Blackboard Collaborate cross-campus tutorials as a useful tool to enhance the Part One Pharmacy student experience at the University of Reading Malaysia

Dr Darius Widera, School of Chemistry, Food and Pharmacy


After a successful application to act as one of the early adopters of Blackboard Collaborate at the University of Reading, this technology platform was used for a series of cross-campus tutorials within the Fundamentals of Physiology (PM1AM) module between the University of Reading’s Whiteknights and Malaysia campuses. The format was well-received, and contributed to an enhanced student experience.


The official inauguration of the University of Reading Malaysia (UoRM) campus in EduCity, Johor Bahru, in early 2017 and the start of the MPharm (Malaysia) programme in the academic year 2016/17 offer excellent opportunities for further internationalisation of the University of Reading and specifically within Pharmacy education.

The University of Reading Malaysia offers a double accredited (UK and Malaysia) 2+2 MPharm (Hons) degree where the students study for two years at the Malaysia campus followed by two consecutive years in Reading.

The PM1A module and its UoRM counterpart, PM1AM, cover the basics of biology and human physiology including genetics, biochemistry and cell biology. According to student feedback, these topics tend to be challenging for the students, especially in light of the fact that significant numbers of Pharmacy students do not have A-level biology to provide background knowledge.

In response to this feedback, several tutorials have been introduced to provide students with interactive opportunities to revise the content of lectures and practical sessions and to close any potential knowledge gaps.

Thus, there was a need for the development of a cross-campus solution to ensure that both MPharm cohorts (UoR and UoRM) are provided with a similar form of tutorials.


  • To explore if Blackboard Collaborate can be used for cross-campus delivery of tutorials covering the content of the genetics lecture series within the PM1A/PM1AM module.
  • To investigate if cross-campus virtual classroom/teleconference represents an appropriate pedagogical tool for delivery of tutorials in Pharmacy and how this deliver method affects student engagement and interactivity.
  • To assess if these sessions could help 2+2 MPharm students to prepare for their two years of study in Reading.


The Blackboard Collaborate platform was used to develop a series of tutorials in genetics. The online sessions were led by Dr Widera (live video capture via a webcam) at the University of Reading’s Whiteknights campus and streamed to students at the UoRM. The student group was composed of 11 Malaysian Part One MPharm students. The content of the tutorials was covered in the respective lecturees. It was expected that students would have factual knowledge of the topic, although at heterogeneous levels.

All students were equipped with PCs with headsets and webcams. Blackboard Collaborate functions including ‘raise hand’, virtual whiteboard, chat, and direct interaction with all or individual students (either via audio or video) were used. In addition, external tools (e.g. Microsoft PowerPoint presentations and the Poll Everywhere app) were used via the ‘share screen’ function of Blackboard Collaborate. For the tutorial, an introductory PowerPoint presentation was designed and a screencast deposited on YouTube as a contingency plan. Multiple choice questionnaires (MCQs) were set up on the Poll Everywhere platform, and short answer questions (SAQs) were included in an additional PowerPoint presentation. After each MCQ/SAQ, students were given time to decide on an answer (individually via Poll Everywhere), followed by an interactive discussion.

The overall length of each tutorial session was 50 minutes. Individual anonymous post-hoc feedback was collected to evaluate student opinions on the usefulness, overall style, and delivery. In addition, a technical report and an experience log was collated and submitted to the Technology Enhanced Learning team. Finally, the content, deliver and potential changes were discussed with students and peers during a visit to the UoRM.


During the tutorials no serious technical issues were encountered, although students at UoRM did experience slight lagging in their connections (with video and audio becoming slightly out of sync). Students showed high levels of interaction and successfully used most of the Blackboard Collaborate features. Importantly, other than in UoR in-class tutorials, students engaged and interacted early on. This is reflected in the feedback collected after the first session (“I like how it is interactive and fun”). The tutorial format also seemed to help students to revise the content of the lectures (“Useful to enhance my biology knowledge”, “It helps me to revise”, “It helps me to find out my difficulties with previous lectures”). Moreover, students appreciated that the session was different compared to conventional lectures (“It was different from just sitting in the classroom and listening to lecturers”, “it was another way of learning outside the classroom”). Last but not least, it was appreciated that the tutorials were run by Reading-based staff that the 2+2 students would meet during their two years in Reading (“can meet Dr Widera and learn from him”). No negative feedback was received.

Follow up

Following the feedback received, further tutorials involving other lecturers teaching on the PM1A module will be developed and implemented.

