Online tools, Best practices and FAQs
A page to highlight suggestions and next practices for using online tools.
Online tools best practices, information, and FAQs - The Big 3 Resources
While online tools are ubiquitous and appear easy to use, there are some settings and practices that will make the experience smoother for you and your students or meeting attendees. In this page we will cover the Big 3 of online interaction:
If you are starting from the beginning with online teaching, or need some ideas, we recommend you consult the Keep Teaching site, which will help direct you to a solution that best fits your teaching mode. http://go.illinois.edu/keepteaching
In this period of response to Covid-19, we strongly urge you to consider the student experience when offering anything online. While typically on-campus students are unlikely to be concerned about bandwidth, in these times of everyone working and learning remotely there may be less available bandwidth for the student or for you. Much depends on internet provider caps, shared bandwidth from a provider, or many family members sharing the same connectivity. We are also seeing unprecedented demand for resources from schools across the world, so we ask you to consider best practices for working online. The following suggestions address some of this.
Real time synchronous sessions
Synchronous, real-time class sessions can help a student feel more engaged and connected. These sessions work best for smaller, discussion based sections, rather than for lectures. If you have never taught a large class online, it can be a daunting task at first to balance teaching with responding to student questions and comments.
Much of the academic world has announced they intend to use Zoom to replace face to face learning, so there will be periods of sluggishness or service interruption. To reduce load on the service we offer the following recommendations and best practices.
- Live sessions for lectures and discussion sections MUST meet at the scheduled time listed in the course timetable. You cannot reschedule a lecture time, per the Provost's office.
Best practices for live sessions
- DO NOT share video over a Zoom session, such as playing a YouTube or Kaltura file. Provide the students with a link to the media to let them play it on their own. Our Big 10 peers are reporting this is a significant problem for students on a slower internet connection. It causes their session to slow down or crash. While this may work most of the time for you, in our current state it is highly discouraged.
- Log in via the Illinois Zoom portal at https://illinois.zoom.us/. You have access to a license that allows meetings over 40 minutes. The free version is limited.
- Ask students to mute themselves, or mute all of them as the moderator, while you speak to avoid background noise.
- If you have a TA, have them monitor questions so you can teach.
- Set social norms for the students, asking them to raise a virtual hand and take turns.
- We discourage the use or call in numbers, internet audio calls are more reliable at this time.
- “Enable Join Before Host”. If this is enabled along with “Record the meeting automatically: In the cloud”, you may get several unwanted recordings initiated by those joining the meeting to test the connection outside the normal meeting time.
- Best practices for meetings and sessions: https://answers.uillinois.edu/illinois/91823
Q: An unknown person joined my Zoom session and disrupted my meeting/class. What can I do?
A: Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and include the id of your meeting. make sure your future sessions are password protected. If your session was password protected and this still happened, you can enable "Only authenticated users can join" to your account in Zoom. This will restrict access to only those who log into the Illinois Zoom portal. It will not allow external partners or presenters to join if this setting is enabled for a session.
Q: I tried to schedule a meeting from Compass2g or Moodle but got an error message when I tried to open the Zoom tool.
A: You need to use your licensed account that is linked to your @illinois.edu email address. Log in to https://illinois.zoom.us/
Q: Do I need to require students to log in to the single sign on to use Zoom (via illinois.zoom.us)?
A: It is not required but highly recommended.
Q: If I am recording the Zoom session do I need the consent of the students?
A: You should tell them at the start of every recorded session that you are recording it, and then make sure to password protect the content when it is made available on-demand (through Kaltura or a link in the LMS)
Q: May I record one on one conversations?
A: No, this is not recommended at all.
Q: What tools other than Zoom are available to use for live sessions?
For more detailed Questions and Answers, see the Zoom FAQ page
Asynchronous content is best for lectures and tutorial videos. Recorded content is recommended for classes over 100 students; lectures without discussion; and content the students may need to review again. Asynchronous recordings help instructors because you can create the content when you have time. Recordings benefit the students because they play back better on slower internet connections, and they are useful for students that need to listen at a slower pace, or listen twice to understand the content. When viewing a recorded stream, the student will not miss any content if their internet connection is interrupted. Your recorded content can be posted to password protected pages that only the enrolled students can see.
The supported campus service for video/audio content creation is Kaltura, also known as MediaSpace. MediaSpace is a "You Tube like" portal, but without commercials, and you can restrict content to anyone with a netid or to specific course rosters. If you are using a Compass or Moodle space, you can use Kaltura content in the course shell and avoid the MediaSpace portal.
