Reviewed: 02/09/2020

Information about software during Covid-19 situation

During summer of 2020, the team is working hard to ensure that all staff have access to software and training that they will need to teach online in the 20-21 academic year. Please note that work is ongoing and all information on software is subject to change as we adapt to the Covid-19 situation. Software that has been used by the faculty in previous years will still be available wherever possible for teaching in the 20-21 academic year. The university may decide to release software (that is not currently available) to the entire campus  [accurate as of September 2020] or new software may become available as time progresses in this developing situation.

Many of our staff have been asking us: “How am I supposed to know what software I should use?”  To help you to identify the most appropriate software available to you, we are putting on a series of “Digital Teaching Showcases” over the summer.

Software we currently recommend

The eLearning Team uses a variety of software to create interactive learning resources. However, you don’t need to be an experienced technologist to enhance your online teaching. Below you will find a list of tools that can be utilised in your course with minimum training.

If you are interested in expanding the use of technology in your Programme, Course or Community, then please take a look at the training options linked to the tools below. If you need further guidance , please contact the eLearning Team to discuss your requirements or gain training and/or licences.

What do I want to make/doWhat software should I consider?
Content that can be read inside the Blackboard windowBlackboard Items
Text heavy content that appears as a handbook or small website. May include some formative interactive activities.Softchalk
An interactive training guidePowerPoint, iSpring
A live online lecture or small group teaching session with or without interactionBlackboard Collaborate or Zoom, possibly Nearpod
A shared document/area for a group of students to work onWiki
A WikiWiki
Make a video available to my studentsVideo Library Service
Put a video/movie into BlackboardVideo Library Service, using the embed code to add into Blackboard.
Make an online lecturePowerPoint/Lecture Capture System/Blackboard Collaborate
Upload a short talk by me on a specific subjectBlackboard Collaborate

More information

Running online lectures

Online lectures can be broadly split between the categories of “Asynchronous” (recorded) or “Synchronous” (live), though you can also run live lectures with recording for playback later. When recording Live lectures, please note that any Q & A or inter activities that you run will not have the same impact on those who view the recording at a later date.

Live lectures can be run via Blackboard Collaborate or Zoom, both come with options for sharing video, sound, chat and some levels of interactivity such as polling. In testing we find that Blackboard is easier to integrate into a Blackboard course and to provide your students access, whereas Zoom tends to be a little better when working with lower bandwidths.

Recorded lectures can be initially recorded via Blackboard Collaborate or Zoom, just as with live lectures; however you don’t have the freedom to edit the final recording as much as you might like. Therefore it can sometimes be better to use PowerPoint to record narration against your slides where you need it and give yourself the opportunity to do it one bit at a time.

For those of you who are more adventurous with technology, you can make your own videos to post online using software covered in our Training section.

Some members of our Academic staff have mentioned that they would be happy (when campus re-opens) to attend an empty lecture theatre and simply record the lecture as normal. While this may be the easiest option for some, we do not currently have any advice on this method, as it is unclear when the campus will re-open.

To get started with arranging your online lectures, we suggest looking at our Showcases and training pages.

Creating textual content

You may wish to deliver your content as textual content for students to read; there are several options to choose from:

Where your content will be delivered solely in Blackboard, we recommend Blackboard Items, but looking into some more of the advanced options to make sure that your content looks good and is well-organised.

Where your content should not be viewed within a Blackboard window, or is acting as a basic teaching handbook (like a lab handbook) or requires some formative activities, we recommend Softchalk, as this has a simple editor that includes several options for small interactive activities.

For Programme Directors or Programme Administrators, you may wish to create a fully online informational handbook. In these cases we recommend you contact the team to discuss your needs and to see if you qualify to be added to the Faculty’s Handbook WordPress site. Training is available where needed.

What is a Wiki?

A Wiki is an online space (single page or multiple interlinked pages) that can be created and edited by multiple people through a web browser.

Effectively, it is like sharing an online document that everyone has rights to edit. One of the most well known “Wikis” is “Wikipedia”, where users from across the world add and edit pages on thousands of subjects constantly, in order to maintain an up-to-date online encyclopaedia.

Just like all technologies that allow multiple users to make changes to information, a Wiki should be monitored to ensure that users are not adding false information. However in most cases, Wikis also contain the abilities to track who is making changes.

Blackboard contains its own Wiki tool that you can use in your courses. You can add one to your Blackboard course by using the link in the “Add Content Link” menu.

How can you use a Wiki in teaching? One academic used a Wiki in his Contact Lens course where students were each tasked with contributing to their own online text book as part of a piece of assessed work (200 words). They can also be used for group work, as it will allow each member of the group to easily edit a shared document.

Creating interactive resources

Many people ask for “interactive” resources but don’t really know what they want. Others think that such things are extremely difficult to make with a lot of complex software to learn. In most of these cases, people just don’t know what they already have at their fingertips. Enter… PowerPoint.

PowerPoint is not just a tool used for presenting content. It contains a wide array of functions that enable teachers to create quite in-depth interactive resources.

We are splitting our interactive resources information and training into 3:

  1. Resources which are primarily narrated slides
  2. Resources which have clickable buttons or animations
  3. OR Resources with inbuilt questions that need to report some scores into Blackboard.

To get started, just begin in PowerPoint, take a look at our training and (if needed) book onto one of our training sessions.

Hosting online videos for your courses

The Video Portal is an area on the University website where video clips and movies can be stored and then shared. Much like “YouTube”, the clips added to this area can be integrated into your Blackboard pages using a small piece of “embed” code into your content web page.

Videos/movie clips can be uploaded in a variety of formats and then viewed by the majority of users without the need for additional software. The service also gives you the options to restrict the clip to UoM/Faculty use, or make it available to the general public.