This section provides an overview on delivering and managing your class meetings using pedagogical best practices with technologies supported by the Division of Information Technology (DOIT) and Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning (CITL).
Holding live class meetings best approximates a classroom setting, since students can ask questions and engage in discussion and group work. Students often interact with course content on their own time, so these synchronous sessions offer a sense of belonging to a community of students. Instructors can gauge students’ understanding of the materials through activities such as polling and discussions. It is often easier to give assignment instructions or expand on difficult concepts in person.
Review What will we do in my course? to learn how to design engaging face-to-face classes.
Your course may be fully face-to-face or fully remote. Or you may have both in-person and online audiences, in which some students are in a physical classroom, and the others join by web conference. This hybrid environment is more complex than either wholly online or in-person teaching and requires classroom equipment to enable instruction and interaction between the in-person and remote students.
If students are not on campus, host synchronous class sessions through a web conferencing tool such as Blackboard Collaborate to replicate the face-to-face experience. To increase engagement, live sessions should include more problem-solving and discussions than lectures.
Do not require that students participate live. Students may face challenges due to technology, connectivity, time zones, and other access issues. Therefore, any live class sessions should be recorded to be viewed by students at alternate times.
Emphasize engagement. Online discussions are as important as synchronous instruction to overcome the challenges of flexible teaching. Your course site should emphasize activities that build community among the students (review How will we communicate?) and ask engaging questions.
Blackboard Collaborate is the recommended tool at NIU for holding live class sessions and online office hours. Collaborate is integrated into Blackboard Learn course management system and supports a variety of pedagogies including active learning, lectures, discussion, and group work.
Set up your environment for Collaborate sessions. For optimal meetings, you and your students should have a strong internet connection, a quiet space, headphones, and an external microphone. Lighting should be from the front so that you are not in shadow. In general, you and your students should turn on your cameras for better interaction, however the single most important part of a Collaborate session is audio, so turn off your camera if you have low bandwidth and prioritize having a quiet location.
Watch a video tour. Video: Blackboard Collaborate with the Ultra experience user interface tour shows you Blackboard Collaborate in action.
Getting started with Collaborate. If you have a Blackboard course setup, you and your students already have Blackboard Collaborate access.
Access Collaborate from your Blackboard course. Schedule class meetings from your Blackboard course site so that students can easily find the meeting links. Record your session and recordings will then appear in Blackboard automatically.
Take advantage of Collaborate’s active learning features. Non-verbal feedback options allow students to respond with quick signals to your questions (thumbs up/down, yes/no, etc.). Use breakout groups to sort students into small groups to work on problems or discuss course content. Use polls to gather student input for discussions and get a sense of their knowledge on a topic. Screen sharing allows instructors and students to present content from their computers.
Set up your Collaborate office hours. Use your dedicated Collaborate Course Room for office hours, meetings with advisees, or impromptu help sessions. It has a permanent URL, which you can configure and does not need to be scheduled in advance.
Learn how to use annotation and screen capture. If you wish to record short videos, please refer to the guidelines for creating effective videos.
Flexible Teaching guides were developed by Duke Learning Innovation and adapted for NIU by the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning. They are shared under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.
Are you planning to deliver a hybrid course? Learn more tips for designing and delivering a hybrid class.
Didn’t find what you were looking for? Need more information? Contact the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning (CITL) with your feedback and questions about this resource.
CITL staff are available to answer your questions about Flexible Teaching. Give us a call or text 815-753-0595 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance. You can also schedule an appointment with one of our staff.
View CITL upcoming events to view available upcoming workshops offered or to register.