Thursday, 30 April 2020

Virtual Classroom Vs Zoom at GSA

Zoom and Virtual Classroom (aka Collaborate Ultra) are both video conferencing tools that we have access to at GSA. This blog post will provide an overview of both tools, their main features and how they can support your Learning and Teaching.

Most teaching staff will likely be using both these conferencing tools either as hosts or participants, so its good to get acquainted with the interfaces of both tools.

Zoom is ideal for meetings, either one-to-one or with large groups. It has a 'work' focus, and facilitates discussions very well.

Virtual Classroom on the other hand is ideal for teaching and learning situations. It has a Classroom focus that facilitates learning and is fully integrated into GSA's Canvas VLE.

Installation differences

Zoom can run either in a browser, or as a standalone software application on your computer, mobile or tablet. The browser version has limited features, so it is suggested to install the app. New security settings in Zoom require all participants and hosts to have an account. GSA staff can request account activation by contacting their line manager. You can download the zoom client from the Zoom Downloads page.

Virtual Classroom is fully integrated into Canvas at GSA. At present, you will need to email to enable Virtual Classroom in your course.  Once enabled, the link will be available in the course navigation menu, from which you can schedule, host and join sessions in the Virtual Classroom.  Students can join the room here or follow the link supplied. No signup required. You can also invite guests from out with Canvas/GSA to join your session via the link supplied when you schedule a session. The Virtual Classroom runs in browser, so it can be joined on most devices that have internet access.

Main Features 

Both Zoom and Virtual Classroom allow video conferencing with large groups and support standard conferencing tools such as breakout rooms, hand raising, chat, screen sharing, window sharing and app sharing. 

Virtual classroom has a useful whiteboard feature, that provides a blank canvas for drawing, sharing and collecting information etc. See the video below for a brief overview of the user interface.


Recording in Zoom is currently turned off at account level for security reasons, so GSA staff are unable to record zoom sessions. 

Virtual Classroom sessions can easily be recorded and stored in the cloud. See the above video that shows how to start and stop recording. Recorded sessions can be found by clicking the menu shown below.

Inviting students and external guests

For Virtual Classroom, you can direct students to the session by asking them to access the Virtual Classroom link in the course menu. You can also link to this page in any emails or announcements. External users can be invited using the guest link that is generated when you schedule a session.

When inviting students using Zoom just send them the invitation generated when you schedule a Zoom session. This could be in an email or Canvas announcement. Anyone with the link will be able to join the session.


Both these conferencing tools offer a streamlined way to host online meetings, discussions, seminars, lectures and more. 

You will likely be using both tools as part of your work. For work based meetings we would suggest using Zoom as it offers a professional approach without being located within Canvas. 

For any learning and teaching, we would recommend using Virtual Classroom. The fact that it is integrated into student's canvas courses help make it feel more connected to the coursework they have already undertaken. Sign up and security is handled by Canvas, in addition to the class lists, enrolment, assessments etc. Remember your can still invite guest participant using the link generated when scheduling your session. 

Recording of Virtual Classroom sessions is a vital feature that allows students to revisit information, and is useful for catching up if students cannot attend at a certain time.

Further Information 

For more information for GSA Staff, please visit the Engaging Students Online Canvas course.

We have had positive feedback from teaching staff who have started using Virtual Classroom and would welcome any further feedback. You can also email us at for further help, information or to enable virtual classroom in your Canvas course. 

Thursday, 9 April 2020

Accessibility with Audio and Video

Accessibility regulations require that all video content published within Canvas contains subtitles, sometimes referred to as 'closed-captions' or 'captions'.  A transcript of any dialogue based audio should also be provided. This applies to podcasts and other audio based formats as well.

Providing these additional accessible materials allows users to use screen readers and text-based search functions to easily locate specific information within a video or audio file, and also helps increase accessibility.

At GSA, we recommend hosting any audio or video content on GSA's Planet eStream account. Planet eStream allows users to upload subtitle files to videos and upload transcripts to accompany videos.

So how do I get subtitles on my video?

Here are two suggested methods for generating captions for your audio and video.

Option 1. provides auto-transcription of audio and video files, and can create transcripts. A free account allows 600 minutes per month of transcription, and basic text export for creating transcripts.  The Learning Technology Office has  access to a pro account that supports SRT(subtitle) export.  Staff and students can email  with any subtitling or transcript requests or further for help and advice. 

Option 2. YouTube studio (Gmail account needed)

If you upload videos to YouTube ( you can keep them private), you can take advantage of Youtube's automatic captioning system. Auto captions can then be edited and corrected using the YouTube Studio editor. You can then share the video with captions, or export an SRT (subtitle) file that can be added to the same video in Planet eStream. This cannot be used to create transcripts at present. Youtube has detailed information on using automatic captions with YouTube.

Here is an example of a video hosted on Planet eStream with subtitles and transcript, both created using auto-transcription.

PDF Transcript (Generated by

For more information and guides on creating accessible content please visit GSA's Canvas for Staff Accessibility Module or email us at

Thursday, 26 March 2020

Creating Accessible Content

For teaching staff at GSA Digital Accessibility is about ensuring the online learning environment and resources are easily accessible for all students and staff, including those with disabilities and specific learning differences.

All staff at GSA should have an awareness of the importance of accessibility, and strive to create accessible learning materials.

This post contains links and guidance on how staff can create accessible digital learning materials and best meet the requirements of the UK Governments's Accessibility Regulations.

 (Links to an external site

How do I create accessible content?

Structure Content 

Structuring digital content correctly helps make text compatible with screen reader software. This allows users with visual impairments to quickly find the most appropriate part of a document using a screen reader. By using text styles (headings), tables and lists appropriately when inputting text you can create accessible content in Canvas pages, Word docs, Powerpoint presentations and PDFs.
See our accessibility page on Structuring Content for more information.

Text Alternatives

Providing Text Alternatives for images, audio, and video will help make your documents accessible to all users. 
See our accessibility page on Text Alternatives for detailed information. 

Descriptive Text in Links

Use of descriptive text in links and headings helps all users navigate text content efficiently. More information is available on our accessibility guide to using descriptive text in links and headings.

Check your content 

To check if your content meets accessibility guidelines you can refer to the Designing for Digital Learners checklist. Canvas has a useful built in Accessibility Checker Tool that can be used to verify if Canvas pages conform to the regulations. 
Other apps such as Word, Powerpoint and Acrobat also have accessibility checker tools. 

See our guide to using accessibility checker tools for more information.For more information on creating accessible content to meet accessibility requirements, please see the Accessibility Module on the GSA Canvas for Staff pages. 

Further Information

If you would like further guidance, support or want to arrange a 'virtual help' session over Zoom, please get in touch with us We’re more than happy to help.

Thursday, 19 March 2020

Using Zoom for home working

The Zoom desktop app

Zoom is a video conferencing service that is fast becoming one of the most popular tools for online meetings, lectures, seminars, webinars and video calls. It is simple to use, yet loaded with advanced features. With a few simple steps you can get set up to host or participate in online meetings.

What hardware and software do I need?

A laptop with a built in-webcam and microphone is the most common (and simple) hardware setup. If you don't have a laptop Zoom will run on an iPhone or Android mobile via the Zoom App. You also need to hear audio either via speakers or headphones. If you don't have a microphone you could use the text-based chat feature to participate.

You can use a desktop computer but you may need an external webcam and microphone.

As usual, try to keep your web browser up to date to avoid any problems.

Here are the detailed system requirements for Zoom. 

Do I need an account?

Participants in meetings do not need an account to join in meetings. If you would like to host a meeting, GSA staff must get permission from IT via their line manager. 

Do I need to install the Client Software?  

Participants do not need to install the software, but will be prompted to. If you don't want to or can't install the app, there is an option to 'join from browser'. If you want to host a meeting you will need the Client installed.

How do I invite participants to a scheduled meeting? 

When you create or schedule a meeting you will be given a meeting ID that you can share with participants prior to the meeting starting. 

How can I do a test before my meeting?

Visit this Zoom test session to test your connection, audio and video settings or just to get a feel for the interface.  You can share this url with participants so they can test their settings before a scheduled meeting or lecture.

Test URL: 

Where can I find more info?

GSA's Canvas for Staff course has more information on using Zoom and other online conferencing tools.

The Zoom Support Centre has 'getting started' guides and detailed documentation.

GSA's IT department has published guides to installing and using Zoom here.

Wednesday, 11 March 2020

Supporting students off-campus

Photo by Andrew Neel

This blog post explains some of the ways GSA staff can continue to support students off-campus.

Tutors can communicate with students and provide access to many types of learning materials via Canvas and other integrated tools.

Detailed information about the methods listed below is available on the GSA Canvas for Staff guide. For further help or advice please contact

Communicating with students

Maintaining good communication with your students vital.
The easiest way to communicate with your entire class is to post an announcement from within Canvas. Students will receive an email notification (if they have not changed their notification settings), and will also see the announcement when they log into Canvas. Here is a useful Canvas guide to making announcements.

Online conference tools

There are two options available to staff at GSA for web conferencing available within Canvas: Virtual Classroom and Canvas Conferences. Both these tools are easily accessible from your Canvas course pages, so students will already be enrolled in their correct course groups.

Virtual Classroom (Collaborate Ultra) 

Screen shot of Collaborate Ultra virtual classroom
Screenshot of Collaborate Ultra being used in a virtual classroom scenario

'Virtual Classroom' is the name used at GSA for Blackboard Collaborate Ultra. This tool allows you to share your screen, poll students, live-chat, and open breakout rooms for smaller discussions. These sessions can also be recorded for those that cannot attend a class in real time. 

Contact to turn on Virtual Classroom for you in your course.

Canvas Conferences (Big Blue Button)

Screenshot of Canvas Conferences (BigBlueButton) being used in a virtual classroom scenario

Similar to Collaborate Ultra, the inbuilt Canvas Conferences tool is called Big Blue Button. Conferences is enabled in every Canvas course, but it is hidden to students by default. 

To enable Conferences in your course navigation, click on Settings, then click on the Navigation tab at the top and drag Conferences into the upper area. Here's a guide for managing course navigation links in Canvas.

Either of these online conference tools can help make up classes through online presentations and web conferencing. Virtual Classroom or Canvas Conferences make it easy to conduct real-time lectures for all of the students in your course. You can broadcast real-time audio, video, demo applications on your desktop, share presentation slides, or demo any online resources.

Chat: Canvas Real-time Chat tool

For simple, text-based chat with students, consider taking advantage of Canvas’s Chat feature. With Chat you can answer student questions in real time and facilitate a discussion. Canvas also keeps a record of chat history so that you can refer to it later. To activate, you'll need to move chat from the hidden area of the navigation to the active area of your Canvas course.

To do this Click on Settings, then click on the Navigation tab at the top and drag Chat into the upper area. Here is the guide for managing course navigation links in Canvas.

Planet eStream - Create a ScreenCast or Webcam recording

Consider using Planet eStream to quickly create and share videos with your class or create video assignments for your students. Here is a guide creating video content, and here is a guide on how to embed Planet eStream content into your Canvas course.


Engage students by setting up discussions. Discussions can be for a class or group, with students sharing their posts with the other students, or discussions can be set up as private journals visible to the teachers and student only. Here is a Canvas guide to creating discussions as an instructor.


You can also use Padlet as a discussion tool - it embeds nicely into Canvas and is more engaging than an ordinary Canvas discussion. It's free to set up. Here is information on using Padlet as a teaching tool.

Canvas Survey

Creating a Canvas quiz or survey can be a great way to engage students. Here is a guide to creating quizzes and surveys in Canvas.

Course Download

Students can download whole courses if required, due to travel or limited internet connections. All content will be available but the student cannot interact or submit assignments, or access embedded content. Here is a guide to downloading courses.

Need Help? Contact Us!

GSAs Learning Technology office is available to assist you in developing your Canvas course. Please contact us at or for 24/7 Canvas specific support you can click on 'Help & Links' within the Canvas navigation menu.

Thursday, 5 March 2020

Free MUBI access for GSA students and staff

Still, Maud Gonne Nuts, Rosie Roberts, GSA MLitt Art Writing  Licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

In addition to GSA's Planet eStream and Linkedin Learning (formerly video streaming services, all Glasgow School of Art students and staff can access MUBI's curated film collection. There are 30 hand-picked films available at any one time, with a new film released daily. To obtain your free account, follow this link and sign up to the MUBI film schools programme with your GSA staff or student email address.  

Thursday, 27 February 2020

Creating a Screencast (or webcam) recording

Screen recordings are a great way to demonstrate complex software-based tasks to students with narration. They can also be used to capture lectures, tutorials or powerpoint presentations. 
There are 3 main ways to create screen or webcam recordings for use in Canvas, which are detailed below.  

1. Browser-based (Mac or PC) 

The GSA Planet eStream web recorder is a useful Chrome extension tool that can be used to create webcam or screen recordings. To access the recorder on Planet eSteam click the Create menu and select 'Web Recorder' or access the link here. The enoder is only compatible with the Chrome browser. 

You will be prompted to install a browser extension which allows the recorder to capture your desktop, webcam, or a specific window (or windows) of your choice. Once recording is complete, the video will be available in your Planet eStream account where it can then be edited, shared or embedded into Canvas. 

2. Mac OS

To create a screen recording locally on a Mac, we would recommend using quicktime player, which is an application that comes pre-installed on all macs by default.
An Apple guide on using quicktime player to create a screen recording can be found here. Once you have created your file, you can upload to Planet eStream, or directly into Canvas. 
To create a webcam or audio-only recording follow the same process, select 'New Movie Recording' or 'New Audio Recording' instead of 'New Screen Recording' in the file menu.

Once the recording is complete, select Save, name the file accordingly and choose a location for the file. Once saved the file can be uploaded to Planet eStream, where it can then be edited and shared on Canvas.  

 (Links to an external site.)

3. Windows

We recommend Windows users use the Planet eStream web encoder detailed above. 
There is a desktop app available which offers more advanced features, and is useful for recording off campus or when no internet connection is available. This can be accessed from the tools menu and selecting 'Install Encoder'. Unfortunately this encoder is not available on Mac at present.

 (Links to an external siteor encoder application to create and upload screen recordings. 
If you require further assistance creating screen recordings for use in Canvas and Planet eStream please contact us in the Learning Technology Office in the Library email us at

Thursday, 20 February 2020

ZamZar - Online FIle Conversion

ZamZar is a useful online file type converter. It works with hundreds of file types, including most audio, video and graphics files. The free version is limited to two conversions per day, up to 150MB, but it can be very useful for solving compatibility issues between software. The drag and drop interface is really easy to use, and most conversions are processed very quickly. The site offers an unlimited premium version via a subscription model, although if you find you need to regularly convert certain file types, there are usually offline software-based solutions for this.

For advice with online or offline file type conversion or any other Learning Technology issues at GSA, visit us in the Learning Technology Office located in the library or contact us at

You can find the terms of use for the Zamzar service here.

Monday, 17 February 2020

New Canvas Gradebook Features

The Canvas gradebook has been updated - New features mean workflow changes for the way instructors and admin support use the gradebook

Muting / Posting Policy

The new grade posting policy is the biggest change in the new gradebook. Previously, instructors or admin staff would mute an each assignment when creating it or prior to grading; then admin or tutors would unmute the assignment to release the grade. This was done in the gradebook by clicking on the 'eye' icon to mute or unmute (release) the marks. 
The New Gradebook allows instructors to set a Grade Post Policy for all assignments in a course with a few clicks. All GSA 19/20 courses have been set up with a 'manual posting policy', which means all course marks and feedback are hidden until manually posted. 

Grades are posted when the 'eye' is clicked in the top left corner of speedgrader and 'Post Grades' is selected.

New Gradebook Resources

Thursday, 30 January 2020

BBC Digital Archives

All GSA staff can search and request content from the BBC Digital Archives, which contains over 2 million TV and radio programmes, in addition to content from other providers. The archive is accessed through Planet eStream, and content requests will appear on GSA's Planet eStream site, where they can then be viewed or embedded into Canvas courses.

