Guest post: Keep calm and carry on learning! by students @Corran_SHU @abbybutler96 @Matty_Trueman @callum_rooney95

From time to time the unexpected happens and it is not possible for staff or students to get into university. This might be through illness, travel issues or as we are currently experiencing adverse weather.

Over the last week the #beastfromtheeast hit the UK and snow has disrupted travel across the country, meaning many staff and students commuting to university by train or bus have been unable to get to classes or meet with peers for group work.

The SMASH team (Social Media for Academic Studies at Hallam) were scheduled to get together for a planning meeting. Knowing the weather forecast was predicting even more snow and one member had already started going down with a bad cold; it was decided that rather than postpone the meeting, the group would hold an online meeting. This in itself led to a conversation about what space to use and what was required. It seemed a good a idea to share this as a blog post with some tips on getting started.


Here is the guest blog post led by Corran Wood, Abby Butler, Matty Trueman and Callum Rooney, students at Sheffield Hallam University from the Department of Computing.

Getting Started

Equipment

An online gathering can be a text based conversation or also include audio and video by sharing your devices microphone and webcam. In some cases there can be echoing when using audio and to overcome this it is useful to use a headset. Some laptops now come with a built in webcam or you can use a clip on version. If using a smartphone or tablet, both are built in.

Getting prepared

The person leading the online session will need to invite others to the group conversation. In most cases they will need to know the username and in some cases the email address used for this space for each person. (Having the email option is useful to pinpoint individuals where there are others with the same name).

Choosing a space

There are a variety of free tools accessible via the desktop or as an app, as well as tools that can be deployed within a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) hosted by your organisation.  Below you will find a selection that can be used to create a Tutor-led or Student-led online session or group discussion.

 

7 ways to hold an online session with students

  1. Blackboard Collaborate
  2. Google Hangout
  3. Skype
  4. Facebook group
  5. Google Community
  6. Blackboard discussion forum
  7. LinkedIn group

1. Blackboard Collaborate

How it can be used
Blackboard Collaborate is a simple, convenient, and reliable online collaborative learning tool that provides a virtual classroom experience. It allows tutors to engage with students by creating video conference calls, online meetings, file sharing and discussions. Moreover, the ability to collaborate and make real time annotations on documents with the addition of emojis makes this tool a student and tutor friendly application.

How to get started
The maximum number of participants for a session is 25 with up to 400 users in a chat. If it is the first you have used  Collaborate you may have to download the Blackboard Collaborate Launcher. The maximum number of simultaneous talkers is 6. One of the attributes is that the session can be recorded.
Further support

2. Google Hangouts

How it can be used
Google Hangouts is a useful tool that allows users to communicate with each other using video call. Other features include chat and screen sharing. Users can schedule a meeting using Google Calendar and Gmail.

How to get started
You will need to create a Google account and log in; a computer or phone with a camera and microphone (Learn how to use your camera and microphone when you start a video call for the first time); an an internet or data connection. From your phone install the application from the Itunes, Android or Chrome web store. You can use Hangouts to talk with multiple people at the same time. You can send messages in a group conversation with up to 150 people, or have a video call with up to 10 people.
Further support

3. Skype

How it can be used
Skype is similar to Microsoft teams and can be used either via an application or online. Skype allows for individual and group calls through an online chat, video or audio. Telephone numbers can be called or contacts added by username. Skype allows for the sharing of documents and the feature of showing participants individual computer screens which can be useful to show others.

How to get started
Create a Skype account – this can be done using a personal email.
Download the application onto your device or alternatively Skype can be accessed via an online web browser. Add contacts via username or email and get connecting! Up to 25 people can connect in a call.
Further support

4. Facebook Groups

How it can be used
A good tool for group work, chats can be set up in Facebook messenger or a Facebook group can be created (either public or private) for greater variety of usage. A Facebook account is needed but it is not necessary to be friends. Features include: sharing photos, videos, polls and creation of plans.

How to get started
Participants need a Facebook account then someone will need to either set up a group or group chat. 150 people maximum (according to Facebook community).
Further support

5. Google Community

How it can be used
Google Communities is an online platform that allow for the sharing of information whether public or private. They allow for information to be shared, and likes and comments to be added expressing your opinions. This is a shared area to allow for a ‘community’ to be created between individuals.

How to get started
Participants require a Google+ account, from there you can create or search for communities of interest. Once a community has been created, it can be managed by the creator. This includes adding individuals, removing individuals, moderating posts and comments and editing the layout of the community. There is a limit of 30 people joining the community per day. Individuals who join the community can share posts or information, and comment and like other posts and comments.
Further support

6. VLE discussion board

How it can be used
A discussion board known also as a discussion group, discussion forum, message board, is a space where users can leave and respond to messages. This could be in the form of a Q&A, a debate or conversation. Alternatively multimedia such as YouTube video could be added as a focus for questions and discussion.

How to get started
This will differ depending on the VLE used by your organisation. Examples of VLEs include Blackboard, Moodle, PebblePad and Canvas.

7. LinkedIn group

How it can be used
LinkedIn groups enable virtual interaction in a professional environment without the need to be friends with the other participants. LinkedIn members with similar interests can link together and share business and career interests. The main feature is the ability to engage with other members without being connected with them directly.

