Using Dalhousie's online platforms
Online courses rely heavily on technology. At Dal, there are a few online platforms that you will want to familiarize yourself with before starting your online courses.
Learn about the most popular online platforms below. If you have questions about these technologies or have trouble accessing them, contact email@example.com.
Dalhousie's Learning Management System
Brightspace is the main platform used for online and blended courses, and is also used to support in-person classes. Each course you take will show up on Brightspace as a module that is locked until the term begins. Professors will upload files to these modules such as the syllabus, readings, and assignment instructions. Your professors may also upload recorded lectures or class slides here. Information such as a moved deadline may be conveyed to the class through the Announcements feature. You can choose to receive an email when Announcements are posted (as well as when other content is updated on the site) through your Notifications settings.
A commonly used aspect of Brightspace is Discussions. Professors may include participation in Discussion threads as part of their assessment plan. Within threads, you are able to comment on another person's post, which creates its own thread. Discussions can also be used to facilitate conversations outside of assignments. Threads can be created as an open forum to ask questions, swap assignment deadlines, provide feedback, and more. Certain threads may enable anonymous posting.
Course assessment and grading
Brightspace is also used as a tool for assessments. You are able to complete quizzes in your class module. These will have a time limit, and may or may not offer opportunities to retake the quiz. Additionally, Brightspace allows professors to create dropboxes for students to submit their work. Professors then may choose to provide feedback on the assignments, which will also be displayed on Brightspace. There is also a "Grades" section, where students are able to see marks that their professors have uploaded, along with class averages for each assignment.
Helpful Brightspace resources
Video conferencing and webinar platform
Collaborate Ultra is a video conferencing and webinar platform dedicated to online learning. Collaborate Ultra is browser-based, so there is no software to download. You may access your sessions through a designated Course Room, or with a link. The platform is optimized for Chrome and is mobile friendly.
Collaborate Ultra has a number of aspects that are helpful for virtual learning. Your professor may choose to take advantage of live polling, a virtual whiteboard, and the ability to share their screen. They may also choose to designate a student as a "presenter", which gives the student the option of sharing their screen. As participants, students are given a button to unobtrusively "raise their hand" and contribute to the optional chatroom. If a professor wishes, they may create breakout groups to split their classroom into smaller groups. These groups will have their own chatroom, as well as access to the chat of the main group.
Collaborate Ultra also has special features that prioritize accessibility. It has full-screen reader support for whiteboard activities and uploaded files. Participants are also able to adjust the size of their viewing panel, chat text, and Notes text. Additionally, the moderator of the session may designate a participant as a live captioner. Interactive recordings of the sessions can be created for review at a later time.
Helpful Collaborate Ultra resources
Recording, editing and sharing videos
Panopto is a platform used for recording, editing, hosting, and sharing video and audio. It is like a secure version of YouTube just for Dalhousie. Professors can record videos online or upload videos recorded on other devices, edit them on the platform, then share the file as a link.
Panopto can be used for lecture capture, screen recording, and voiceover slide presentations. One feature of Panopto recordings is that they can have multiple "streams" - so you can see your professor's lesson slides and a video of them explaining the content in the same recording. In this way, Panopto can be used to emulate the classroom experience. Other options you may encounter in Panopto are automatic or custom captions, built-in quizzes during recordings, and live streaming.
Students are also granted access to many tools to customize their video experience. You can search a video for words spoken or shown on screen, and a list of timestamps will be generated for you. You can also take notes that will be saved as personal bookmarks during the video. Additionally, students are able to adjust the speed of video playback. Panopto may also be used to submit assignments in the form of a video presentation. You can upload your recording to a private dropbox folder, edit the video online, and then submit the file to your professor.
Helpful Panopto resources
Teams is a communication platform that uses a combination of messaging and video conferencing tools. It is part of Microsoft Office 365, so you will log in using your activated Dalhousie account (NetID and password). Different "teams" can be created within the application for different groups, such as courses or departments. These teams have their own channels that act as a shared workspace. For example, you may have a team for your course, and within that team is a channel for classroom video meetings and a channel for discussions.
Chats can exist within teams, or as private conversations between individuals. Each new post in a team creates a discussion thread that you can reply to. Between individuals, the chats function more like instant messaging. Documents that are uploaded in a chat are added to a OneDrive repository under the "Files" tab. This way, you can easily access documents even if the chat has progressed far past the point when they were originally attached. Edits that are made to these files within Teams are automatically saved. Additionally, new tabs can be created to add programs such as Word or PowerPoint if you would like to work on a document together in real time.
Another major element of Teams is its video conferencing capabilities. When you create a video meeting, a link is created that is accessible even if you do not have the Teams application downloaded. Up to 300 participants are allowed in a meeting, and there are no time limits. Meetings are also recordable. As a participant, you have the choice of using different video backgrounds if your environment is distracting. Teams video conferencing also provides the ability to share your screen or a specific file.
Helpful Teams resources
Dal Online is the home of all the administrative components of your university career. If Dalhousie requires you to take action in some way, it will likely involve Dal Online. For example, Dal Online is where you can opt in or out of the DSU Health Plan.
Every student has access to the "Web for Students" tab, which holds all of your academic information. This is where you can add or drop classes, view your fees, see your final grades, and more. Dal Online is also where you can access your student records. You will find your tax forms here, along with your academic record and confirmation of your enrolment. If you require an official transcript, you can make this request through Dal Online. Under the "Student Awards and Financial Aid" tab, you can apply for student aid (such as bursaries) and view the status of every award you have applied for.
Dal Online becomes especially important as you progress through university. It is where you will declare your major(s) and/or minor(s). If you plan on taking courses from another university, you can use the Transfer Credit Equivalencies page to see if they will count as credits towards your degree. Also, Dal Online is where our Degree Audit Reporting System (DARS) lives. Once you declare your major, you can use DARS to see if you are on track to fulfill all of your degree requirements.
Helpful Dal Online resources
Dal's internal website
myDal is Dalhousie's intranet. You log in through your activated Dalhousie account (NetID and password). myDal gives you access to the entire Microsoft 365 suite of tools, including Word, PowerPoint, and Excel. You can download these programs to your computer, or use them in your web browser. Through myDal, you are also able to save documents to OneDrive, Microsoft 365's cloud system. This means that if your computer dies, your files will still be safe.
The most important component of myDal is that it grants you access to your Dalhousie email. This is where all official Dalhousie communications are sent, so it is important to check it often. Like the other Microsoft 365 tools, you can open it through your web browser or download the Outlook application. As a bonus, you also have a calendar attached to your Dal account that can be used to schedule your learning.
myDal hosts several other internal sites with useful information, such as Information Technology Services (ITS) and the Dalhousie + Microsoft 365 User Resource Centre. Additionally, you can search myDal to find information on everything from academic advising to the Writing Centre.
Helpful myDal resources
What you need to succeed
Online learning at Dal requires access to a computer or laptop and internet. Below are the minimum requirements needed to learn online at Dal.
256GB (SSD Recommended)
|Internet Speed||1Mbps upload, 5Mbps download of available bandwidth for group video calling. Faster would be even better for large lectures.|
|Web||Firefox or Chrome|
|Resolution||1024 x 768|
|Accessories||Webcam and Microphone (if not built into computer)|
|OS||Mac OS X 10.15 or higher|
|Storage||256GB (SSD Recommended|
|Internet Speed||1Mbps upload, 5Mbps download of available bandwidth for group video calling. Faster would be even better for large video/lecture uploads|
|Web Browser||Firefox/Chrome - Safari in certain cases (VPN)|
|Resolution||1024 x 768|
|Accessories||Webcam and microphone (if not built in to computer)|
Note: If a Mac is going to use Bootcamp or Virtualization to run Windows, better specifications are recommended:
- Bootcamp: 512GB storage
- VM: 16GB RAM, 512GB storage
Aside from running Windows in a Mac environment, some software would benefit from having a better CPU or more RAM, or even a discrete GPU -- SolidWorks, for example.