Sudden switch to home learning
Since March 11, 2020, teaching at the University of Vienna has been taking place exclusively in the form of home learning because of the COVID-19 pandemic. On March 16, the university administration and operations followed into home office.
The need for synchronous communication tools has increased linearly
Due to the increased need for virtual large-scale courses, the University of Vienna now relies also on Blackboard Collaborate as a synchronous web conferencing and collaboration tool in the cloud, which could be implemented rapidly in cooperation with Blackboard.
This tool is hosted in Europe and allows up to 500 participants (via a large-scale setting) to attend an online lecture at the same time. The number of web conference sessions created in Blackboard Collaborate has seen a linear increase since March 16 and is currently at 2900. In the meantime, participants have attended sessions in the system for a total of 1.8 million minutes.
Reach more students at a time
Blackboard Collaborate is completely geared towards learning scenarios: within Blackboard Collaborate, communication, presentation, interaction and learning is taking place via a purely browser-based user interface. This gives the participants the feeling of nearly collaborating together in one room. Collaborate offers a scalable solution, especially for larger courses, since sessions can hold up to 500 participants at once.
Latest technological standards, high scalability
Collaborate is based on latest WebRTC standard and on the principles of Universal Design, which makes it fully responsive. It does not require the installation of clients. Web meetings can be held on PCs as well as on mobile devices such as Android and Apple smartphones. They can thus also be used by students who do not have a laptop at hand.
The hosting architecture is geared towards high availability. Collaborate is hosted in the secure environment of Amazon Web Services (AWS) Elastic Cloud Environment (EC2) in Europe (eu-west 1, Ireland). The highly available design includes redundant firewalls, switches, routers, VLANs/subnets, load balancers, multiple ISPs and other redundant resources. Network segmentation ensures that computer resources are not accessible externally. The Blackboard systems are thus secured against intrusion and ensure a secure environment, including operating systems and other software that resides on the systems.
Both live and recorded Collaborate sessions are encrypted using SSL. The service also includes the storage of mp4 recordings.
GDPR and Data security
Not only is the hosting environment focused on physical security, Collaborate is designed to meet the requirements of GDPR. