Deliver engaging and inclusive virtual classes using technology supported by the University.
Virtual classrooms offer synchronous (live) video and audio interactions between students and teachers for learning online. They include a variety of tools, such as breakout groups and text chat, to create engaging learning experiences that can be integrated with asynchronous learning activities. There are three platforms available for teaching in virtual classrooms:
These platforms enable you to host a range of online learning activities such as seminar discussions, small group collaborative learning and interactive lectures.
Minerva remains the primary learning environment for online and hybrid learning. It should act as the ‘way in’ to everything related to student education, and the prime location for learning and teaching resources. Virtual classrooms should enhance learning in Minerva and not replace it.
The University has also developed guidance to support students based in China to help manage their specific challenges.
This resource: Design and deliver engaging sessions in the virtual classroom will guide you through the basic and advanced functions of the three virtual classroom tools that the University offers. It also provides tips and guidance on how to design and deliver activities in the virtual classroom to promote student engagement.
Decisions about the technology you use for your virtual classrooms should be made at the module or programme level, to ensure that students have a consistent experience across classes. The technology should provide an inclusive learning experience. It is imperative that you are explicit with your students about which tool will be used, and that you provide clear guidance to ensure they can easily access and use it.
Blackboard’s Collaborate Ultra is the University’s preferred virtual classroom technology. It is integrated with Minerva and offers a wide range of tools for online teaching. It is the default option for virtual classes.
Microsoft Teams (i.e. MS Teams) offers additional functionality through its Class Teams. If a module’s Class Team is activated by the teaching staff, MS Teams’ meetings can be used as virtual classrooms. They have good functionality to support interactive, synchronous teaching activities, with new features being added all the time (e.g. breakout rooms). Members of a module’s Class Team are automatically updated from Banner, in line with enrolments on Minerva. MS Teams is also accessible and stable in China.
Zoom offers good functionality for interactive, synchronous learning activities. The University has recently purchased a one year license for 2020/21 due to issues with Collaborate Ultra in China, and the challenges that may arise with a rapid move to MS Class Teams. Therefore, Zoom can be used where staff feel that it can provide a high-quality student experience for students (particularly for cohorts of students in China).
There are a variety of measures you can take to ensure that your virtual classroom offers an inclusive and accessible learning experience to your students:
Student timetables will indicate how their teaching will take place. For instance, whether an event is ‘ON CAMPUS’ or ‘ONLINE – LIVE via Collaborate’. Teaching staff must provide clear instructions, links or guidance to students for the method for accessing the chosen virtual classroom.
It is not possible to automatically setup and schedule teaching events on Minerva for Collaborate Ultra, Microsoft Teams or Zoom. Staff will need to set these sessions up and ensure that students are able to access them.
To support the delivery of timetabled activities using Collaborate Ultra, Minerva support have produced two guides for setting up sessions as either lectures or tutorials.
Lectures are set up as an ‘open room’ in Collaborate Ultra that students can access at any time through Minerva. Most modules will use this category of room when setting up live sessions: students simply enter the virtual classroom at the time it states on their timetable. This room can be used for different lectures where they do not run concurrently.
Tutorials are Collaborate Ultra sessions with a start and an end time students access on Minerva. Students can only join when the session starts (though you can setup a waiting room). This category are most suitable when modules have concurrent live sessions (as it is not possible for a module to have more than one lecture room categories).
SES staff have also produced additional guidance on selecting tutorials or lectures, with further detailed guidance on how to set these up.
For further help, please contact Minerva Support.
Collaborate Ultra is a real-time video conferencing tool which also lets you add files, share applications, and use a virtual whiteboard to interact with your students. It opens in your web browser, so you don’t have to install any software to join a session. Before running a Collaborate session, you need to create it in Minerva. It is the University’s preferred virtual classroom as it is available directly from within Minerva.
In Collaborate Ultra, the Session attendance report provides an overview of when attendees joined and left sessions. It also gives you an idea of how long attendees were present in the session on average.
If guest links are used to give students guest access to a Collaborate session, be aware that reports will only reflect the name the students provide.
Class Teams allow you to communicate and collaborate with students on and off campus. Standard MS Teams functionality includes video meetings, posting messages and collaborating on files. Class Teams have further unique permissions and features for tutors and students:
This functionality makes Class Teams a valuable tool for creating student-centred active learning experiences in virtual classrooms. This guide covers tips for using asynchronous and synchronous functions in Class Teams (see below).
Rather than create class teams for all modules, we are going to only create them on request. This will help to ensure that colleagues’ Microsoft Teams apps are not cluttered with unwanted Class Teams and will help to drive better ownership of the Teams that are created.
Requesting a Class Team in Microsoft Teams is simple, just fill out a request form. You will need to say which module it is for and confirm that you are either the module leader or are acting on their authority. We require at least two staff members to become the initial team owners. You need to use this new form for all requests for Class Teams – all outstanding requests received before the point at which these communications are issued will not be processed.
Once the team is created, you will be able to add and remove staff as owners at any time, but students will be assigned to it automatically, from their module registration data in Banner. Staff membership of Class Teams will not be synchronised with Banner staff registrations to modules.
Teams will be created in the order they are requested, and we aim to get them set up as soon as possible, as we understand that they are needed now. If you previously requested a Class Team and were told this would be done automatically, please make your request again and it will be processed.
To ensure a high-quality learning experience, Class Teams should only be used by teaching staff who have a clear understanding of the tools available and should not be used experimentally with students.
Using Channels and Files in a Class Team
Teams are organised into Channels. All Teams have a General Channel by default (it is not possible to delete or change the name of the General channel). You can name and create your own Channels.
