Professors Use Online Video-Chat Services to Enhance Remote Learning

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Santiago Ochoa

On Tuesday, June 2, lecturers at UM-Flint were met with unwanted news about employment status changes.

UM-Flint is among schools across the country scrambling to adjust to remote online learning. One type of resource that UM-Flint professors are utilizing are video chatting services, like Blackboard Collaborate Ultra, BlueJeans, Zoom and Google Hangouts, all of which are approved by the Office of Extended Learning for faculty use.

Stephanie Vidaillet Gelderloos, lecturer of English, has found that using video chat platforms helps her stay connected to her students. However, not all video chat services are created equal. Gelderloos prefers Blackboard Collaborate Ultra for a number of reasons. 

“It works very well for me. I can share files, and make students presenters or moderators so they can do the same. I can make up questions for students to answer on the fly, in real-time … I also like the breakout groups function. It was easy to figure out, and I can assign students to groups to pair-share, etc, and then have them come back into the main chat and we can do this repeatedly and easily,” she said.  

Many video chat platforms rely on codes to give participants access to a call. Blackboard Collaborate Ultra, however, is integrated into a UMich login and does not require a code, preventing things like zoom-bombing, which is when an uninvited user joins a call on Zoom. 

Heather Laube, associate professor of sociology, though, prefers BlueJeans. 

“I use BlueJeans regularly and like it,” she said. “I like that students are able [to] have flexibility. Some students are hesitant to talk in class because they are shy, concerned they will say something wrong or need more time to formulate ideas. The virtual discussion board may provide the opportunity for these students to engage.” 

Zoom and Google Hangouts are also available to faculty for use, and each has its benefits and drawbacks. Many users prefer Zoom because of its Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)-compliant encryption, and Google Hangouts users tend to prefer the platform because of its seamless integration into the Google Apps Productivity Suite. 

Even with all of the online resources available, Gelderloos still notes that video chats are not a replacement for in-person class instruction. 

“I miss my students and their energy,” she said. “And I teach so hands-on that I almost feel lost on how to proceed from the current set up in my guest bedroom. Although the online chats via Bb Ultra do keep us connected somewhat, it is hard to manage in my larger classes and with larger projects in a meaningful, interactive manner.”