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Web-conferencing Best Practices

We have recently transitioned away from using and supporting Bb Collaborate as FSU's web-conferencing tool. As of November 6, 2019, Bb Collaborate is no longer available for use university-wide. However, colleges and/or departments that currently license Bb Collaborate separately will still be able to use the tool. Please contact your department if you are unsure whether you can still use Bb Collaborate. If your college or department does not license Bb Collaborate separately, then we strongly recommend that you use Zoom meetings or Canvas Conferences to facilitate web conferencing instead.

No two ways about it: Both Zoom and Canvas Conferences (BigBlueButton) have a complex feature set. While both web-conferencing tools are fairly intuitive and their functions are easy to pickup quickly, we recommend you allow plenty of familiarization time before your first session -- even if you've used online conferencing/webinar tools before.

On this page, we provide some general tips and best practices based on our testing. For more detailed information about specific features, please review the articles we have developed for the tool you wish to use:

Please keep in mind that in our articles we link out to resources maintained by external groups to ensure that you have the most accurate, up-to-date information as both Canvas Conferences and Zoom receive updates.

Before the Session:

  • Think about why you're using this tool. For synchronous interaction? To demonstrate a process? To allow students to work with each other? Write down a few outcomes or goals to help guide your planning.
  • Start small until you and your students are fully comfortable with the interface and technical operation. Make early sessions ungraded and brief.
  • Have a backup plan. Technologies can fail, and guest speakers may not show up.
  • Be sure everyone is technically prepared: video, audio, and general use of the system. It's also good practice to conduct one or two brief test sessions in advance (you can make these sessions do double duty as office hours, for example).
  • Don't use WiFi without testing it to make sure it can handle the bandwidth and stability requirements. Screen refresh rates and video frame rates may be very low with wireless.

Planning session materials and activities

  • Plan out your content ahead of time: PowerPoint presentation, application tours, quizzes, etc. The more of this you do in advance, the more you'll be able to relax and focus on the interaction itself.
  • Also think about what information or materials you might want to gather from participants in advance, such as assignment files or lists of most important questions.
  • We recommend loading large multimedia files (e.g. YouTube, Kaltura, and other video streaming options) by URL. Keep in mind that it is usually best to have students watch videos independently in advance of your web-conference given the bandwidth that multimedia uses. Or, you can have students watch the video in a separate tab/window during the meeting and then come back to the web-conference window for discussion.
  • Also be cautious about using resource-intensive applications like Prezi during a web-conference. You may experience significant lag with Prezi and some video playback; it might be better to assign such content to be reviewed in advance of the session.

Setting up session parameters and functions

  • Decide which functions you will permit students to use (audio, video, whiteboard, etc.) and web-conferencing preferences in advance.
    • Zoom: Make sure to configure your Zoom user settings if you have not done so already. During your trial run, check to make sure that the settings you have chosen are being applied to your Zoom meetings. Also review our recommendations to prevent your Zoom class session being hijacked.
    • Canvas Conferences: This is not applicable. Your students will only be able to access what you show them or allow them to use as you progress through the session.
  • Zoom only: Make sure to use the Canvas integration of Zoom. Once you have scheduled the Zoom meeting, add a course announcement so that your students know the time and date of the Zoom meeting. We do not recommend sharing your meeting's Join URL because this reduces the security of your meeting.

During The Session

  • Launch the session at least fifteen minutes in advance, especially the first few times you use Zoom or Canvas Conferences.
  • This is an interactive tool, so don't just present, interact. Ask questions, conduct polls, hand the whiteboard over to a student, and get participants involved.
  • Have an extra facilitator (perhaps a TA) stand by to monitor the chat window and help you with questions, especially if you have complex materials that require your attention to be focused on the presentation itself.
  • With large groups, limit the number of active video or audio channels to reduce complexity and distractions. In very large groups, you may want to limit your audience to chat participation only.

Recording sessions

  • Zoom: record to the Zoom cloud. Once your recording is rendered in the Zoom cloud it will automatically be added to your Kaltura account.
  • Make sure all participants are agreeable and ready before starting recording. If you are using Zoom and have opted to automatically start recording, this is not necessary.
  • Arrange windows and applications as necessary before you begin recording (ideally, before participants arrive). Again, f you are using Zoom and have opted to automatically start recording, this time arranging windows may be included
  • Though you can stop and restart recording, we don't generally recommend it.

Using audio and video in the session

  • Address the camera directly to establish eye contact with your audience. Don't look elsewhere and read to them. (You'll have to look away from time to time, but think of the camera as a proxy for your students.)
  • Turn off your microphone and video when not being used for extensive periods because they can be distracting. Don't forget to turn them back on when you want to be seen and heard again.
  • Turn off student audio if not needed. Students sometimes leave their microphones on, allowing distracting noises (dogs barking, etc.). You may wish to manually mute all participants and also uncheck "allow participants to unmute themselves."
  • Also, if video is enabled and you have the video following the speaker, the main video window may switch every time someone with an open microphone coughs or makes a noise. To avoid this, mute all participants and uncheck any "allow participants to unmute themselves" options. If you are using multiple moderators, coordinate with them so that they turn off their video and audio input if they are assisting in a background capacity.

Using text chat

  • Post critical information and URLs to the chat window, since it may be easier for students to refer back to than the whiteboard. Note that in Zoom you can save the whiteboard and share it with your students separately from the meeting recording.

Using the whiteboard

  • Be sure to give participants an opportunity to practice with the whiteboard before using it extensively, especially if they have little or no experience with object-oriented drawing tools.
  • Note that students can only see the currently viewable whiteboard page – if you have multiple pages, only the moderator controls which one is visible.
  • Limit the number of people working on the whiteboard simultaneously to avoid accidental erasures, etc.

Using application/screen sharing

  • Avoid excessive scrolling as you move around, because the recording may be jerky.
  • Use the web-conference menu to switch back out of app sharing.
  • When allowing students to share applications:
    • If a student wants to share his/her application (e.g., Word document, PowerPoint file, Excel file, etc.) to ask questions, unmute the student and give them application/screen sharing permission.
    • If there are multiple students in the session, have them take turns sharing their applications or files for feedback.
    • Remind students to stop sharing the application when they have finished. If they forget to do this, you can manually force them to stop sharing in both Zoom and Conferences.

Using polls

  • Clear results before going on to the next poll.

After the Session

  • In order to render your recording, all participants and hosts must exit the session (you can manually eject them) before the recording will begin to render.
  • After they have rendered (that is, after they have been converted for playback--which may take some time), recorded sessions will be available in different ways depending on which tool you used:
    • Zoom: Recordings saved to the could will be available in the Zoom cloud for 180 days, and they will also be automatically added to your Kaltura account. If you recorded to your local device, review our directions for downloading Zoom recordings. After downloading the recording, you will then need to upload it into Kaltura and share the Kaltura video with with your students.
    • Canvas Conferences:  Recordings will be available for access within the Conferences interface in your Canvas site for 14 days.
  • Recorded Zoom sessions can be reused in other course sites and subsequent semesters via Kaltura.
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