Guidance on Software for Online Teaching - Semester 1, 2020/21
This guide outlines the recommended solutions and software available to teaching staff for the delivery of online teaching. Listed here are a range of products that are available across the University. Each Faculty also provides additional, specialised products appropriate to their disciplines, and links to the Faculty support pages are provided at the end of this guide.
It is important that all of our online content is fully accessible to all of our students. Apart from our ethical responsibility to ensure accessibility, this is also a legal requirement on the University.
The University has committed to the delivery of high-quality, online content to replace all lectures for Semester 1, 2020/21. There are a number of ways in which online video content can be created.
VoiceThread is a collaborative, multimedia slideshow that can include text, images, documents, audio and video, and allows people to navigate slides and leave comments in several ways - using voice, text, audio or video. VoiceThreads can be created by staff or students, and be graded or un-graded. VoiceThread is integrated into Blackboard so there is no software to install.
PowerPoint and PowerPoint 365
For staff who have been transferred over to Office 365, it comes with an updated suite of Office applications. This includes PowerPoint 365, which has enhanced tools for adding narration and recording video presentations.
For staff who have not been transferred over to Office 365, PowerPoint 2016 can also be used to create your presentation videos.
Podcast Studio (available: 20th July 2020)
Podcast Studio is a new package that allows you to upload and edit your videos. It can also be used to record screen capture or webcam footage. The software contains a range of simple editing functions that should be sufficient in most cases.
Collaborate is a component of Blackboard and requires no additional software installation. In addition to video conferencing it can be used to record lecture presentations.
Zoom can also be used to record lecture presentations.
- Media Services Zoom Guidance
- Zoom User Guide
- Zoom update 28.8.20 – use of Zoom in China and availability of Zoom for 20/21 academic year (news item)
MS Teams (available mid-August)
Microsoft Teams will made available to all staff in mid-August and all students in September. Initially, the base collaboration tools will be available, allowing video conferencing and the recording of lectures in a similar manner to Collaborate or Zoom. The addition of further tools within MS Teams will be investigated in future and details will be provided when available.
The following are alternative methods for creating and delivering online video content. Some of these methods should be used with caution. The Media Services and eLearning teams have the equipment and expertise to assist you in producing high quality content, but their availability may be limited. Automated lecture capture videos alone are unlikely to generate content of sufficient quality to meet the aims of the University in delivering the best possible online experience for our students.
Collaborate, Zoom (and Teams when available) can all be used to live-stream lectures, but this is not recommended unless absolutely necessary. Connection problems and other technical issues can easily disrupt live-streams and result in a poor student experience. Recorded presentations are more reliable, allow greater flexibility for both staff and students and can be checked and edited to ensure quality. Recorded presentations can and should be supplemented with other collaboration tools, such as discussion forums, to allow Q&A with students (see Additional Software Solutions).
In cases where live streaming (or any form of live interaction) is necessary, the following class size limits should be noted:
- Collaborate allows a maximum of 500 participants, but you should contact your eLearning Team if you plan to exceed 250 to ensure that optimum performance is enabled.
- Zoom can accommodate up to 300 participants on our standard licence. Zoom can allow up to 1000 participants for a given session, but this will involve an additional cost and you should contact Media Services if you wish to enable this.
It is highly recommended that any live-streams are recorded and made available to students through the Video Portal (see Video Storage).
Lecture capture recordings from previous years are available and can be copied across to your current Blackboard space. Again, this should be approached with caution. Lecture capture recordings are an excellent facility to support on-campus teaching, but are unlikely to provide the desired quality of learning experience when they are the sole content.
Over the summer, some teaching spaces in University Pace and Roscoe will be made available to staff who wish to use these facilities to record their video presentations. High-resolution cameras will be installed in these rooms and the Media Services team will be available to provide support. The standard lecture capture facilities will also be available in these rooms, but please note the advice under Lecture Capture Recordings. This service will be available from Monday 27th July until mid-September. To take advantage of this you will need to seek approval to come onto campus and make the necessary arrangements with campus security to gain access.
Media Services provide a number of recording suites in Humanities Bridgeford Street. These suites are acoustically insulated and configured with all of the hardware and software needed to make high-quality video recordings. The Media Services team are working to ensure that these facilities can be safely used by staff over the summer and will be providing further details, including how to book these rooms, as soon as possible.
Whatever method you choose to capture/record your video presentations, there are several video editing tools available.
Podcast Video Editor
Within the Video Portal it is possible to do some basic trimming and removing sections from the middle of a recorded video. To access this tool select the option to edit the recording when uploading to the Video Portal. You will receive an email with a link to the editor when the recording is available for edit.
