Online classes can be taught using either a synchronous (at the same time in a virtual environment) or an asynchronous (on an individual’s schedule) approach. Synchronous teaching requires that all students have access to internet and a device that can connect with the videoconferencing program. OSU faculty have several conferencing tools to choose from. The university has site licenses for BigBlueButton (Conferences in Canvas), Skype for Business, and Microsoft Teams, and several colleges have Zoom available for their faculty. Unless you can confirm that all of your students can participate in a synchronous class, it is strongly recommended that you plan for asynchronous instruction. However, there are other ways you can use videoconferencing tools to engage your students.
Canvas has two built-in videoconferencing tools, Conferences and Teams, that allow you to easily communicate with many students at once. They are both similar to Zoom, WebEx, and GoToMeeting with one important difference: on Canvas you and your students can participate without needing to create separate accounts, logins, and passwords. Everything is built right in to Canvas which makes it easy to get up and going in no time. While these Video Conferencing tools are not designed to replace traditional instruction in a classroom, they both work really well for communicating with, and even teaching, a large group of students.
Conferences and Teams can be used for situations such as:
- Virtual office hours. Instructors can set up a Conference session for students to join and ask questions, share ideas, and get help from the instructor and other students.
- Realtime instruction. The main screen in the Conference interface allows instructors to show a PowerPoint or PDF and navigate through the slides in the same way they would in a traditional classroom setting.
- Screen sharing. The person acting as the Presenter can share his or her screen and show any open programs on their computer. This enables realtime engagement with programs such as Excel, Stata, Photoshop, or any other software.
- Student presentations. The instructor can let students take on the role of Presenter which lets them share a PowerPoint or show their desktop. While presenting, other students can ask questions using audio or by typing questions in the chat window.
- Student interaction. Students can talk with the class or ask questions using their webcams and computer microphones, but Conferences also has a text-based chat which makes this type of interaction much easier for larger classes.
- Virtual Whiteboard. The main screen in the Conferences interface has tools for drawing and typing, which essentially re-creates the whiteboard experience used in many face-to-face classrooms. Instructors can enable a multi-user whiteboard which allows the entire class to collaborate at the same time on the same virtual whiteboard.
- Recording. Conferences can be recorded and viewed for up to 14 days. Any students who are not able to be present for a realtime instruction session can view the video feed. Conferences (Big Blue Button) recordings CANNOT be downloaded, so if you wish to download a video to Canvas for the semester, you should use Microsoft Teams or Zoom.
- Instructor control. During a Conference session the instructor can mute/unmute individual students as well as the entire class.
- Multi device support. Conferences works on laptops, desktops, and mobile devices. It works best with the Google Chrome browser on a laptop or desktop.
To use the Conferences tool, go to a course on Canvas and click on Conferences in the navigation bar on the left side of your screen. If you do not see Conferences, click Settings > Navigation, and click the three-dot icon next to the Conferences tool to enable it. Click +Conference to set up a Conference session, and click the box at the bottom to invite the entire class or check the boxes next to individual students for a smaller Conference session. Click the Update button when your initial parameters are set, and then click the Start button to begin the Conference when you are ready.
To use the Teams tool, click on Pages on your navigation bar and click the +New Page button. Give the Page a title, such as "Online Office Hours" as well as a time and date. Then click the text entry box below the title and select the "More External Tools" button and select "Microsoft Teams Meeting." Sign in with your O-Key and then enter the parameters of your meeting, such as a title and time. Once your meeting is set up a link will be generated which will show up in the text entry box on the Page in Canvas. You and your students can click on this link to start the meeting.