issues/improvements in the update are:

  • HD cameras now properly recognised as web cam devices
  • Improvements to the Application Sharing package
  • Improvements to the Whiteboard (to eradicate syncing issues on mobile devices and ensure navigation buttons are available at all times)

eLearning Forum: Join in via Collaborate

Tomorrow’s eLearning Forum session on Electronic Marking will be available for users from Highland and Western Isles campuses to view through the Blackboard Collaborate conferencing tool. Here is the link that will take you into the session:

The session starts at 1pm, but we will try to be live in the Collaborate room about 20-30 minutes or so before that. We have tested the sound today and it may be lower than would be ideal, so you will have to boost up your incoming sound as high as possible in Collaborate, but it is usable. Users will be able to post questions to the presenter using the Chat function in Collaborate only. Steve Boulton will pass these questions on to the presenter(s) at the end of their presentations. See you there.

Java Update Issue for Collaborate

The Java update issue (version 7, update 51) which affects use of the Chat Tool and uploads of multiple files to Succeed, can also affect Blackboard Collaborate sessions if those sessions are scheduled using version 11 or version 12 of Blackboard Collaborate. To avoid such problems, please ensure when scheduling a Collaborate session that the most up to date version of Collaborate, version 12.5, is selected in the Default Fields area of the form used to create sessions in the web-based Session Administration System (SAS), as shown below:



Change to URL for Collaborate Session Admin System (SAS)

Blackboard have changed the URL staff need to visit to log into the web-based back end to Collaborate, the Session Administration System (SAS). This is the site where staff can use one of the 10 dedicated accounts to log in and then schedule Blackboard Collaborate sessions for students (or other staff). The new URL is:

Use your existing Blackboard Collaborate SAS School login details to access this site. If you are unsure as to what these are, contact your eLD representative: