Knowledgebase Home: 13. Web Conferencing
How do I use Conferences tool in my Group in Canvas?
Posted by Anna Wright on 14 November 2012 02:23 PM

Note: These instructions are for faculty and students.

Click on one of the following links for more information:


What is the Group Conferences tool?

  • The Conferences tool in Canvas allows the instructor and students in a group to communicate in real-time using video (via webcam), audio (via USB headset) and text (via the Chat pod). Conferences allows you to broadcast real-time audio, video, demo applications on your desktop, share presentation slides, or demo any online resources. Currently, Canvas integrates with BigBlueButton. Note: BigBlueButton can accommodate approximately 50 users in a conference at one time.
  • Using the Conferences tool, you can:
    • Upload a file (i.e. For a virtual presentation)
      • Note: If you want to share a PowerPoint file, we strongly recommend saving it as a PDF in PowerPoint first and then uploading the PDF file (not the PowerPoint file) in the Conferences tool when presenting.
    • Share your desktop (i.e. To demo an application)
    • Share your webcam (i.e. To meet virtually with a student)
    • Chat with the entire class or initiate private chats with specific users
  • The person who creates the Conference is the moderator in the Conference. 
    • As the moderator, you can upload a PowerPoint, share their desktop, mute or unmute all users at anytime.
    • All users can turn their webcam or microphone on or off, but only the moderator can mute or unmute specific students or the entire class at anytime.
    • The moderator can also click on a student’s name and make them a presenter. Doing so gives that student all the abilities of a moderator.
    • Only one student can be a presenter at a time in the class Conferences tool.
      • At the start of a group’s presentation with a PowerPoint, the instructor will make one group member a Presenter, which means that this student has the ability to upload a PowerPoint and navigate between the slides for the group. Prior to the presentations, groups should decide who will fill this role and be sure to practice their group’s presentation with this person as the Presenter.
  • The instructor may want to use the Conferences tool for virtual presentations, office hours, or to meet with select students who are having trouble in the class or with student groups.
  • All group members can go in and create a web conference at anytime with other group members. This is helpful if you and your group have to give a virtual group presentation and want to practice using the technology or want to meet virtually with other group members.
  • Each student group has its own Conferences tool that only the students in that group can access. 

How to Select Your USB Headset as Audio Input and Output on your Computer

Be sure to plug in your USB headset and webcam prior to starting and joining a Conference. To learn how to check that your USB headset is selected as the audio input and output on your computer, do the following:

  1. Plugin your USB headset into your computer.
  2. For Mac Users:
    • Click on the Apple icon in the top-left corner and select System Preferences
    • Click on Sound.
    • In the Input tab, select your USB headset. 
    • In the Output tab, select your USB headset. 
    • Close the System Preferences window.
  3. For PC Users:
    • Click on the Start menu and click on Control Panel.
    • Click on Manage Audio Devices
    • In the Playback tab, select your USB headset. 
    • In the Recording tab, select your USB headset.
    • Close the Control Panel window.

After joining a conference, also be sure that your headset is selected on the Join Audio Settings page.


