Web Conferencing Tools: Blackboard, Teams and Zoom
An explanation of why the campus is using Blackboard Collaborate and Microsoft Teams.
UW-Stout supports two easy to use web-based video tools; Blackboard Collaborate and Microsoft Teams. We have outlined several reasons below which include usability, support and cost.
UsabilityAll the major web-conferencing solutions provide a similar service. Each provides some unique features, all require a specific set of knowledge, skills and abilities to use and support. Because all the vendors in the web-based video tools are relatively new, each are still rushing to build out additional features. The tools are constantly evolving and improving. LIT constantly works to train staff, keep software up to date, update knowledge base articles, and assist staff and faculty with the use of the tools. It is also very important to consider the student experience. Creating a consistent, well supported, student experience across the institution reduces anxiety and stress for students as they navigate from class to class.
Blackboard Collaborate UltraWe encourage our faculty and instructional staff to use Blackboard Collaborate Ultra (BbC) as much as possible as it is integrated with Canvas and staff and students can access it through every Canvas course. The sessions can be recorded, downloaded, and shared within a Canvas course seamlessly. BbC also includes the option to use breakout rooms to help facilitate small group discussions and work groups. Blackboard Collaborate Ultra can also be used by all staff for trainings and meetings that have a need for work groups. It is available as a tool in My UW.
TeamsTeams is the preferred and supported web conferencing tool for campus meetings with groups and individuals. Scheduling a Teams meeting can be done through Teams or in Microsoft Outlook and can include anyone on campus or external users. Teams can also be used as an academic support tool for advisement, department, program and college meetings. It can also be used for clubs and student organizations.
SupportBlackboard Collaborate Ultra is fully supported by the UW-System. They are responsible for maintaining the infrastructure required to provide the service, maintaining the integration with Canvas, and providing services to campus staff to assist with general user support. Our Learning Technology Services team is actively engaged with UW-System and has become very knowledgeable in Blackboard Collaborate best practices, troubleshooting and integrations.
Microsoft Teams is covered under our support agreement. LIT maintains a staff of Microsoft experts who are responsible for the entire Microsoft platform, from servers to cloud, down to the desktop operating systems. The Microsoft contract is supported by the UW-System ensuring appropriate terms and conditions.
UW-Stout is using the enterprise solution for both Blackboard Collaborate Ultra and Teams. Without an enterprise solution in place, other vendors do not provide the support required for us to provide the service to our institution. An additional enterprise agreement would result in additional support costs and may require increased staffing.
CostBlackboard Collaborate is purchased by UW System and the cost is a mandatory cost spread across all institutions. We are required to pay our portion of the total cost. We could choose to not use, but we still have to pay. The UW System will re-evaluate the video tool set options in the future. This will open the door for other vendors, such as Zoom, to propose solutions.
Microsoft Teams is part of the Microsoft Office 365 Suite of tools. The Microsoft Office 365 Suite of tools is all part of our Microsoft licensing (including office, email, telephone service, teams, etc.). There is no additional cost to use Teams and it cannot be removed from our set of services.
Zoom does have institutional education licensing and for our institution it would cost at least $25,000 per year. Zoom, like many other vendors, offers individual licenses for much less, often free in response to the current pandemic. Unfortunately, those licenses do not offer the contractual terms and technical controls required to ensure the privacy and security of our data. The risk of compromising the student’s digital identity are high. They are also short-term solutions that will require full licensing in the future.
Below are a few articles highlighting some of the recent challenges with Zoom.https://www.forbes.com/sites/zakdoffman/2020/01/28/new-zoom-roulette-security-warning-your-video-calls-at-risk-from-hackers-heres-what-you-do/#7cb459767343