To access the archive go to GSA's Planet eStream site, and log in with your staff username and password. You can then access the TV and Radio Archive from the Create menu as shown below.

Planet eStream Image

Once your request has been placed, the item will be approved by GSA Library staff and the item will be available to all at GSA. 

For further help using Planet eStream, come along to the Learning Technology Office in the library or contact us at 

Thursday, 23 January 2020

New Canvas Feature: Direct Share

Canvas have just released a useful new feature called Direct Share. This allows users with teacher permissions to copy items between canvas courses, and share content items with other teachers. Pages, assignments, quizzes and discussions can all be copied or shared from the pop-up options menu shown below.

You can copy items to any course you are an instructor on. This will include any assets such as files or images. When copying you will be prompted to choose the destination course, and a module within where the item will be placed.    

You can share items with other teachers within GSA. Again, this will include any assets such as files or images. Once the content has been sent, the recipient will receive a notification as shown below. It can then be viewed and imported into any of the recipient's courses. 

For a step by step guide to using this new feature with individual pages please see the official Canvas documentation below:

How do I use Direct Share to send a page to another instructor?
How do I use Direct Share to copy a page to another course?

For further help using this or any other Canvas features please contact us in the Learning Technology Office in the GSA Library, or email us at

Thursday, 16 January 2020

Free and Quick Stock Images with

Old Camera Image
Image: (Alex Andrews) 

If you need some stock images to liven up your Canvas course, you can try using The site is very quick and easy to search for and download images, with no sign-in required. All images are free to use, subject to its very generous licence (more info here.) The site operates on a 'suggested donation' model, encouraging you to make an optional donation to the artist before you download their image.

To insert your image into your Canvas page, choose the 'Embed image' option shown below, you will then be given the option to upload the image to your Canvas folder.

Embed Image Screenshot

Please remember to fill in the 'alternative text' option when inserting images. This provides screen readers with a description of the image, and helps increase the accessibility of your pages.     

Thursday, 9 January 2020

Embedding Planet eStream content into Canvas

Here is a quick guide to embedding Planet eStream content into your Canvas course. For more details of how to create screen recordings please visit this guide on creating screencasts. 
To embed Planet eStream content into a Canvas page follow the simple process detailed below. 
  1.  In Planet eStream, select the content you would like to embed
  2.  In the video's 'Details' area, select 'Share' then 'Share by embedding'
  3. Copy the embed code supplied
  4. Switch to your Canvas page , and select 'Insert/Embed Media' from the toolbar
  5. Select the 'embed' Tab and paste your embed code
  6. Click OK and Save your changes to the page. 
Plantet eStream Embed tutorial.gif

Happy New Year!
Learning Technology Team

Tuesday, 17 December 2019

Recovering deleted data in Canvas

Delete Page Image

Two easy-to-use methods to get your data back!

We all need to recover data at some point - a previous version of a file or a deleted course page we need to use again. The two methods detailed below will help you recover your lost data.

1. Recover previous versions of a page:

You can recover previous versions of a page in Canvas by accessing the Revision History for that page. To do this, click the options icon in the top right of the page you want to recover (the three vertical dots) to access the page options. From here select 'View Page history' to access your previous versions. 😀

Gif of restore process

2. Recover a deleted page: 

Canvas has a hidden feature called 'undelete' to recover deleted content from your courses. To access the feature simply add /undelete to the url of your course in your browser's address bar. For example if your course url is 

your new url would be 

From here you can restore any previously deleted content!  😀

If you need any further help recovering lost data you can visit the Learning Technology office in the Library or contact us at

Wednesday, 11 December 2019

The 12 Apps of Christmas

The Digital Education Unit at University of Glasgow has gathered 12 apps that they think may be useful in teaching and learning for online and distance education.

Starting on the 9th of December 2019 they will reveal one app per day for 12 consecutive working days. They have added some festive cheer by creating a different short Christmas themed game for each day which you will need to complete before the app for that day is revealed. Each game should only take around 5 minutes to play.