How to Create a Conference

  1. In your group in Canvas, click on Conferences in the Group Navigation.
    Click Conferences
  2. IMPORTANT: Plugin your USB headset and webcam (if not built-in) into your computer.
  3. Click on the New Conference button.
    Click New Conference
  4. On the New Conference page, add the Conference details:
    • Type a name for the Conference in the name field [1].
    • Select the type of conference [2]. You do not need to change this field.
    • Set the time limit for the Conference by typing in the duration field [3].
    • Select Options [4]: 
      • Record the conference (Note: Recordings are automatically deleted 14 days after the conference ends).
      • Indicate if the conference will be a long-running conference by selecting the No time limit (for long-running conferences) checkbox.
    • Type a description about the Conference in the description field [5].
    • Choose which group members to invite to the conference [6]. By default, the Invite All Group Members checkbox will be selected for you, but you can deselect it and choose to invite only specific members of your group.
    • Click Create Conference [7].
      Conference details 
  5. Conferences are listed in chronological order with the new Conferences appearing on the top under New Conferences and the older Conferences appearing under Concluded Conferences.
    View Conference
  6. Click on Start
    Click Start 
  7. Before joining a conference, you will be asked how you want to join the conference audio: via microphone or listen only. Listen Only allows users to quickly join the conference as a listener only (no microphone check). You will be able to change your audio preference once you've joined the conference.
    Choose Microphone or Listen Only
    • For Chrome users: If you are using Chrome, you will have to accept a Chrome-specific permission for access to your microphone. This prompt is just below the address bar. Click the Allow button [1].
      For Chrome Users
    • For Firefox users: If you are using Firefox, you will have to accept a Firefox-specific permission to access your microphone. Choose your microphone from the Microphone to share drop-drown menu [1] and click the Share Selected Device button [2]. Note: If you don't see the list of microphones, click the Microphone icon [3] to the left of the URL address bar.
      For Firefox Users
  8. It is recommended that you use a headset with a microphone for best audio experience. To ensure your audio is working correctly, complete the private audio echo test. Speak a few words and if you hear audio, click the Yes button [1]. To choose a different microphone and repeat the audio test, click the No button [2]. If you need help with your hardware, click the Question Mark icon [3].
    Audio Test
  9. To use Conferences, you must give Adobe Flash Player access to your camera and microphone settings. Click on the Allow button.
    Click Allow 
  10. Do the following:
    • To make sure your audio is working correctly, click the Test or Change Microphone button [1]. Your USB headset should be selected in the drop-down menu. Click Close when finished.
    • You can also test your speakers by clicking the Test Speakers button [2]. You should hear sound coming out of your headset.
    • When you are ready to join the conference, click the Join Audio button [3]. 
    • If you need help with your hardware, click the Question Mark button [4]. 
  11. The Conference will look like the following:
    Conferences interface
  12. For further assistance, students can view the Student (Participant) Overview video. Moderators can view the Teacher (Moderator) Overview video (as shown above). Each video provides a comprehensive overview of the Conferences tool as a Moderator or Participant.

See below to learn how to use the Conferences interface.


How to Join a Conference

  1. In Canvas, a notification will be posted to your User Dashboard or Course Homepage. Or you can click on Conferences in the Course Navigation to view all available conferences.
  2. IMPORTANT: Plugin your USB headset and webcam (if not built-in) into your computer (if not already done so).
  3. Click on the Join button to enter the Conference.
  4. Before joining a conference, you will be asked how you want to join the conference audio: via microphone or listen only. Listen Only allows users to quickly join the conference as a listener only (no microphone check). You will be able to change your audio preference once you've joined the conference.
    Choose Microphone or Listen Only
    • For Chrome users: If you are using Chrome, you will have to accept a Chrome-specific permission for access to your microphone. This prompt is just below the address bar. Click the Allow button [1].
      For Chrome Users
    • For Firefox users: If you are using Firefox, you will have to accept a Firefox-specific permission to access your microphone. Choose your microphone from the Microphone to share drop-drown menu [1] and click the Share Selected Device button [2]. Note: If you don't see the list of microphones, click the Microphone icon [3] to the left of the URL address bar.
      For Firefox Users
  5. It is recommended that you use a headset with a microphone for best audio experience. To ensure your audio is working correctly, complete the private audio echo test. Speak a few words and if you hear audio, click the Yes button [1]. To choose a different microphone and repeat the audio test, click the No button [2]. If you need help with your hardware, click the Question Mark icon [3].
    Audio Test
  6. To use Conferences, you must give Adobe Flash Player access to your camera and microphone settings. Click on the Allow button.
    Click Allow 
  7. Do the following:
    • To make sure your audio is working correctly, click the Test or Change Microphone button [1]. Your USB headset should be selected in the drop-down menu. Click Close when finished.
    • You can also test your speakers by clicking the Test Speakers button [2]. You should hear sound coming out of your headset.
    • When you are ready to join the conference, click the Join Audio button [3]. 
    • If you need help with your hardware, click the Question Mark button [4]. 
  8. The Conference will look like the following:
    Conferences interface
  9. For further assistance, students can view the Student (Participant) Overview video. Moderators can view the Teacher (Moderator) Overview video (as shown above). Each video provides a comprehensive overview of the Conferences tool as a Moderator or Participant.

See below to learn how to use the Conferences interface.