How to get started
Participants require a LinkedIn account, and the group owner will have to set up the group for other members to contribute. The owner does not have to be connected to those who join the group. The group can have up to 20,000 members, according to the LinkedIn help page.
Further support

 

7 Apps for group discussions

  1. Snapchat
  2. HouseParty
  3. WhatsApp
  4. Slack
  5. Trello
  6. Twitter group DM
  7. RabbitTV

1. SnapChat

How it can be used
Snapchat can be used as a group discussion via private groups. People are able to send snapchat photos and videos as well as images and videos from your phone camera roll. These can be edited with text and emojis etc. Text chat can also be sent in the group. Bitmojis can be used as an individual avatar. Private groups can now have their own story so people are able to post to the story for repetitive viewing. A very quick and easy method of group discussion but messages need to be saved or will disappear in 24 hours.

How to get started
Create a Snapchat account & create a new group. Add accounts through contacts, usernames or local accounts. Maximum number of people is 31 plus your own account.
Further support

2. HouseParty

How it can be used
An application used to host video group discussions with the addition of text input. It can be used regardless of type of device (as long as you have a front camera and can download the application). Groups can be created and the ‘houseparty room’ can be locked so only the invited can enter. Houseparty room links can be shared.

How to get started
Create a Houseparty account & add contacts via link, numbers, username. Add friends to the room or create a group and call the group. Able to pause your video and look at other content on your mobile whilst still on chat through audio. Users can video chat with up to 8 people and are notified when a friend enters the app so you can decide if you want to join or not (without having to decline a call).
Further support

3. WhatsApp

How it can be used
WhatsApp Messenger is a free messaging app that uses your phone’s Internet connection 4G/3G/2G/EDGE or Wi-Fi, to let you message and call friends and family. WhatsApp allows users to send and receive messages, calls, photos, videos, documents, and Voice Messages. This a great tool to use for groups to actively engage and discuss using a variety of multimedia platforms to enhance the experience.

How to get started
To get started simply download the WhatsApp app from the Android, Itunes or Chrome Web Store, it uses your phone number so you don’t have to worry about pins or usernames. It also links with your existing address book allowing you to contact them via WhatsApp.
Further support

4. Trello

How it can be used
Trello is a free online tool that enables participants to manage project tasks though collaborating on a planning board. Groups can engage together and create, update, move and delete task descriptions from different columns. The boards are kept private and participants can only view the boards they are invited to edit.

How to get started
Participants require a Trello account, and the owner of the Trello board adds new members using their email address so they can each contribute. Each Trello board can have unlimited members, and each account can belong to an unlimited number of group boards according to the Trello help page.
Further support

5. Slack

How it can be used
Slack is an acronym for “Searchable Log of All Conversation and Knowledge”. The app allows you to create multiple channels that are either private or public and you can choose to add a purpose to let members know what the channel is about. There is also the option to send a private to direct message to between 2-9 people. This is useful for short conversations that don’t need a whole channel.

How to get started
First, visit slack.com/create to create a new Slack workspace. All you need is an email address that you can access. There are a few ways to give new people access to join a workspace: send them an invitation by email or allow them to signup using their email address.
Further support

6. Rabbit

How it can be used
Rabbit is a free online streaming service, it allows you to share your screen with friends and colleagues from anywhere. Some of the features of Rabbit include: watching videos in-sync, video, voice and message chat’s and browsing the internet.

How to get started
Everyone who uses Rabbit requires an account, one individual creates a ‘room’ which they can add specific individuals (up to 25 people) or leave ‘open’ for anyone to access. Once this room has been created the link for the room can be shared though your Rabbit friend list, Facebook Messenger, Facebook, email or a simple link. When everyone is in the ‘room’ the video, audio and multimedia options can be used.
Further support

7. Twitter Group Direct Message

How it can be used
Direct messages (DM) do not have the 240 character restriction, so can be used to have a detailed threaded conversation. There is an account limit of 1,000 Direct Messages sent per day. Once you reach this limit, you can’t send any more Direct Messages for the day. Within a direct message you can share links, add images, GIFs or emoji.

How to get started
Users need a Twitter account and to be connected. You can start a Group DM session on Twitter at any time by heading to the “Messages” tab. Click the “New Message” icon toward the top of your screen on web, or the speech bubble icon on mobile, and search for the names of people you’d like to add. You can give your group conversation a title.
Further support

We hope this post has been useful and encourages you to try new ways to communicate and collaborate online. If you have additional spaces you recommend please share in the comments.

About Sue Beckingham

A National Teaching Fellow, Educational Developer and Principal Lecturer in Computing with a research interest in the use of social media in higher education.
This entry was posted in Communication tools and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Guest post: Keep calm and carry on learning! by students @Corran_SHU @abbybutler96 @Matty_Trueman @callum_rooney95

  1. Debbaff says:

    Aww..Great post guys … so lovely to see such enthusiasm around online collaborative tools in spades ! (Snow related pun …) Your post has also introduced me to at least two tools that I haven’t yet come across so the learning continues ! Great stuff … I shall go and investigate further ! Thank you 🙂

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