Increasing presence and inspiring collaboration with the new Virtual Meetings tool in Sakai

Students can now collaborate online through the Teaching and Learning Center’s (TLC) new Virtual Meetings tool. Fully integrated into Sakai course sites, it’s easy, reliable, fast and just in time!  It provides a more interactive experience with greater immediacy.  Originally called “Big Blue button”, this tool was developed by a group of engineering students at Ottawa-based Carelton University. The TLC recently adopted it and named it “Virtual Meetings” to better describe its functionality to Sakai users.

Having a virtual meetings tool enhances peer to peer activities and collaboration.  Faculty can hold virtual office hours and ‘just in time’ Q & A sessions prior to homework due dates or exam days.  Students can collaborate on group projects, can conduct private study sessions and give peer reviews. Virtual breakout groups can be conducted during lectures for distance students enrolled in a hybrid course.

What could you do in your class?

Faculty in the School of Nursing were looking for a tool to integrate classroom and online students in group work.

Mandy McKimmy, an earlier adopter of the tool in the School of Nursing, used it not only for students to collaborate virtually on a group assignment in her Family and Primary Care Management III course, but also plans for her 6 distance students to use Virtual Meetings to “virtually breakout” during class to work through a case study and come back to class to present their findings.

Katherine Bradley in the applied Health Care Economics and Finance course in the School of Nursing uses the tool for her students to collaborate on producing a voiceover presentation.  Katherine also holds online office hours once a week where multiple students can join the session to clarify assignments.

Ease of use is key.  The Virtual Meetings tool features include:

  • Webcam: multiple users can share their webcams at the same time.
  • Integrated voiceover: students need only headphones and a microphone to participate.
  • Sharing documents to view: Participants can jointly view documents with each other. Accepted file types are PDFs, image files (.jpeg and .png only) and Microsoft Office Documents (Word, PowerPoint, Excel, etc)

Faculty are welcome to contact their instructional designer to explore incorporating this tool in their course.

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