How to Use the Conference Interface

The conference interface contains a variety of tools to help you moderate your presentation. Each area of the interface is created within its own window and can be resized.
Conferences interface

  • Users Panel: 
    • The Users panel [1] displays the users in the conference. To locate the presenter/moderator, look for the presentation icon next to their name [1]. 
    • To switch presenter: When you are the presenter/moderator, you can switch the Presenter by highlighting the name of a user in the User list and clicking the Change Presenter button [2]. That user will now be able to upload a presentation file.
    • To mute specific users: You can mute or unmute yourself, and if you are the moderator/presenter, you can mute everyone [3]. 
    • To kick out listener: If you are the moderator/presenter, you can also kick out a listener by hovering over the listener's name and selecting the X that appears to the right [4]. 
    • To lock or unlock user's microphone: If you are the moderator/presenter, you can click the unlock icon next to the listener's name to keep their microphone locked (or click again to unlock) [5]. 
    • To lower all hands and mute all users: If you are the moderator/presenter, at the bottom of the panel, click the Gear icon to Lower All Hands, Mute All Users, or Mute All Users Except Presenter [6].
      View Participants 
  • In the upper right-hand corner, there are a series of buttons:
    • To share your microphone: Click on the Join with audio button [1].
    • To share your desktop: Click on the Share Desktop button [2].
    • To share your webcam: Click on the Share Webcam button [3] and click on Start Sharing. Note: To stop sharing your desktop, click on the X button in the top-right corner of the Desktop Sharing window.
    • To mute or unmute yourself: Click on the Mute or Unmute button [4].
      Media Tools
  • At the bottom of the viewing window, you have the following options for your presentation:
    • To upload a file: Upload your presentation by clicking the Upload Presentation icon [1].
      • Note: If you want to share a PowerPoint file, we strongly recommend saving it as a PDF in PowerPoint first and then uploading the PDF file (not the PowerPoint file) in the Conferences tool when presenting.
    • To navigate slides/pages: To go to the next and previous pages or slides as a presenter/moderator, use the Previous and Next buttons. The number between the keys indicates the number of slides in your presentation [2].
    • To zoom in/out: Increase the viewing size of your presentation by dragging the scale between the percentage options [3].
    • Make your presentation fit to the width of the viewing window (height will remain proportionate) by clicking the Width icon [4].
    • Make your presentation fit the entire page within the viewing window by clicking the Page Enlarge icon [5].
    • To use the Whiteboard: Show the whiteboard by clicking the Pencil icon. You can highlight or create shapes on a presentation slide [6].
      Presentation Tools 
  • Chat Tool: You can chat with all of the participants in the conference, type text in the Chat window under the Public tab [1]. To chat with one person in particular, click the Options tab [2].
    Chat tool

Video Tutorials

For further assistance, moderators can view the Moderator/Presenter Overview video. Students, who are not the moderator in the Conference, can view the Viewer (Participant) Overview video. We strongly recommend viewing both. Each video provides a comprehensive overview of the Conferences tool as a Moderator or Participant.


Troubleshooting Tips

  • Users should use Mozilla Firefox (Mac or PC) or Safari (Mac) with Canvas. 
    • For the most part, Internet Explorer (for PC users) is not compatible with Canvas. PC users should not use Internet Explorer with the Conferences tool. 
    • Mac users should not use Google Chrome with the Conferences tool.
  • Be sure to plug in your USB headset and webcam prior to starting and joining a Conference. See How to Select your Headset.
    • To ensure sound quality, all users should use a USB headset with the Conferences tool--not the built-in microphone on your computer. Using the built-in microphone typically causes an echo sound in the Conferences tool.
  • Be sure you have the latest version of Adobe Flash and Java installed on your computer prior to starting or joining a Conference.
  • To use the Conferences tool, your computer must have at least 2GB of memory.
  • If you want to share a PowerPoint file, we strongly recommend saving it as a PDF in PowerPoint first and then uploading the PDF file (not the PowerPoint file) in the Conferences tool when presenting. Animations, fonts, and SmartArt in uploaded PowerPoint files (.pptx) will not display properly when uploaded in the Conferences tool. For this reason, we recommend uploading PowerPoint presentations in PDF file format for the best result.  
  • If you are having any issues with your USB headset and webcam, close the Big Blue Button Conference window. Then go back into your course in Canvas, join the Conference again, click on Allow, and then click Join Audio. Doing so will most likely solve the technical issue.
  • If a user's audio or webcam video is delayed, it most likely has to do with that user's Internet service or connection (low bandwidth). 
  • Users should practice using the Conferences tool prior to their actual presentations to resolve any technical issues. If you have any technical issues while using the Conferences, please submit an online support ticket.

More information and step-by-step instructions can be found in the Canvas Guides by Instructure.


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