By now, most of us know what webcasting is and most of us have used it, either to give a presentation or to watch a presentation. Some colleges utilize a program called Blackboard, and within that is a Blackboard Collaborate. Now, I’ve tried to use that in 2 of my previous courses, but never with any success. This semester, I was actually able to see it work (YAY!) and participate in an informal collaboration as well.
There are a lot of neat tools within Blackboard Collaborate: a white screen that allows moderators to write, draw, insert screenshots, share applications such as PowerPoint presentations, even take participants on a “web tour” by entering a url which allows the participants to ‘follow along’ as the moderator guides you through their ‘instruction’. It’s actually quite impressive. Users have the option to participate using video and voice, or if you don’t have video or voice capability, you can type, just as one would with instant messaging. For those who don’t have speakers (what?) captioning is available as well.
I think programs such as Blackboard Collaborate are very useful in an online learning environment, not only for instructors to hold a more ‘personal session’, but for students to work on and share projects they might be working on for a group project (yes, online courses have group projects too!) In a library setting, webcasting programs would be an excellent way for staff to participate in library related discussions or workshops when they can’t make that 100 mile+ trip to attend in person. Software like this would also help students who may not have the capability to “collaborate” from home, but can get to the library to meet up with their classmates online.
After going through the presentation / collaboration the other day, I don’t think I’ll cringe the next time Blackboard Collaborate is brought up as a way of working on a group project.