Messages and files shared in channels will be visible to all users registered on a Class Team. It is possible to set channels to private and add selected users to them manually. Using private channels for Class Teams is strongly discouraged as there is no automatic enrolment of users on private channels and users can leave private channels without the owner knowing. Teams is designed as a space for open and transparent collaboration – do not be concerned about students seeing discussion in different groups, they would have this experience in a face-to-face classroom as well.
Each Channel contains Posts for discussion and Files for saving shared documents. In Posts, you can share messages to other users for everyone in your channel to see. You can also reply or react to messages, share files and links, and post animated gifs. Any document shared in the Posts is automatically saved in Files. You can create folders in the Files to organise different types of work. Avoid creating large numbers of subfolders as this makes it difficult for users to find information quickly.
Channels can also be integrated with other Microsoft Office 365 applications, such as Class Notebook (a customised version of OneNote for Class Teams) and SharePoint. You can also add a link to website (this is useful for including a link to your Minerva Module).
Planning and organising your Class Team
When you activate a Class Team you should have a clear plan for how you will use Channels, Posts and Files to organise students’ learning. When planning your Class Team, consider how this will align to the overall Learning Journey you wish for your students to follow:
A good starting point is to use the General channel for announcements and welcome messages. You can set this channel to Read Only, so that only teachers can post messages. Then you can create other channels for focussed discussion on a particular topic or collaboration in a study group. Channels are automatically organised alphabetically, so numbering channels can help create a sense of order.
MS Teams meetings can be used to deliver live teaching sessions. Teams’ tools for facilitating active learning experiences include:
Share your presentation, your screen and other files
Use the Share tool to display your presentation slides on your students’ screens. You can also share other files and what is visible on your screen. The later is useful for doing demonstrations – but be careful not to show emails or other private information by accident.
For larger sessions, you can put students into smaller breakout groups for discussion and then return them back to the main class. Make sure you:
You and your students can post messages and emojis in the Chat on the right-hand side of the screen. For example, during your lecture, you could ask your students to:
Chats can also be limited to one-to-one or small group communications, and can be hidden or muted.
While Microsoft Teams is a powerful product, the way you use it can have a big effect too. Microsoft’s education site has lots of information to help you get the most out of Teams in higher education.
Within the University, there are several qualified Microsoft Innovative Educator Experts (MIIEs) who you can contact for advice.
MIE Experts share their learning with colleagues and other educators through local training programs in their own school systems, presentations at conferences, blogs, social channels, and more.
Find out more about how educators are using Teams in other institutions:
Finally, read about some case studies of the successful use of Microsoft Teams in education:
Meeting organisers have the option to view and download a meeting attendance report within Microsoft Teams. Attendance reports can be downloaded as a .CSV file (a file format for data that can be opened in Excel).
The report can only be downloaded by the meeting organiser during the meeting. So, make sure that you download the report before you end the session.
To ensure a consistent and rigorously defined student experience, assignment submission functionality will not be available in Class Teams. All assessments must still be submitted via Minerva using Blackboard submission or Turnitin.
Class Teams can be used by students to collaborate on group assignments and presentations.
You may want to consider using a background when on video and to advise students to do the same. This is done in the same way as a standard Microsoft Teams call. You may also want to review the Policy on Audio or Video Recording for Educational Purposes for how a student can request to opt out of a recording
Minerva is the University’s primary learning environment, and this should not change. Microsoft Class Teams can be used to enhance the quality of the student experience, but not to replace Minerva. Please see the policy on use of MS Class Teams on the Digital Practice website.
You’ll need to submit a new request for a Class Team for your module – the request form has been changed to reflect the updated process, and we need you to submit a new form.
When the Class Team is first created, only the two requested staff members will be added, as owners. Student enrolment will be automatically populated from the data in Banner overnight.
Other teaching staff will not be added automatically, so you will need to add them as team members and promote to owners, as required.
Only student enrolments will be maintained automatically. Staff enrolments will have to be done in Teams.
You will receive an email when the Class Team request has been processed.
This is not currently possible with the solution being released for the start of term.
Adding a direct link from Minerva to your Microsoft Class Team will help students easily access their Class Team. Minerva Support have produced the following guidance:
The University has purchased an Enterprise licence for Zoom. Zoom can be used where staff feel that it can provide a high-quality student experience (e.g. for cohorts of students in China).
Zoom is integrated via Single Sign-On (log-in authentication) which will improve the security of the sessions. It has good functionality for a range of interactive, synchronous teaching activities.
Read the IT Knowledgebase article to learn how to login to Zoom using your Leeds account.
Follow the Zoom guide to schedule a meeting.
Zoom sessions must be appropriately secured. It is recommended to schedule your meetings with the following settings:
Copy the meeting link you are given and then follow the guide on how to add an external link to the module page in Minerva as an external link.
Recordings of Zoom sessions for educational activities must take place in accordance with the University’s Audio Video Recording Policy.
Zoom offers two ways to record a meeting. For either way you are responsible, as meeting host, for securely handling any recording file. Once the recording is available, it should be transferred to MediaSite and any other copies deleted.
Meetings can be recording automatically or on-demand.
To record automatically, within the scheduled meeting settings, select ‘Automatically record meeting’.
If you want to start recording once your meeting has started, you can do this within the app. Click the Record button and choose where you want to record to.
15 to 30 minutes after a meeting has finished on Zoom, attendance information is available to download. The Usage report option in the Reports dashboard allows you to view a list of meetings, participants, and meeting minutes for meetings you have hosted.
Remember this report includes personal information so it must be handled carefully. This file will open in Microsoft Excel like a spreadsheet.
You may want to consider using a background when on video and to advise students to do the same. You may also want to review the Policy on Audio or Video Recording for Educational Purposes for how a student can request to opt out of a recording.
Zoom provides guidance on how to add a virtual background..