If the Podcast Studio editing facilities are insufficient for your needs, OpenShot is an open-source video editing suite with a full range of functions. OpenShot is a free package that you will need to download and install.
Open Broadcaster Software (OBS)
OBS is a fully-featured, professional level video capturing and editing suite that provides the full range of functions, including the ability to mix scenes from multiple sources. OBS is also a free, open-source package that will need to be downloaded and installed. This solution is only recommended for those with some experience of video editing.
Once your video has been recorded, edited and is ready for delivery, you should upload it to the Video Portal and embed it in Blackboard. Videos should NOT be uploaded directly into Blackboard. Blackboard is not optimised for video storage and this could lead to both performance and capacity issues.
The University is committed to the principles of inclusive design for all online content – ensuring the accessibility of teaching materials to all of our students. For this reason, all video content for the coming semester must be provided with closed captions (subtitles). From September 2020 this will also be a legal obligation on the University under the Accessibility Regulations 2018.
Videos uploaded to the Video Portal (see Video Storage) will automatically be provided with auto-generated captions through the Video Portal player.
Both Zoom and MS Teams also provide auto-generated captions on the playback of recorded sessions. However, the limitations of auto-generated captions are recognised, particularly with regard to technical language. The IT Services Media Technologies team are investigating possible solutions to this issue, but any improvement will ONLY apply to the Video Portal player.
It is strongly recommended that any recordings, including those in Collaborate, Zoom or MS Teams are recorded locally and uploaded to the Video Portal (see guidance to individual products in Recording Lectures).
Other online teaching
The University has committed to delivering all lectures online, but also to provide our students with as many opportunities as possible to engage in on-campus learning activities. However, it is recognised that there are many situations where additional online activities can be used to supplement and enhance online presentations. This section lists a number of tools that can be used to support such activities.
Additional Software Solutions
Adobe Spark Page
Adobe Spark is a simple to use tool that allows the creation of high quality text/graphic presentations. IT Services are working on a single sign-on approach to facilitate access to this package but until this is in place, please contact your eLearning Team if you wish to secure a licence.
STACK is an online assessment package used for mathematics. A project is in place to upgrade STACK (and the underlying MOODLE hosting platform) and extend its capacity by an additional 500 users. Further detail will be provided when available.
Bb Collaboration Tools
Blackboard includes a suite of tools that allow asynchronous communication with students. These tools are particularly useful in combination with a recorded online lecture to allow students to raise questions.
Piazza is an alternative collaboration tool that is now integrated into Blackboard and incorporates a fuller range of features than the built-in Bb discussion forums, including polling.
Peergrade (Eduflow) (Available: semester 2)
Peergrade (will be renamed Eduflow from 1st September 2020) is an online product that supports student peer review assessments. This will become available for use before the beginning of semester 2.
MS teams will be available to all students from September (available to staff from mid-August). The base functionality includes video conferencing, discussion forums and resource sharing that will all support students involved in group-work.
Specific software/applications that you currently use (school or subject-specific)
In addition there are many pieces of software available that are specific to Faculties, Schools or particular courses. These are ordinarily made available via the various computer clusters across the campus. On an annual basis ITS conduct an exercise to review these applications and take requests to update or make new applications available. Work is underway to allow remote access to the applications necessary for staff and students – see the full alphabetical list of all the applications that will be made available and the corresponding computer clusters.
If you and your students rely on specific software for your area of expertise you will need to check this list to ensure your software is listed. Please take note of the text at the top of the first tab on the Excel document before scrolling down to the alphabetical list of applications beneath.
If you have any questions, concerns or specific requests that relate to the applications that will be available you should raise these by email:
- Biology, Medicine and Health: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Humanities: email@example.com
- Science and Engineering: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please note - if you have requested any new applications or updates to existing applications since the start of the year that have not been completed, these requests are currently being reviewed. You can check Applications – List 2 to ensure they are included and view the current status of these requests and we will continue to update this list as it is worked through.
Wherever possible PC Clusters will be open to students in the coming semester, with social distancing, additional cleaning and other measures in place to ensure student safety. In addition, the ITS Application Delivery Team are working to ensure that a number of cluster PCs are available via remote access, so that any cluster-based teaching software will be available to students remotely if needed.
The Return to Campus Working Group continue to review possible solutions for cluster-based teaching and further advice will be provided when available.
Faculty Specific Resources
Each Faculty manages and supports a range of additional tools and resources specific to their Schools and programmes. Further information on the products, services and guidance available in your area can be found on the Faculty eLearning websites:
For further information on any of the software in this guide, please contact your eLearning Team.