Best practices for recordings
- Recorded content works best with short form media, less than 5-7 minutes long.
- Try breaking your lectures into shorter segments to hold the attention of students.
- Additionally, if there is a technical error, there is less to re-record.
- Videos uploaded for internet streaming need to be processed, or transcoded. Shorter video files will be available for you to publish sooner than long videos. If you upload a long form video, don't expect it to be available immediately. An hour long lecture may take an hour or more if your connection is slow.
- Long duration recordings may take a significant amount of time to upload, depending on your available internet speeds. The upload may time out and force you to start over.
- Always do a 10 second test to confirm the audio and video settings are working properly. Learning a microphone is on mute or unplugged can be frustrating after you record content.
- Use a good microphone and speak clearly with it close to you. Run a few tests to make sure the audio is clear. Poor audio is frustrating to students.
- Recorded content works best with lecture type content. Screen recording will let you record Powerpoints, PDF, or websites with your voice over the content.
- Consider recording with a camera or desktop capture, but not both at this time. Recording one source will reduce bandwidth requirements for the viewers.
- When recording your desktop, or using a webcam, consider what others will see on your desktop, browser tabs, or on the wall behind you.
- Record content locally and then upload it, no matter what tool you are using to record. If a cloud recording is interrupted, you may lose the content. If you save the recording and upload it later, you have a copy.
- Slower, older computers may not be able to record motion on your screen, or full screen video. If you experience trouble with poor quality screen recordings, consider recording a smaller area of the screen.
- Added March 25, 2020: A handful of students and instructors using xFinity advanced security features have been experiencing errors with Kaltura in Compass. Suggestions for troubleshooting or work-arounds: https://answers.uillinois.edu/illinois/9936
- Updated March 31, 2020: As a result of unprecedented increases in demand for video, we have seen slower upload and processing times with Kaltura. Please expect a longer wait time for uploads and processing of media. Kaltura has added additional resources, but there may still be a backlog. Please also note that your available upload speed and the duration of the video will also impact the amount of time required to upload content to Kaltura. You can check your connection speeds at https://www.speedtest.net/
- Monday and Tuesday are the busiest day of the week for uploads and video playback. If you are able, upload content on Friday or Saturday
- Kaltura has a known backlog of uploads and processing of videos, and have deployed additional resources to address the issue.
Q: Why shouldn't I use YouTube for my lectures?
A: We don’t recommend YouTube for course content for a number of reasons. We
do not have the terms and conditions agreement with Google for YouTube, and the YouTube terms of service effectively declare that they own
the content or rights to it. Additionally they could monetize the content. It is recommended that you restrict access to course content due to copyright clearance and intellectual property concerns as well.
Q: Are any University resources available to help me record lectures?
A: Yes, at this time. Visit http://go.illinois.edu/keepteaching for a complete list. Options include empty classrooms with a camera, studio space, and classrooms equipped with automated lecture capture. You can also email email@example.com to schedule a space. Only a few general assignment classrooms will be open during this time. Several departmental spaces equipped for recording may also be available, check with your local IT support team too. This is subject to change at any point, dependent on guidelines for quarantine.
Q: My class is already scheduled to record in a classroom, will that continue?
A: Check with the team that scheduled the recording. General assignment classroom recordings scheduled prior to 22 March 2020 are cancelled. For Gies, Engineering, or Law, check with your local support.
Q: Unknown users are appearing in my channel or media assets, giving them access to view my content. What should I do?
A: Send a ticket to firstname.lastname@example.org. This issue was reported to Kaltura and a fix will be deployed April 5, and hopefully the issue goes away then.
Learning Management System (LMS)
Different colleges and units recommend specific tools, and we recommend you check with your local support for advice. In general we are directing LAS faculty to Moodle, and Compass 2g (Blackboard Learn) is available to all instructors.
Using an LMS such as Compass or Moodle can make your life easier and help students find course content. Students become frustrated when they cannot find a course web site, but a live course in Compass or Moodle is visible to students when they log in. The course notes and assignments are available in a common location. Videos can be posted so that only your students can see them, without additional work to password protect the media. Even if you only use the LMS to post lecture slides or readings, students will benefit.
Best practices for LMS use
If you need support or have additional questions, contact the Technology Services Help Desk at email@example.com