Using OneNote with Collaborate Ultra – My presentation at BbMoCo October 2018

I presented a lightning strike presentation on the use of OneNote in conjunction with Blackboard Collaborate. I concentrated on two use cases, both of which have been needs driven by what the community will generally refer to as the severely lacking whiteboard capabilities of Blackboard Ultra.

Neil Cocklin Senior learning technologist speaking at BB MoCo October 2018
Presenting at Moco.

After outlining some context in terms of Aston’s experience of using virtual classrooms, I showed a short rough and ready video example of my ABS colleague Estelle Shale (video below). Estelle uses OneNote as the main visual aid for online maths workshops for on-campus Business Analytics students. Whilst it’s certainly true that Estelle has had to “resort” to using OneNote, I’m of the opinion that this is not simply a replacement for poor functionality but in many respects an enhancement.


Having the ability to immediately share the notebook, means students don’t have to wait for the video to process. Whilst the video recording contains the commentary of the worked examples, for students who use assistive technologies text in videos can be problematic. Using OneNote, the annotated text is still text and there is potential for the ink to text features to be used. It’s also much quicker and easier to browse through the pages of the notebook to find the example you were looking for and to assist navigation even further the content is searchable.

There is of course, the potential bandwidth issue, screen share requires more bandwidth than the old whiteboard, which I acknowledge as a risk. However in my personal experience of using the screen share in Ultra has been mostly positive. I think that overall bandwidth issues have been far less when using Ultra instead of Original. That is very anecdotal though and I’m aware that the experience of others can vary wildly.

I then went on to talk about a number of planned uses for OneNote and other Office365 tools to help support collaborative working activities that take place in Collaborate Ultra break out rooms. The new whiteboard in breakout rooms is problematic when it comes to moving the content back into the main room. Here are two different uses cases dependant upon exactly what the goal of the activity is.

  1. In direct response to it now being so difficult to move content from the breakout room whiteboard to the main room, I would like to try out using OneNote Class Notebooks. This would entail naming the collaborative pages in the notebook the same as each of the group names that you are using in Collaborate. The students work on the relevant page in the breakout session and then the tutor can screen share and comment on pages during the plenary session. If there is no plenary, the tutor can easily leave annotated feedback on the pages for the groups and then potentially move them to a read-only area of the notebook.
  2. If the breakout room work is aimed at on-going group work for persistent groups, any of the Office365 tools that allow for multiple live editing (Word, Excel, PowerPoint etc.) could be used to create collaborative documents. This technique has the advantage of more easily allowing students to continue the conversation/work after the synchronous session has finished.

I will report back at a later date any further experiences that I have in this area.

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