Moving Teaching Online

Do I replace a planned face to face classroom session with a live online session and when should I use Panopto and when should I use Blackboard Collaborate?

How to replace a live face to face class with a live online experience really depends, in my view, on what level of interaction you may have been looking to obtain in the face to face (f2f) class. If your f2f class was going to be to a ‘smallish’ group (let’s say 30-40 where you might expect the level of interaction to be high) then it is definitely best to use Collaborate Ultra as the means to conduct the live session. This is because Collaborate Ultra has a number of engagement tools and break out group functionality that Panopto does not have.

If however your in-class session was going to be with a larger group, where interaction will typically be lower, then you may be best using Panopto to live stream the lecture. There are 2 reasons for this. First, if you have used Panopto before then you will be more familiar with its interface. Second, Panopto has no limit for the number of students that can watch any live talk. In contrast  a Collaborate Ultra room has a standard limit of 250 participants.

Conducting a live session online is just one way to replace face to face teaching with something that may engage students. Many staff across the sector, suddenly switching from f2f classes to online right now because of the Corona issue, are not moving all of their delivery to a live, real-time online environment. What they are instead using is a variation of asynchronous distance learning.

This is not an approach that simply puts Powerpoint slides and reading online but rather one that exploits the communication capability that online can offer. Sometimes called ‘Online lively’ as opposed to ‘online live’ the  approach involves making a recording of the lecture/presentation that would have been given in-class. This recording is then released to students at the time the face to face class would have taken place. After allowing time for students to watch the recording the tutors concerned open up a chat room that students can easily drop in to for a question and answer session. Collaborate Ultra is ideal for this as there is by default a Collaborate Ultra room in every module Blackboard site open to all students and staff associated with the Blackboard site.

So, in summary I have been recommending to colleagues that have emailed me with these questions the following:

– Use live streaming via Panopto if you intend to deliver a fairly static lecture to a large group
– Use Collaborate Ultra if you are seeking to deliver more of a seminar/tutorial type session
– Use Collaborate Ultra if you want to deliver a lecture to a group of up to 200 but wish to have the option for some engagement activity with the audience e.g. in session polling, breakout groups
– Consider using an approach where you make a recording using Panopto (or you can also record by yourself if you wish in a Collaborate Ultra room), distribute that recording for students to play at the time that the classroom session would have been due to taken place and, include alongside the recording, either an online q & a session in a Collaborate Ultra room or a discussion board.

Whichever approach you ultimately take to deliver your modules online in the coming weeks please do remember that you can access online support and help for the university’s learning tools at

And you can email us at

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