Web Conferencing :: Session Planning Tips for Moderators

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Ahead of Time

Learn the Technology

  • Blackboard Collaborate is not something you can just pick up and figure out as you go. Learn how to make the technology work for you and enhance your sessions, or you'll just be giving yet another flat slide presentation
  • Live training sessions are available on the Blackboard website, using the software itself. This enables you to experience the software as your participants would and learn how to use it from within the application itself.

Sketch It Out

  • Establish your goals. Defining goals at the beginning of the process will help you to stay focused on what is important and save time in preparing your session.
  • Plan and storyboard your session based on your goals so you get a good sense of what you have and what you need. A solid plan will help you to review the overall flow of your session and allow you to make big-picture changes as needed.

Prepare Your Content

  • Make sure the content you create is easy to see. Keep background templates simple so that they don't distract from the content you want to share. For example, it's usually a good idea to avoid gradient colors in the background.
  • Use a font type and size that is easy to read, no smaller than a 12 point standard font such as Arial, Verdana, or Times New Roman
  • Use visuals whenever possible, especially for complex processes or procedures
  • Avoid slide after slide of bulleted lists. Switch around between graphics, questions, polls, quizzes, even games.
  • Insert quizzes or surveys during your session.
  • Remember that, when your slides are loaded onto the whiteboard, they are converted into static images, so all transitions, animations and links will be lost. If you want to show only one bullet at a time, you'll need one slide for each bullet. You can use the Web Tour option to bring up a website separately from the whiteboard presentation.

Keep It Simple (At Least at First)

  • Blackboard Collaborate is a powerful application with a rich set of communication tools. Be aware that every additional tool you use during your session will require additional preparation on your part, as well as vigilance during the session to ensure that the technology is working properly for moderators and participants alike. There's no harm in using only the most basic features for your initial session(s) and adding others as you and your participants grow more comfortable with the platform.

It’s Showtime

Before You Start

  • Both presenter and driver should complete Blackboard Collaborate's live online training.
  • The presenter needs to use a good-quality USB headset and microphone. Plug in the headset before logging in to the application.
  • Reserve adequate time for testing before you open up the session for participants
  • Confirm that the computer you plan to use to access the session meets the minimum system requirements.
  • Perform the one-time set-up on the computer you plan to use for the session. 
  • Review the orientation materials to become familiar with the platform's features.

Make It Interactive

There are many ways to liven up your session through interactivity with participants and engaging presentation techniques. Design your content and create the presentations to include interactivity and variety to engage all types of learners (visual, auditory, kinesthetic, etc.). Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Include a picture of yourself on the title slide so your participants can put a face to your name
  • Avoid text-heavy slides
  • Use quality graphics to enhance your oral content
  • Use polls to help determine the direction of the session
  • Use the whiteboard tools for cooperative markup of an image
  • Take participants on a guided tour of an application, database, website, or anything else that you can show from your desktop
  • Encourage participants to interact with each other using text chat and break-out rooms
  • Insert short Q&A sessions through either audio or text chat

Work with a "Driver"

A "driver" serves as an extra set of hands during a web conference, facilitating the event from an administrative and technical perspective so the moderator can focus on delivering the content. Anyone who has completed Blackboard Collaborate's online training can be a driver. While it is not essential to include a driver in a web conference, it is strongly recommended. It's a good idea for the driver to be in the same physical location as the moderator for the first few sessions. Driver roles include:

  • Monitoring the text chat area and responding to non-content specific questions
  • Relating content-specific questions to the moderator and/or appropriate presenter
  • Assisting participants having technical difficulties one-on-one 
  • Driving certain functions of the software during the event

During the Session

  • Wireless connectivity should be avoided when possible to minimize dropped connections
  • Upload your slides rather than using app share to preserve bandwidth.
  • Don't use the webcam for long periods for the same reason; restrict its use to community-building during introductions and for Q and A.
  • Some microphones have a small pick-up range, so in a class session with a guest visiting virtually, the driver or faculty may need to facilitate the discussion by repeating questions and/or prompting the guest speaker.
  • If you plan to share a web site that is password-protected, app share that browser rather than do a web tour. Web tour will not let the end user see the site even if the moderator has logged in, but app share will.