Guest Post by Gus Curran, Ipas Senior Associate, IT Training
Recently, Ipas has seen an explosion of staff purchasing mobile devices for personal use. In fact, when global staff visit the Ipas office here in Chapel Hill, NC, one of the first questions they ask is usually, “can you take me to the Apple store?” Of course, US staff have been using iPhones for some time, and the IT unit is always happy to help them set up their devices (Androids too) so that they can access their email and calendar with no problem. While our IT unit does not officially support iPhones and iPads, our friendly IT staff is always willing to help if time permits.
Blackboard Collaborate’s new mobile feature
So you can imagine the response when I announced that we would offer internal training and workshops on iPhones and iPads thanks to a free app released recently by our friends at Blackboard Collaborate. People were ecstatic! I immediately started hearing stories of people lugging their laptops on short trips or home for the evening for the sole purpose of joining an eRoom session (as we call them at Ipas).
This mobile feature added high value for staff at little or no cost to Ipas, and we decided to promote the feature heavily and help staff make the most of it.
First, we had to upgrade our Blackboard Collaborate rooms to version 12. This free upgrade includes a couple of nice features not available in V 11, including the ability to quickly take away features from participants, such as video or whiteboard rights. This makes grabbing an open microphone much easier. You may remember these features from Elluminate, and now they are back. More importantly, of course, Blackboard Collaborate 12 Enterprise Licenses are mobile ready.
The Blackboard Collaborate support site offers handouts on how to use the applications. You will find them here . (I absolutely love it when someone else does all the work for me!) I posted links to these handouts on our intranet, along with information that moderators will need to know, which you can find here. Only participants can use the mobile apps to attend virtual classroom sessions. Moderators still need to use a PC or Mac.
Once the rooms were upgraded and the materials were ready, we held a Lunch and Learn Brown Bag session to officially launch Blackboard Collaborate Mobile. We invited staff to bring their iPhones and iPads over a lunch hour. IT helped staff download the application from the Apple Store and test it out in a live environment. We had everyone play with the interface and test making smileys, typing in chat, raising hands, all of the participant greatest hits.
So, how is the application?
I can share with you that the iPad version is getting great reviews. Feedback has been very positive. In fact, the interface is very simple to use and intuitive, and many people prefer it over the standard interface on their computer. I have personally participated in several sessions via iPad and the sound quality has been very good, there is very little lag time on audio and the participant tools were easy to find and use. We have briefly tested application sharing on the iPad, and it worked well, but we haven’t done enough testing yet to offer a definitive review.
The iPhone version gets less spectacular reviews. Obviously the smaller screen can be an issue, but if you’re used to using your iPhone a lot you’re probably used to the small screen. The bigger problem is audio. People report that the sound delay can be significant. Participants do hear the audio and see the content, but due to the delay in audio, the content on slides seems off. Already one update to the application has addressed the audio lag, so Blackboard is aware of the issue and working on it, but they aren’t quite there yet. However, when your attendance at a session is mandatory, and you are stuck in an airport or in the field, the iPhone works well enough to allow for participation with just a little frustration.
Overall, people are very happy with the Blackboard Collaborate Mobile Application. Promoting this feature has not added support time to the IT help desk and was relatively simple thanks to the tools provided by the Blackboard Collaborate support site.
Key info before you get started
|iOS Operating System 4.3 and above|
|Apple iPad 2||Certified|
|Apple iPad 3||Certified|
|Apple iPod Touch (4th Generation)||Certified|
|Apple iPhone 4||Certified|
|Apple iPhone 4s||Certified|
*Blackboard Collaborate Mobile Web Conferencing, available in version V12, is included in the license for enterprise and departmental-licensed customers and has already been enabled for these accounts. Mobile is not available for Moderator access, or single room vclass customers. To learn more about licensing, please visit -> http://www.blackboard.com/Platforms/Collaborate/Products/Blackboard-Collaborate/Licensing/Comparison-Chart.aspx
The Blackboard Collaborate licenses included in LINGOs membership have access to the mobile feature. Many LINGOs member agencies have also purchased additional Moderator Access licenses for which Mobile Web Conferencing is not available.
To create a Blackboard Collaborate session with access for mobile users:
- Log into the moderator interface at https://sas.elluminate.com/site/external/myelluminate
- Click the Schedule a Meeting button.
- Click the Default Fields button.
- Fill out the meeting form being sure to change the Version field to 12. (NOTE: If you want all future meetings to automatically use Blackboard Collaborate 12, click the Save as Defaults button).
- Click the Create the Session button.