Supporting Collaboration in Your Face-to-Face Class

Many tools essential to fostering student collaboration in the online and hybrid environments are also useful for supporting collaboration in the face-to-face environment. Most of the tools mentioned here are Blackboard-based, meaning neither you nor the students have to sign up for an account (and remember yet another password).

Class Discussions
Even though students often discuss topics in class, you may find there just isn’t enough time for everyone’s voice to be heard. You may also find that some students are reluctant to speak in front of their peers. One way to provide students with more opportunities to interact with class content and connect with one another is to use a discussion forum in Blackboard.

How to Create a Discussion Forum in Blackboard

Similarly, students could use blogs in Blackboard to share ideas with classmates. As with discussion forums, students can post their ideas and comment on their classmates’ posts.

How to Set up a Blog in Blackboard

Some faculty prefer the way blogs display, so their class discussions take place with this tool rather than with the discussion tool.

Group Projects
Another way to encourage collaboration among students is to provide opportunities for them to work in groups. Blackboard provides quick setup for groups, and allows students to use a number of resources to facilitate their projects. With Groups, you can provide students with their own blog or discussion forum, a wiki where they can build documents together, and a file exchange.

How to Create Groups in Blackboard

Another way to provide a space for groups to work together is to create a class wiki. Wikis encourage shared authorship while allowing you to track individual student participation.

How to Create a Wiki and Check Participation

Some faculty members use wikis to build class resources such as study guides and chapter summaries.

Virtual Meetings
Students who live off-campus may find it difficult to participate in group meetings or come to office hours. Wimba Classroom provides web-conferencing so that students can meet to discuss projects, practice presentations, or attend virtual office hours at a time that’s convenient for you and for them.

How to Add a Wimba Classroom

*Wimba tips:
Create Rooms that provide instructors and students with presentation privileges.
Run the Wimba Wizard prior to entering the Classroom.
Use a headset with a microphone for best audio quality.
Provide students with a guide to the layout of the Wimba classroom, especially if you’d like them to present.

Alternatives to Wimba
Though Wimba is a wonderful tool, it can take a while for students to feel comfortable using it. If you’re considering meeting with students virtually, you may want to give Skype or a try. Both are free and allow easy screen sharing.

Skype requires you to download the tool and create an account, but offers a way to meet with students one-on-one. requires you to download a small file, but does not require you to create an account. Though it does not provide video conferencing, it does allow you to use internet calling and up to 250 people can be in one session. This tool also allows you to share control of your screen with attendees, giving you a lot of flexibility for collaboration.

More Tools
All La Salle University students have access to SkyDrive to store and share documents. This can be especially helpful in handling multiple revisions because students can work on the same document without emailing it back and forth. Students can access SkyDrive via MyLaSalle. Simply direct them to the Tools dropdown in the upper right corner.

If students are preparing a presentation, Prezi may be a good option.This web-based presentation tool allows students to create together in real-time and provides a way for them to map concepts, build dynamic presentations, and share what they’ve done with anyone.

Students can also use web-based whiteboards, such as Scriblink,  to engage in brainstorming, project planning, or to help each other with difficult concepts. Many are free to use and don’t require students to create a new account.

Though third party tools can be helpful, they make it difficult to keep tabs on students. If tracking student activity is important to you, consider using the collaborative tools integrated into Blackboard.

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