The last few months have certainly been an interesting time for live delivery platforms, not only have we seen the software providers rush to add new features and scaling up systems to meet demand, our experience and practice in delivery through these tools has developed exponentially. In response to the past few months a lot of work has been going on behind the scenes to build on what we’ve learnt and provide the best platforms to support learning and teaching. Whilst there’s further work to be done to deliver these solutions and their accompanying support and guidance, this post aims to provide some clarification on our current position.
As a result of staff feedback collated over the last few months, Zoom will be the recommended platform for delivery of live seminar and lectures sessions. Zoom provides a number of features which surpass the Virtual Classroom including a 300 participant limit, up to 50 breakout rooms, unlimited session lengths and the ability to stream video to your attendees. Zoom is also the best on the market in terms of quality, robustness, cross platform support (including mobile devices), accessibility and user friendly design. It’s a platform that many are already familiar with and one that we are pleased to support as the primary choice for delivery of live teaching.
We’re currently working on the integration with Brightspace which is comparable to the Virtual Classroom experience where both you and your students can access the platform directly from your units. The integration also means that sessions will be automatically added to the Brightspace unit calendar.
In addition Zoom is also integrated with Panopto, so when you record sessions they’ll be automatically added to your unit folder in Panopto from which you can then embed the recorded sessions in your units for students. This provides a consistent video experience for students, and through streaming, allows students to watch recordings securely and cuts out the steps of downloading large video files.
The Zoom/Brightspace integration will be enabled in the coming weeks and released with guidance to help you get started. Further sessions will be available from FLIE to help familiarise yourself with the platform.
Whilst MS Teams is not integrated with Brightspace, fast tracked work from IT Services to transition staff to the Office365 platform really helps join up the dots by embedding MS Teams into the Office tools that we all use on a regular basis. As you’ll already be aware MS Teams has quickly become the go-to tool for staff meetings and clearly demonstrates benefits for learning and teaching. Use of the ‘Teams’ feature within MS Teams provides unique opportunities for collaboration powered by the availability of the Office365 apps which allow students to work together on live documents. And, as the ‘Team’ spaces persist between live sessions, use of the embedded chat helps join up an on-going dialogue for collaborative activities.
We are currently also looking to MS Teams to support 1:1 sessions with students. As Office365 is available to staff and students, this means you can quickly connect with students for private conversations by chat or video.
Whilst Zoom will be the recommended platform for lectures and seminars, MS Teams is now supported and worth considering to support collaborative activities. Further advice and guidance will be developed by FLIE over the coming weeks.
Panopto Live Webcasting
Panopto Live webcasting has its limitations, specifically in terms of interactivity; however, it has no limit on the number of participants per session. So, if you need to deliver a session for over 300 people then this is going to be the recommended platform. Naturally sessions with large audiences do tend to become more ‘broadcast’ in nature, but to help keep students engaged you can supplement Panopto Live Webcasts with tools like Mentimeter and Padlet to bring back some audience participation and co-creation.
The Virtual Classroom has been available in Brightspace since its launch in 2017 and has been our recommendation for lectures and seminars, but now, in light of Zoom and MS Teams we will be discontinuing use of the Virtual Classroom. Our existing license runs up until the 30th September so further details will be available shortly in regards to its decommission. Rest assured, our main aim is to ensure that any sessions that have been saved on this platform can be exported and available from Brightspace for re-use or review if required.
As mentioned, there’s more work to be done in terms of guidance, training and releasing some of these features but if you have any questions then get in touch with the FLIE team via your Faculty Learning Technologist or contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you are enquiring from a Professional Service.