Blending face-to-face and online to deliver group seminars

Jeremy Lelean, Staff Engagement                                                                                                                                                 


Soil Security Programme (SSP), School of Agriculture, Planning and Development

PhD students, external institutions and organisations


 The Soil Security Programme is a PhD Student research network that includes a number of
other institutions and external bodies. Students are dispersed around the country and
sometimes abroad.
 The ability for the dispersed members of the network to join seminars held at Reading by PhD
students would help facilitate increased communications and information sharing.
 Two face-to-face seminar events have been held at which members have been able to join
remotely via Collaborate.
 Members were sent a ‘guest link’ and joining instructions and were able to watch the
presentations given in the physical room.
 The initial seminar had 11 participants, 9 in the room and 3 joined remotely.
 A USB speakerphone was attached to the laptop in the room to provide the audio and a
webcam was used to show what was happening. Presentations were delivered using
‘Application Share’ in Collaborate.
 Jeremy facilitated the session to ensure the remote participants were kept informed of what
was happening in the physical space.


Using Collaborate was a success and participants found the experience was very good. There
were some minor points raised but this did not detract from usability.
 Remote participants could easily join in sessions that they wouldn’t otherwise have been able to
 Recordings of the seminars were made available to members of the network.
 SSP plan to deliver an online conference using Collaborate to help build a community of early
career researchers and PhD students in the field of soil science.

Thoughts and reflections

 Remote participants weren’t able to see where the speakers were pointing to on the slides. Ask
speakers to use the inbuilt Pen and Laser Pointer tools when PowerPoint is used in Presenter
View to highlight slides.
 It was necessary to restart application share when moving between different PowerPoint
 Remind participants in the physical space to remember that there are remote participants.
 Participants in the physical space can’t see the chat taking place in Collaborate.
 Chat was particularly useful for communication between the facilitators and remote users
without disturbing the seminar speakers.
 Ensure that remote users can hear those speaking in the room clearly. It may be necessary for
the facilitators to repeat questions or ask people to speak more loudly.


Engaging students in online careers events using Blackboard Collaborate

Daniel Kiernan & Graham Philpott, Henley Business School                                                                                    


MBA students, Finance

Number of participants in sessions: 26

Session length: 20 minutes


 Getting students to attend careers events during particular periods of term can be difficult. The
use of Collaborate was piloted to see if attendance could be increased by providing online
sessions when students typically don’t engage with face-to-face careers events.
 A short 20 minute presentation was given with PowerPoint slides and included separate online
poll questions.
 Students were encouraged to pose questions using the ‘Chat’ feature


 Student feedback was positive.
 The online event had higher attendance than would be expected for an equivalent face-to-face
session held in the same period. “We would typically really struggle to get 26 attendees to a
careers event during the summer term.”
 It was easy to organise and deliver the event.
 Not all of the students who pre-registered actually attended the webinar (15 attended, 17
didn’t). Most students stayed for the entire session.
 Dan was able to send those that weren’t able to attend a link to a recording after the session.

Thoughts and reflections

 Dan is keen to make future sessions more interactive, with more questions and responses. This
should help address attendance concerns. If you attend you get your question answered live!
 Possibly have an assistant to help moderate the chat and pose questions to the presenter.
 Think about the way in which you want to present your content and how this affects your ability
to manage and facilitate the session.
 The PowerPoint slides were displayed on Dan’s computer in Presenter View and delivered in
Collaborate using ‘Application Share’. PowerPoint presented in this way requires 2 screens and
also meant Dan wasn’t able to see the Chat while the slides were up.
 Check your camera angle and be mindful of it during the session.
 If you are recording the session, remember to exit the webinar properly, using the ‘Leave
Session’ button otherwise the recording continues.
 The recording captured the screen, audio/video and chat but didn’t capture the poll on screen
as this was viewed in a separate tool.

 Students attended the session using the ‘guest link’. This doesn’t record the email of the
students, so you’ll need to think about how students sign-up if you want to contact them (e.g.
via email) after the session.
 How should the recording of a session be made available after the session? Do you devalue the
benefit of attending the webinar if it’s made available to everyone? Should it only be sent to
attendees as an incentive to attend?
 Having a recording meant Dan was able to reflect on the content of presentation and consult
with his colleagues.



Closing the gap! Bringing together students studying at different campuses using Blackboard Collaborate

Kate Fletcher, Sue Slade, Kevin Flint, Raj Vaiyapuri, Wee Kiat Ong, School of Chemistry, Food and Pharmacy; Pharmacy


MPharm Programme: Introduction to Professionalism and Practice

Undergraduate (UG) students, Part 1

Number of participants in sessions: 20 (9 in the UK and 11 in Malaysia)
Session length: 60 minutes


 Part 1 students studying the MPharm course at both the Reading and Malaysia campuses were
brought together using Blackboard Collaborate to compare Pharmacy Practice in each country.
 Kate wanted to encourage crossover between campuses and for students to get to know each
other before the Malaysian students came over to study in the UK for Part 3.
 Students based at each campus logged in to Collaborate on individual computers with a
 Both groups of students were in the Clinical Skills Suite on each campus with laptops and
 Staff supported students in the physical rooms to get them settled and set-up.
 The session was designed around set discussion activities and students separated out into
groups that included students from both campuses, using the ‘Breakout room’ feature.


