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Learning Technology Team

NILE & Other Technology Guides

Information for Staff

The Collaborate scheduler in NILE

Collaborate Ultra is integrated with the University Of Northampton's virtual learning environment Blackboard Learn, commonly referred to as NILE. Each NILE course has a separate Collaborate scheduler where instructors can create sessions and students can access them. The steps below will show you where the scheduler is located and how to make it available to students.

In the NILE course for the module, select the Virtual classroom link in the main course menu. The Collaborate scheduler will load.

 The Virtual classroom link is in the main course menu and is eigth on the list by default

By default, the Virtual classroom link in the menu is hidden. Instructors can use the scheduler while it is hidden, but it will need to be shown to students before they can use it.

Use the contextual menu next to the Virtual classroom link and select the option 'Show link'.

The contextual menu is a popup menu

Creating sessions

The scheduler allows you to create sessions with start and end dates and with different names and settings for your students.

The course room

Each scheduler contains an open-ended session by default called the course room, which is open to all students at all times. You may wish to use this room for all sessions relating to that module if you will be running one session at a time for the module. Let your students know when to expect you and instruct them to meet you in the course room. Course announcements can be useful for this. If you have multiple instructors delivering sessions simultaneously, or at overlapping intervals, please see the next section to create independent sessions. You can lock the course room following the steps below if you decide not to use it.

Using the contextual menu next to the Course Room, select 'Lock course room'. It will remain locked until you or another instructor on NILE chooses to unlock it from the same menu.

The course room is above the main table of scheduled sessions.

If you intend to use the course room, please see the next part of the guide on session settings to ensure that all of the options in that course room are set how you would like them.

Setting individual sessions

When creating individual sessions, think about how you would like to organise these to keep administration to a minimum. For example, when managing one module with three instructors running a Collaborate session each week for a term, it may be best to create three open-ended sessions, rather than 28 individual sessions with a beginning and end time. The main concern is letting your students know what to expect for your module and helping them navigate to the sessions you create. Please see the end of this section for a link to some student guidance on accessing Collaborate sessions.

To create an individual session, go to the scheduler (Virtual classroom link) in the relevant NILE module, then use either of the Create Session buttons.

The first button on the page is underneath the course room link

Enter a name for the session. This is the title that students will click on to access the session. Optionally, tick the guest access checkbox and enter the role each guest will be given on entry. This is not necessary for your students but may be more useful for guest speakers or people without access to NILE. Please see the later section, 'Inviting students and guests' for more information on guest access.

The guest role only shows on the page once the guest access checkbox is ticked.

As shown below, the start and end date and times mark the availability of the session, with the exception of the early entry option which allows your attendees access prior to the start time to check their equipment and internet connection. As mentioned, it is possible to set an open session by not defining an end time; tick the 'No end' checkbox to apply this.

While it is possible to create repeat sessions, unless you have exactly the same session times each week, it is of little use for most staff.

Use the create button to add the session if you are happy with the default session settings. If you are unfamiliar with the settings, please review the next section of this guide 'Session settings and recommendations' before creating your first session. 

Dates and times can be typed directly into the input boxes instead of using the picker feature

Session settings and recommendations

The settings for each session can be found when creating or editing a session. Some of these settings are also available within the session itself - please see the section 'Managing the room' for more information.

In the scheduler (Virtual classroom link) on NILE, go to the contextual menu for the session and choose 'Edit settings'.

Edit settings is the third item listed in the popup menu

Select the settings panel indicated by a cog icon.

The edit panel is split into details and settings. Settings will not show until it has been selected as the active panel.

The following table describes what each setting does, the default when first creating a session, and any general guidance for use at UON.

Setting name Default state Recommendations
Default attendee role Participant Leave this setting as the default for use with students. When students click the link, it is best that they are given the role of the participant so that you can control the features available to them. You can elevate individual roles during a session if you need to. Please see the section of this guide 'Managing the room' for more details on in-session permission settings.
Allow recording downloads Not checked Leave this setting as the default for use with students. There is little need for this feature as students are able to view recordings from the NILE module by streaming the video. Once you allow downloads, the video can be downloaded locally to a student machine, and then the student can do what they like with that file.
Anonymise chat messages Not checked It is possible to anonymise chat messages in session recordings. You may find this useful if your subject is of a sensitive nature or you wish to encourage students to use the chat feature.
Only show profile pictures for moderators Not checked It is fine for students to have their profile pictures on display unless you have any students causing a disturbance by doing so. You can tick the checkbox to prevent student profile pictures showing to others in the session.
Participant permissions All options checked By default, participants, i.e. students on the NILE module, can share their microphone audio, webcam video, post chat messages, and draw on whiteboard and files. This is the main control instructors have over their participants. Each option is covered in more detail below. Instructors with large cohorts would usually want to untick most of these options apart from chat.
Allow attendees to join the session using a telephone Checked This option can be really useful for any students or guests who are struggling with their computer audio. Please note that phone calls made to collaborate sessions are charged at the user's rate for a London area code. 
Participants can chat privately only with moderators Checked, greyed out You cannot change this option. The decision has been made for the institution that students cannot have private chats with each other during sessions.
Allow 250+ participants to join Not checked It is unlikely that you will require a session to hold more than 250 participants, but please check this box only if you expect numbers in excess of 250. This alerts the system to allocate more server resource to your session.
Hide profanity in chat messages Not checked This option will restrict the entering of certain words in the chat. Depending on your topic, you may wish to enable this to save embarrassment resulting from typing errors.

A note on participant permissions

When delivering sessions to large numbers of participants, you will most likely wish to restrict their ability to activate their microphones and web cameras. You will also probably wish to restrict their ability to draw over your slides and the whiteboard. These settings can be changed while the session is in progress, enabling you to begin your session with minimal interruption and then turn them on later if you wish. Please see the section 'Managing the room' for details.

For smaller cohorts and seminar sessions you may wish to enable all of these permissions when first setting up the session.

When making use of open-ended sessions, you could remove these permissions while you are not in the session and re-apply them when you are.

Inviting students and guests

Students can join as a participant through the relevant NILE module. The easiest way to invite students is via a course announcement on NILE. Let them know which NILE module to visit and the name of the session they should join. You may wish to share a link to the student collaborate guide with them which provides an overview of accessing a session through NILE and what to expect of the virtual classroom interface once they have joined.

NOTE: Students do not need guest links as they can join via the NILE course. Joining through NILE ensures that attendance reports and polling results show NILE student user details.

Guest access is available for anyone without a user account on NILE. The guest access feature proves especially valuable for inviting guest lecturers, support staff, or other staff members who require quick access without creating a NILE account or enrolling onto the NILE module.

The guest access link can be set when creating or editing a session, as outlined in the section 'Creating sessions'. Once it has been set, you can copy the link again from the scheduler whenever you need it. Select the contextual menu for the session and choose the option to copy the guest link.

The contextual menu is a popup next to the session name

You can then email the link to those who require it with details of the date and time to join you. Please be careful when sharing links via email. If you suspect that the link may have been passed to the wrong person, please create a new session and use the new guest link instead.

NOTE: The role set against the guest link is important. You will usually want to set it to the presenter role when inviting staff or guest lecturers so that they can display their screen while you manage the session.

Presenter is the second option in the list when editing session settings.

Should you require urgent assistance with NILE, please contact the LearnTech Support Helpdesk via the online contact form