Using a second camera in online live teaching (Blackboard Collaborate)

Blackboard Collaborate Ultra Share Camera Tool

When you’re moderating or presenting a session in Blackboard Collaborate there is now the option to share a camera.

This is useful if you want to:

  • Demonstrate something live such as a handwritten diagram or exercise (use the camera as a visualizer) 
  • Demonstrate a practical physical experiment or process live
Screenshot of moderator view of sharing a second camera. Showing live handwritten demonstration with pen and paper.
Share a second camera as a visualiser in Blackboard Collaborate

A standalone webcam (any USB plug and play webcam such as Logitech C270 HD Webcam) works best as a second camera.


  • While you can use a DSLR with some videoconferencing tools, depending on your camera it can be quite a complicated setup requiring extra hardware and/or software and is not guaranteed to work with Blackboard Collaborate.
  • It is possible to use your phone as a camera using a third party App. However, these Apps require both an App install to your phone and your desktop PC and could potentially present a security risk. As an alternative, use your phone as a visualiser instead.

To share a second camera, you need to do the following:

  1. Connect your camera to your laptop or desktop computer via it’s cable
  2. Start your session
  3. In the Collaborate panel go to share content
  4. Select share camera
  5. Choose your camera from the list of available cameras
  6. When the video preview prompt opens choose share camera again

You can simultaneously share the live feed from the second camera and the feed from your normal webcam. Students will see your webcam feed in a smaller thumbnail window on the screen beneath the live camera feed.


  • You can purchase a ‘gooseneck’ flexible clamp that can be used as a tripod and allows your phone to be angled in a any direction including filming the tabletop (useful for handwritten demos) fairly cheaply online
  • If you already have a tripod you can purchase a Griptight mount for smartphones that allows you to connect your smartphone to any tripod
  • If you prefer a specialised mini tripod the Manfrotto mini universal smartphone tripod is a good choice
  • Think about lighting – position your document so it can be seen clearly

Further Reading:

The Challenge of Language Learning Pivot to Online – initial thoughts and ideas…

Language symbols
“Language symbols” by viralbus is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

I met with a couple of ALT members yesterday to chat about the challenges of pivoting online with languages. Some areas of learning are easier to move to a blended learning model than others. Language teachers face challenges as so much of it is student centred and relies on face to face contact to develop understanding and practice authentic speaking & listening skills.

Some teaching staff have initially taken their face to face model and translated wholly online to video conference – essentially trying to replicate the physical classroom in a virtual space but with poor connectivity and the challenges of virtual meetings this has had mixed success. This got me thinking about how language teaching might be best adapted to be taught in a blended way. Does everything have to be synchronous? How do you maintain student engagement? How do you manage the oral and interactive aspects of language learning?

I’ve spent a lot of time this week researching how language teaching might be best adapted to the blended learning and was relieved to discover that there’s some really good guidance and resources out there. I’m not going to reinvent the wheel here but I’ll share some of the best pointers and guidance I’ve come across.

Polish in text book
“polish” by Plastic_Bat is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Ideas for Teaching Languages in Online

Rethink instruction and interaction…

  • Rethink how you will interact. Restructure the content if possible. It doesn’t all have to be synchronous. Lower level activities of acquisition can be delivered via short videos or podcasts. Grammar activities can be done via shared writing activities in chat, discussion boards or collaborative spaces or via online quizzes.
  • If providing support online, offer ‘lessons’ assigned under one of three labels: LL – Live Lesson – reduce the length and frequency of these; students are exhausted by long online lessons, IA – Independent activity – throughout the week, SA – Support time available – Google hangout open for chats.
  • Share a Code of conduct with students for Live Lessons – show video feed at beginning of live sessions if possible to build class social interaction. Specify how you want students to interact – audio, video, text? Will sessions or parts of sessions be recorded?

Be selective with the tools…

  • Focus on pedagogical goals – don’t try and learn too many new tools. What are the pedagogical priority needs? Find the tech to match. Use what you’re familiar with. This isn’t the time to push the innovation boundaries.

Be clear…

  • Share the road map of how the learning will be delivered – explain what they are going to do each week, where the materials are, how to complete the activities and how it will contribute to their overall outcomes for the course. This could be a short weekly video or email. Online learning needs more explicit guidance.

Consult your students…

  • Survey your students at the beginning of the course to gauge how you can best meet students’ needs. Do they all have devices? Internet connectivity? Are they based in the local time zone?

Get creative…

  • To maintain engagement build in activities that use the ‘creating’ skills from Bloom’s taxonomy – i.e. project based activities in the target language such as making a vlog or blog, poster, info-graphic or short film – cooking a meal, a guided tour of the house in lockdown – all in the target language.

Help them interact and socialise…

  • For student to student engagement try breakout groups in the video conferencing technology of your choice or use collaborative writing via Google Docs (this can be either synchronous or asynchronous).
  • Consider setting up group tools in your LMS such as Blackboard Collaborate or discussion boards for small groups to facilitate independent practice in groups.

Keep it short and sweet…

  • Create a few one sentence videos and post each week. Learners access the videos containing ready-to-use sentences which work like patterns they can put straight into practice and repeat at their own pace and as often as they like. They then use in their own context. Adding subtitles to video or audio allows them to read and repeat,combining both linguistic skills.

Above ideas gathered from:

IALLT Webinar Recording – Your Burning Questions about Remote Language Teaching

Languages Today – Association for Languages Learning Issue 35 May 2020 p20 – Plan for Online Teaching

Other useful resources:

IALLT Site (International Association of Language Learning Technology)

Joe Dale’s Youtube Channel (Joe Dale is an independent languages consultant from the UK who works with a range of organisations such as Network for Languages, ALL, The British Council, the BBC, Skype, Microsoft and The Guardian.) to Teaching Language Online (TTLO) – June 22–July 20, 2020  Asynchronous 4-week intensive online course

AULC – Association for University Language Communities

It’s all about the bandwidth…

I recently read an interesting post by Daniel Stanford on the IDD blog. The post titled ‘Videoconferencing Alternatives: How Low-Bandwidth Teaching Will Save Us All’ is here.

Back when the COVI19 crisis started we threw ourselves into showing staff how to use video conferencing for teaching as an emergency fall back for teaching. We also showed them how to use tools such as Echo360 and Kaltura Capture to pre-record and upload videos of their lectures. As the semester clocked by and we finally had a chance to stand back a little I started to think about other ways blended and online teaching could be delivered without disproportionately affecting those whose internet connection was poor – which to be honest – was a significant amount of students and staff.

What I liked about Daniel’s post was the way he’d considered the trade offs between high and low immediacy (what some call synchronous and asynchronous – the distinctions can be blurred so I prefer Daniel’s definition) and high and low bandwidth. The info-graphic was simple and visual and immediately, I could see where we could have done things differently.

I have taken the liberty of adapting it slightly (under CC license – so attributing Daniel’s work) and putting it into the context of the ABC Learning Design learning types, again under CC license.

I wanted to see how learning activities such as acquisition, discussion, collaboration, investigation, practice and production would map out against the quadrant. I related it to some of the tools I have available when working with colleagues in Sheffield. Here are my initial results.

I’ve only included collaboration, acquisition and discussion here but the quadrant applies equally to the other three learning activities of practice, investigation and production.

The activities and tools I mention are not meant to be an exhaustive list and collaboration and acquisition etc can , of course, overlap. However, immediately, it gives me an overview of the choices I have for learning & teaching activities and how those choices might affect my learners which, in turn, helps me make better choices.

In addition, I created a Padlet that staff could use as a planning tool that takes into account the quadrant of high / low immediacy and high / low bandwidth mapped against the ABC LD six learning activities. There are already some examples of this on the ABC LD Online site but I was interested in putting it into context of the quadrant.

The idea is that staff can easily visualise how a week’s teaching might look and understand how their choice of activities might affect their learners – especially those who might be disproportionately affected by high level synchronous teaching such as parents, (particularly women as research is finding), neurodiverse learners (those who need longer to process information) or those from densely populated households (Including some BAME learners) where bandwidth is spread thin.

Note: The colours used in the Padlet don’t reflect the traditional ABC LD colours but relate to the quadrant.

Made with Padlet

This is another version where the colours do reflect the ABC LD activity types better (within the parameters of Padlet) and the columns relate to the quadrant.

Made with Padlet