 Collaborate provided an effective way for students studying at different campuses to learn
together and begin to build relationships.
 Close cooperation was needed between the UK and Malaysian staff to set up the session.
 Students quickly picked-up how to use the tool, were using the Chat tool without prompting
and easily able to undertake the tasks in the breakout rooms.
 The session was activity based and students were discussing with each other. This made best
use of the technology to facilitate communication.
 There were good levels of interaction between students using the audio and video. However,
the first time people use the system interaction can initially be awkward.
 Some cultural differences were perceived. Malaysian students were quieter in the
conversations and UK-based students tended to lead.

Thoughts and reflections

 Kate and Sue were thoroughly prepared for the session and had rehearsed how to use the
‘breakout rooms’ and written a session plan with timings.
 Don’t expect to get as much done as you would in a face-to-face session or allow more time for
activities in this environment.
 As the students were located in the same room together they were spread out to minimise the
transfer of noise between them when talking. Pharmacy had a large enough room to allow this.
Feedback from students indicated they could easily take part from home.
 Pharmacy needed to purchase suitable headsets that could be re-used by different students.
Allow sufficient time to arrange ordering from IT.
 Make sure Chrome is installed on the University computers students are going to use.
 There was a significant investment of time and a learning curve to set up the session, as this
was the first time they had attempted this. Future sessions should be easier to facilitate.
 It’s not yet possible to save what has been written on the whiteboards in the breakout rooms.

(Use the PC – Microsoft Clipping tool
or MAC keyboard shortcut to take a screenshot of the whiteboard.)


Using Blackboard Collaborate for small group tutorials with distance learning students

Adrian Aronsson-Storrier, School of Law                                                                                                                   


LLM International Commercial Law (Distance)


 Adrian held small group seminars with groups of around 5 students per online workshop.
Workshops were scheduled in all of the distance LLM modules, and ran weekly through the
Spring and Autumn terms. Collaborate was also used for individual dissertation supervision
 These were Postgraduate Masters level distance learning students enrolled in a range of
optional LLM modules. Students attended from across the UK and the world.
 The Law School already offered online workshop sessions using a competing webinar product
(Adobe Connect). This software was complex for students to use, not supported centrally by
the University and was paid for from the School’s budget. We sought to investigate alternative
web conferencing solutions that would be simpler for our students whilst maintaining
equivalent functionality (slide sharing, chat, whiteboard etc).
 Blackboard Collaborate was chosen to replace Adobe Connect as it was simpler for students to
use (a more straightforward interface reduced initial student training time, the integration into
Blackboard made it simpler for students to log in and participate).
 Preparation was similar to distance workshops previously delivered with the earlier Adobe
Connect web conferencing tool. For some workshops slides were prepared, in others a series
of tutorial style questions were circulated to students in advance for discussion.
 After giving students an initial training session, delivering a class on Collaborate took no more
effort than delivering an equivalent session in an on campus module.


 Students quickly adapted to Collaborate. They made frequent use of the chat function and the
‘raise hand’ function, particularly in larger groups where many students wished to contribute to
a discussion.
 Student’s enrolling in the distance LLM are required to have access to their own computer,
headphones and internet connection.
 From a support perspective, the move to Collaborate required less ongoing staff and student
training than our previous web conferencing software – once set up on Blackboard it was simple
for students and staff to access Collaborate sessions for their weekly workshops.
 Blackboard Collaborate achieved everything we had previously delivered to students using
Adobe Connect. It had the advantage of being simpler for students to use, and the blackboard
integration made connecting to the sessions simpler.

Thoughts and Reflections

 Lecturers in the school of law tended to use Collaborate from their homes (distance workshops
are often scheduled outside core hours, to accommodate students in diverse time zones). This
required staff to have sufficient equipment (laptop, headphones or a headset).
 One challenge – which often impacts distance learning when working with students in less
economically developed nations – was issue of the student’s poor internet connection
impacting sessions. At times students (particularly in Africa and the Middle East) had poor
internet connections which prevented full video streaming. While the software does allow
students to participate by providing streaming audio only, this is less immersive for the student.
 Ensure that all participants are making use of headphones or a microphone headset. If students
rely on computer speakers there will often be some level of echo introduced into the web
conference, which can be distracting. Students without headphone should be encouraged to
mute their microphones when not speaking.
 Provide students with an introductory session on the software before beginning online
instruction. We used a general online induction day for students as a trial, allowing them to test
that the software worked and giving them time to learn the functionality before being required
to use it in class.