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Tag Archives: distance teaching

Blackboard wikis and student group assessments

Wikis are a terrific – and underutilised – tool for enabling students to work collaboratively on projects.

There are two separate wiki systems available to Otago staff.  Otago Wikis is a standalone offering with advanced features, which can be made available to the public.  Blackboard wikis (which I will focus on today) is a more basic system that is available within Blackboard.

Wikis are easy for any coordinator to set up within a Blackboard paper, and offer a powerful resource for allowing groups to build up a large document with contributions from many individuals.

If you assign group projects in your course, wikis represent an effective way for your students to collaborate on the manuscript for a presentation or report.  An additional benefit of wikis in this context is that the input of individuals is tracked, so it is straightforward to gauge and grade not only the final product of the group as a whole, but also the contributions of given members.


To set up a wiki, select the ‘Wikis’ option in the ‘Course Tools’ menu in your Blackboard paper.  Once it is set up and students have built a page, you can investigate the history of that building process using the ‘Participation Summary’ function.  These links are highlighted in the screenshot above.

Within the Participation Summary, select a given user to track and (if desired) evaluate the contributions she has made to the overall project.  This information can be presented in a helpful ‘Page Comparison’ view, as in the example shown below.


Beyond student group assessments, there are many possibilities for incorporating wikis into your teaching praxis.  For example, some lecturers use wikis so their students can contribute to building up an annotated bibliography as the course progresses.  Others use wikis as an ongoing lab journal.

More information on setting up and using Blackboard wikis can be found on our Otago Blackboard helpsite for staff.

Otago Connect Audio & Video Collaboration Pilot

Otago Connect is a web conferencing system powered by Adobe Connect Pro and it is now being offered as one of the newest IT Services for University of Otago staff & students.

Otago Connect presentation

Otago Connect presentation

Otago Connect can do more than deliver a distance taught classroom, it can enable you to enhance and present live and online meetings, lectures, tutorials, webinars, interactive training programs, conferences and much more.
The software runs in your web browser and only requires the installation of the Flash plugin, which most computers already have. Features include:

  • Group text, audio and video chat
  • Ability to share presentations (like Powerpoint)
  • Share documents and/or whiteboards
  • Share video clips
  • Collaborate on a whiteboard
  • Conduct polls during your meetings

In Semester 1 of this year a pilot study initially driven by the Distance Learning Office was completed by Information Technology Services, with a small number of Pilot Group members based in Dunedin and Wellington. Participants have provided invaluable feedback about their experience which will help shape how we offer and support the service in the future. One of our academic Pilot participants wrote:

“Otago Connect represents a remarkable new direction in distance teaching: now anyone in the world can partake in teaching & learning sessions. All that is required is a reasonably fast Internet access and Flash player installed.
There is full synchronisation between sound and images that also broadcast in high quality. Movies can be viewed directly off your computer and as the host I can decide if participants can edit, write and draw on the images etc., I can alter the content of my meeting until just before the session and students do not need to have resources sent to them. I’ve been told that the number that can connect is one hundred so I’m dying to test that!
Students have been really enthusiastic about the experience and as a teacher I find it invaluable that I can see all their faces and respond to their expressions, which indicate their understanding (and I can see when they pop in and out)! Sessions can be recorded for those who cannot attend or are called out because they are on call. Last session one of the candidates was snowed in at home but was still able to take part.
Using this service I have successfully taught 17 students all based in different locations, I have also tested the connection from Hong Kong and it appeared excellent. I foresee international teaching will now become easily affordable.
Strongly recommended!”

Dr Thorsten Stanley, Paediatrics, UOW

In Semester 2, we are continuing with our Pilot, and we’re offering any staff members at Otago the opportunity to be a ‘Meeting Administrator’ and use Otago Connect for teaching, research or administration. While we are still limiting the number of Meeting Administrators, there are still spaces available. To gain access and run your own web conferences, you must be staff with a University username, complete a request form for a new a Meeting Room, and complete the IT Training course (free for staff to attend).

If you have any questions give ITS HelpDesk a call or, check out the video demonstration on the Otago Connect HelpSite for staff. Find out if Otago Connect really is for you but remember, numbers are limited so get in quick to apply.