If you prefer not to play the game don’t worry, you’ll be able to still see the app for the day.

The aim is to showcase the creativity and work the Digital Education Unit provides and to give you some new ideas for ways that the 12 Apps can be used in online learning.

Find all the fun at Hope you enjoy it! 

Tuesday, 3 December 2019

Linkedin Learning - formerly - is a fantastic free resource for GSA

Linkedin Leraning

As a GSA student or staff member, you have free access to all the contents on Linkedin Learning.

This online platform offers video tutorials and short courses on many topics which are beneficial for your studies and beyond.

Some of the most popular Linkedin Learning courses are on software applications useful to designers, architects and artists including the Adobe CC suite, Revit, ZBrush and Rhino, as well as most of the other software available on GSA Library computers.

Linkedin Learning can be accessed both on and off campus.


Here are instructions for logging into Linkedin Learning:


There's more to Linkedin Learning than software tutorials! 

Here are just a few of the many and varied courses you can check out on Linkedin Learning:

If you have any problems logging on or any questions, please contact learning technology: 

Tuesday, 27 August 2019

Roll up roll up! Learning Resources Staff Development Sessions

We hope all teaching staff can find time to undertake some CPD before the start of term, and we've devised a programme to help you to do so.

The Learning Resources Staff Development Sessions offer you some bite-sized training opportunities to inspire your teaching.

What have we got in store for you over the first weeks in September?

  • We've got Planet eStream coming to show all interested staff how to use the media streaming service...
  • We've got Mark Charters discussing how to extend learning with Audio feedback...
  • We've got Vivienne Vine demoing the new, much anticipated GSA Intranet...
  • We've got the Canvas showcase, featuring a host of your colleagues:
    • Johnny Roger - Student Films for Assessment, embedding and sharing
    • Vivienne Vine - New Student Welcome Gateway
    • Michael Dancer- Embedded Planet eStream photosets as slideshows in Canvas
    • Mark Charters - Online Elective and PG Cert
    • Louise Hopkins -Painting and Printmaking Community (Guest lecturers, audio recordings, planet eStream photosets)

Learning Technology staff will offer also Canvas Rollover workshops, Lecture Capture, and Virtual Classroom (Collaborate Ultra). 

Please email and let us know if you are planning to attend any sessions. The Canvas Showcase is drop-in. Everyone is welcome!

All sessions are held in the library computer lab, 2nd Floor, unless otherwise noted. 
Monday 2.9.19 
Tues 3.9.19 
Weds 4.9.19 
Thurs 5.9.19 
Fri 6.9.19 
10:00 – 11:00  
Canvas Rollover Workshop 

10:00 – 11:00 
Canvas Rollover Workshop 
10:30 – 11:30 
Collaborate Ultra: using the virtual classroom for tutorials and contact hours at a distance 

3:30 – 4:30 
Canvas Rollover Workshop 

Monday 9.9.19 
Tues 10.9.19 
Weds 11.9.19 
Thurs 12.9.19 
Fri 13.9.19 
11:00 - 12:00
Canvas Showcase: 
Barnes Lecture Theatre
10:00 – 11:00 
Introduction to the new Intranet for all interested Staff -  Vivienne Vine 
10:00 – 11:00 
Canvas Rollover Workshop 
2:00 - 3:30
All interested Staff  - overview of Planet eStream training with the Planet eStream Trainer -
using the media library, managing recordings, making quizzes

2:00 - 3:30
Capturing creative dialogues: Extending learning with audio feedback in Canvas*

(led by Mark Charters)

Library Quiet Study Space

3:30 – 4:30 
Canvas Rollover Workshop 

3:30 – 4:15 
Lecture Capture at GSA using the Planet eStream encoder

Library Quiet Study Space

3:00 - 4:00
Canvas Rollover Workshop

*Creative dialogue is a key feature of studio learning in the creative arts. But how can we capture and extend this dialogue to support our students in their creative learning? Audio feedback provides an innovative vehicle to do just that. This workshop session will introduce audio feedback in the contexts of creative dialogue and support you to consider and apply audio feedback within your teaching practice.