Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Web Conferencing

To: All Faculty
From: Blake Beck

Idaho State University is going to add a new tool for distance education, Web Conferencing.

In the ITRC, we have heard some questions and confusion about the new web conferencing tool ISU is in the process of acquiring. ISU has been working with other institutions of higher ed in the state as well as the Office of the State Board of Education (OSBE) and are very close to acquiring web conferencing for our campus. Some of the questions that are coming up regarding this new tool revolve around a confusion about Blackboard (Bb). Bb is the company that offers the Web Conferencing tool we will be purchasing. Bb is a company that offers several different tools to the education market including their LMS, Bb Learn; their communication tool, Bb Connect; their card service, Bb Transact; their mobile solution, Bb Mobile; and their Web Conferencing tool, Bb Collaborate. All those tools work and are sold independently or bundled. ISU is only purchasing their Web Conferencing tool, Bb Collaborate. This won't change our current LMS, which is Moodle. Moodle will remain the primary means to reach students at a distance with asynchronous education.

Because we are working with other higher education institutions as well as the OSBE, the timing of actually obtaining this tool is not entirely in our control. Thus, we continue to wait for final purchase and access to this tool. Everything seems to be in place now to complete the purchase and gain access within the next 30-45 days. The ITRC and the Provost's office will notify the faculty as soon as this tool becomes available.

Web Conferencing will provide a synchronous teaching means to reach students at the desk top that can also be recorded for asynchronous play back. With the acquisition of a Web Conferencing tool, ISU will have three primary tools for teaching distant students, Video Conferencing, a Learning Management System, and Web Conferencing. Although Video Conferencing and Web Conferencing are both synchronous distance tools, both can be recorded for asynchronous play back by the students at their convenience.

Hopefully this makes clear the various products. The ITRC will support all three means of reaching students at a distance. The brand of the tool is of less importance, and can change over time, than the functionality of the tool. The quality of the education, along with the functionality of the various distance learning tools is what will allow ISU to compete for and reach distance students.

If you have questions about how you can most effectively reach and teach students at a distance, please don't hesitate to contact the ITRC and we can assist you with evaluation of the best tool to meet your needs. Additionally, the ITRC can assist with the development and presentation of content, or instructional design. We can be reached at itrc@isu.edu or 282-5880.

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