Tools for Online Teaching and Collaboration

The information below is meant to supplement the Keep Learning website. CSCF continues to evaluate tools and services and will update this page as appropriate.

Note well: UW strongly recommends using asynchronous content delivery and no time slots will be scheduled for Spring 2020 classes.

Note well: It is currently unclear and being investigated which services support accommodations for learners with disabilities!

Resources and support for creating asynchronous lecture content are also available from the Digital Assets Group. The Centre for Teaching Excellence has recommendations for producing online lectures. Two additional open-source tools are listed below: Open Broadcaster Software for recording and OpenShot Video Editor.

At any time, please contact the CSCF Help Desk at cscfhelp@uwaterloo.ca for technical assistance.

Summary of Recommendations

Different services and their respective integration into UW's overall IT environment lead to different trade-offs. For each of the following scenarios, we can recommended a default service:

All the above are integrated with UW's identity management and single-sign-on. Other scenarios exist or the default service might present technical challenges - thus, other services are also documented below.

Online Meetings in Learn

Our current assumption is that Learn, Bongo, and WebEx are fully accessible in China.

Bongo - Virtual Classroom

Bongo lets you hold live meetings with individual students, groups of students or the entire class (up to 150 students).

Quick steps for Bongo:

  1. Login to Learn
  2. If you see your course on the dashboard, click on it
  3. When your course page loads, from the dropdown menus on the top go to Connect -> Virtual Classroom
  4. Now click the red + in the bottom right corner to set up a classroom
  5. Set up options
    1. Invite students to an online classroom (up to 150 students).
    2. Alternatively, do not invite students, but only record a session for upload (no restrictions on who can view recording).
  6. The host can enter a virtual classroom 10 minutes ahead of its scheduled start.
    1. Go to Actions -> Launch to enter the virtual classroom.
  7. You can upload slides using the blue + in the bottom left corner.
  8. Possible live presentations/interactions during the meeting:
    1. audio and video (video can be used to show physical whiteboard)
    2. slide annotations (an empty slide can be used as virtual whiteboard)
    3. screen sharing
  9. Wait for Bongo to process your recording before it can be viewed. It can take a few minutes to hours, depending on the length of your recording and server busyness. For shorter processing times, split sessions into smaller 15-20 minute chunks. The upper limit for Bongo sessions is stated as 2 hours.

WebEx Meetings

WebEx is an online, live presentation and collaboration tool that shares audio, video, and presentations in a virtual class or meeting room. It is integrated with Learn and can be used instead of Bongo. Recordings can be made of sessions so they can be reviewed later.

WebEx offers clients for download for Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS. However, a web app can also be run in a browser, which includes Firefox and Chrome on Linux. It seems this option is only available when using the direct interface to WebEx: uwaterloo.webex.com, rather than through Learn. WebEx sessions can be scheduled in Learn, but hosted through the direct interface. We have not tested if/how recorded WebEx sessions are presented in Learn.

WebEx offers unlimited cloud recording/storage to registered UW users.

WebEx: Web App Supported Operating Systems and Browsers

Local WebEx documentation (detailed, for "classic" view)

Steps for setting up WebEx on LEARN

Online Collaboration

Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams can be used for online collaboration using chat, audio, video, and screen sharing. It supports 1-to-1 as well as group collaboration. See IST's instructions for using teams. Microsoft says that Google Chrome is fully supported on all platforms including Linux, however for Linux we recommend downloading the Teams desktop application because we have seen issues with the browser version.

In addition to chat, audio, video, and screen sharing, MS Teams provides a shared (multi-party write) whiteboard during online meetings. The shared whiteboard is also available as standalone service. An overview of various content sharing options in Teams meetings is given here.

Undergraduate Students are not yet full members of our Teams installation. To communicate with an undergraduate student, the student must be added as a "guest" to a team (documentation) using their @edu account! Then for a direct call:

  • go to Calls (the left side vertical column);
  • go to Make a call (bottom left);
  • start typing the name/username under Type a name (a list will show up when you start typing);
    • make sure that you are choosing the @edu user;
    • students might be listed with their @uwaterloo.ca identity, but this is currently unavailable to most of them.

Both adding a guest as well as searching for name/username might not complete during the first attempt. Please try several times, if necessary.

WebEx Teams

WebEx Teams is another collaboration service, similar to Microsoft Teams, but with less functionality. We have not tested it much yet. Not all UW employees have accounts, but instructors should have. The main advantage of WebEx Teams is that all undergraduate students have accounts, so communication with undergraduate students should be easier.

Important detail: Students need to log in using their username@uwaterloo.ca identity (not @edu) at both the WebEx Teams login page and UW's SSO page. If a student already has an ongoing @edu SSO session, this need to be terminated first (possibly by browser restart).

Other Tools

Zoom

Zoom is a video conferencing and messaging solution. It tends to be better for classes of 25 or less so you can interact and see the students, but can also be used for larger lectures.

The free "basic" service of Zoom has a 40-minute limit on group meetings with 3 or more participants. 1-to-1 meetings have no limit. Zoom has announced a temporarily lift of the 40-minute group meeting limit in its free service tier for parts of their user base. However, we understand that this offer only applies to K-12 schools and select hardest-hit countries. It does not currently apply to Canada overall or UW.

Note that Zoom cloud recording/storage is only available to paid subscribers and the included storage is limited to 0.5GB or 1GB (depending on plan). Extra storage costs extra.

Check Zoom's settings before your first meeting or class to prevent "zoombombing," where students use Zoom's features to cause disruptions.

Zoom Website

Zoom Cheat Sheet

Zoom for Online Learning Updates

Open Broadcaster Software

OBS is free and open-source software for video recording and live streaming. Versions of OBS are available for Linux, macOS, and Windows. It can be used to pre-record lectures for offline consumption. Multiple audio and video sources can be mixed, including desktop capture.

Live streaming requires a back-end. We can not recommend a live streaming back-end at this time. This is under investigation.

For video recording, the only limitations are the power of your computer and the video delivery tool you want to use.

OBS Quickstart Guide

OBS Main Help Page

OpenShot Video Editor

OpenShot is a free and open-source software for video editing.

Twitch, YouTube, Google Drive

Lesley Istead has an example of using OBS with the Twitch streaming service to deliver lectures live. View Lesley's demo.

Twitch and YouTube are robust and already familiar to students. Twitch stores videos for 14 days. The videos can be exported to YouTube for longer-term storage and to set permissions/visibilty. YouTube provides closed captioning, which improves accessibility.

File sharing services like Google Drive can also be used to store videos for an extended period and share them with students via a secret link.

All these sites are currently inaccessible from China.

A copy of the lecture can be made available on an alternate storage site, like Learn or vault.cs. Learn restricts file uploads to 1GB.

vault.cs

If Learn doesn't meet your needs for video delivery, the vault.cs on-campus cloud storage can be used to share video files with students via a secret link.

To allow videos to be played in web browsers without downloading the entire file, use the MP4 format with H264 video codec and AAC audio codec.

vault.cs User Documentation

Live chat support

Live Support Help Desk Icon