Teaching Online

We understand that teaching online may be something that is new to you, so we have designed these pages to help with this transition. Take advantage of the support that is available to you from the Digital Learning Team, and any local provision that you may have in place.

Try and keep things simple initially. Use the technology to support your key teaching activities, and ensure you are communicating clearly with your students. Let them know if you’re trying something new, and try to manage expectations by identifying any scheduled activities that cannot be delivered online.

Clarify how students can contact you, and when they should expect a response. Outline to students your expectations in terms of participation with any online activities or live sessions, but it is important to stress that your, and your students health and wellbeing is the first priority.

Page menu:

Related resources:

Check your IT

In preparation, you should make sure that you have access to the following equipment:

  • Laptop or desktop computer
  • Microphone. You may have one built into your computer, but alternative USB headsets/mics are also available.
  • Webcam (optional). An external USB webcam can be used if you do not have anything built in to your computer.
  • Internet access. Whilst not essential, we recommend connecting via a network cable where possible, as WiFi connections may not be as reliable.
  • An up to date web browser. You can use this browser checker to easily check for compatibility with Blackboard.

If you do not have access to appropriate IT equipment, please speak to your line manager in the first instance.

Use the supported and recommended tools

We recommend colleagues use the institutionally supported tools that are described in this guidance. This will enable you to provide a consistent experience for your students, and enable us to provide you with the training and support that you might need.

This is also an opportunity to check your Blackboard course is up to date and designed in-line with the Blackboard First Steps Checklist. Try to ensure that any documents and presentations shared with your students have been created with accessibility principles in mind.

Create asynchronous (recorded) video content

Record using Encore

Record lectures from your home or office with Encore Universal Capture. Universal Capture enables you to record your computer screen, audio (and optional webcam). Encore Universal Capture is available on PC & Macs, and can be downloaded by logging into Encore with your university email address, and clicking the Settings cog > Downloads

                                                                      There is no audio on this recording.

Access our Universal Capture Quick Start Guide for more information. Once published, students will be able to access the recordings from the Encore link within your Blackboard course - just like a lecture capture that’s been recorded in a lecture theatre on campus.

Record using Kaltura Capture

Record content from your home or office with Kaltura Capture. Kaltura Capture can record any combination of screen, video and audio from your computer, and is available on PC & Mac. Access Kaltura Capture by logging into Blackboard, and clicking Tell US & Tools > My Media > Add New > Kaltura Capture. Follow the prompts to start recording. 

Video content can be added anywhere in your Blackboard course where you see the text editor. Click on Mashups > Kaltura Media to insert a video.

Deliver a synchronous (live) session

Live stream using Blackboard Collaborate

Host a session from your office/home using Blackboard Collaborate. Built into Blackboard, Collaborate is an interactive online classroom tool, which enables you to connect with your students, irrespective of geographical location. You can share a presentation, or any content on your screen, as well as audio, webcam and text chat. There is no need to download any extra software to deliver, or participate in a Blackboard Collaborate session. These sessions can also be recorded and made available to view within your Blackboard Course. View our Essentials guide to get started.

By default, Collaborate sessions support up to 250 attendees. You can now create a ‘Large Scale Session’ to allow up to 500 attendees to enter. Please see the Large Scale Sessions guidance page for more information.

Using Breakout Groups during the Collaborate session will allow students to work together in smaller groups.

Share guidance with your students to help them get the most out of your online sessions:

Please note: You must not allow students to download recordings of webinars because of Data Protection. 

For more information, please refer to Elevate's recording taught sessions guidance, which details what departments and teaching staff need to take into consideration to protect students' personal data and meet other legal requirements when making recordings.

If you are using Blackboard Collaborate to deliver a synchronous session for face-to-face and remote-location students in a hybrid teaching model, please see Elevate's guidance on managing teaching for students in different locations.

Deliver a tutorial, supervision, or pastoral support meeting

Interactive session (from your office / home)

Live stream using Blackboard Collaborate. Built into Blackboard, Collaborate is an interactive online classroom tool, which enables you to deliver content to your students, irrespective of geographical location. You can share a presentation, or any content on your screen, as well as audio, webcam and text chat. Students can also be given permission to share content with you. There is no need to download any extra software to deliver, or participate in a Blackboard Collaborate session. View our Essentials guide to get started.

Informal meeting

More informal sessions can be conducted via Google Meet. Invite students by sending the guest link within the session, or schedule meetings within Google Calendar using the ‘Add Conferencing’ button.

Maintain contact and engagement

Enable students to ask questions online

Set up a FAQ Discussion Board within your Blackboard course to enable students to ask any questions, this might help to reduce emails. Ensure that the Discussion Board is clearly placed within your course. Staff and students can contribute to the discussion board asynchronously, and posts can contain text, images and videos. Manage student expectations by letting them know how regularly you will check and respond to messages.

Keep students updated

Use the module announcements to post messages and inform students of any updates to your Blackboard course.

Top 5 webinar tips

1. Interact with your audience

The best webinars are interactive experiences. You can listen and respond to questions in real-time and adjust your presentation to meet their needs.

Be sure to plan interactivity into your session; ask open-ended questions and invite learners to respond in the chat panel, pose questions using the poll functionality or ask learners to contribute to a whiteboard - give your audience frequent opportunities to participate to keep their attention.

If you don’t plan to interact with your audience perhaps a webinar is not the best format? You could record a video or send out slides for learners to review in their own time instead.

2. Get some help with facilitation

It can be really useful to have someone help you facilitate the session. They can monitor the chat stream, handle technical issues and set up any of the interactive exercises that you have planned.

If there is no one around that can help, make sure you build facilitation into your session plan - give students clear joining instructions, explain some of the key functionality on a welcoming slide and build time into your session to look at the chat area and respond to any questions. It’s OK to pause your presentation to address questions - it shows that you are paying attention to your audience.

3. Make a session plan

Creating a plan ahead of the session will help you to plan for those moments of interaction and keep your webinar running to time.

A simple table that outlines who does what and when can ensure your session runs smoothly.

Time Presenter activity Participant activity Facilitator activity

Here is an example plan.

4. Present don’t read

Deliver the session as if you are in the classroom. It can be tempting to read off a script but it will be hard to disguise that you are reading and your participants may start to tune out.

If you sound excited and interested in your content, your participants will pick up on that enthusiasm and pay attention.

5. Focus on the visuals

As your students are going to be looking at their screen for the duration of the presentation, your visual presentation needs to be engaging and relevant.

Even if you plan to use slides in your webinar, start the session by introducing yourself with your webcam on, this will bring an added human dimension to your session.

You can then mix up the presentation between using your webcam, sharing slides and sharing something on your screen.

Aim for 1 minute per slide and vary the slide type, alternating between diagrams, charts, images and bullet points. You can use the annotation tools to highlight key points on the slide.

Top 5 tips for discussion boards

1. Set up a separate discussion board for general chat. This can help to keep your discussion boards on topic and gives your students a place to have the types of conversations they would usually have before and after class.

2. Use an icebreaker discussion so that your students can practice using the discussion functionality. Good icebreakers are easy to engage with, regardless of your existing knowledge.

3. Align your discussion topics directly to the assignments so that students are better motivated to engage with them. Consider providing a selection of discussion questions and let your students choose from amongst them.

4. Don’t think “if I build it, they will come”. If you want social activity to happen you need to foster it. Respond to posts - praise good posts and ask follow-up questions.

5. Provide content that is worth talking about. Controversial ideas, key debates, relevant examples and newsworthy events can all help to get students talking.

Check which students have been active online

Finding out who has accessed a Blackboard Collaborate session

You can view reports from the list of sessions in your Blackboard Collaborate tool.

  1. Find the session you want to see a report on, and select the Session options menu. (Use the Filter by menu to find historical Blackboard Collaborate sessions.)
  2. Select View reports.

Blackboard Collaborate session options menu with View reports highlighted

The report will give you:

  • Date and time of the session
  • Number of attendees and average time in the session across all participants.
  • Participants name (if they accessed as a guest it will show the name they entered when they accessed the room)
  • Time they first joined the room and time they last left the room. If they joined the room more than once you can see this under the Joins column.

Blackboard Collaborate session reports view showing attendees and join times

To the left of this page you are able to export the report as a printable sheet or export the information into a CSV file.

It is not possible at this time to view which attendees have accessed Blackboard Collaborate Session Recordings.

See when individual students have been on a Blackboard course

You can quickly see when a particular student has last accessed your Blackboard course in the Performance Dashboard.

Access this area in the course Control Panel Under Evaluation > Performance Dashboard

Next to each student you will see the date and time they last accessed the course.

Blackboard Performance Dashboard showing when students last accessed a course

Run a report to see when students accessed a Blackboard course

Sometimes you may want a more in depth report on which students have accessed a course.

This is possible using the Course Reports function in Blackboard. Once you have accessed a course:

  1. Go to the control panel then Evaluation > Course Reports.
  2. Find the Overall Summary of User Activity title, click the dropdown arrow and click Run.
  3. NOTE: This report will show: Overall Summary of User Activity displays user activity for all areas of your course, as well as activity dates, times, and days of the week. Use this report to view student access as well as how often course tools are used.

  4. In the next screen select the format to download it in.
  5. Select your start and end dates (Note: You can run reports from the last 90 days)
  6. Select the users you want to report on (hold Ctrl [Command on Mac] to select multiple people)
  7. Click Submit.
  8. The report will run. This may take a few seconds to complete.
  9. Once finished, depending on which format you chose it will either download a file or the report will pop up in a new window.

Help & support

We understand that these approaches will be new for a lot of colleagues. The Digital Learning Helpdesk will be open Monday to Friday, 08.00 - 17.00, and will provide support to help guide you through this transition: digital.learning@sheffield.ac.uk

Scheduled webinars on various aspects of teaching online are scheduled to help teachers through this time, as are half hour one-to-one online Digital Advice slots. For details see below.

Training Sessions and Support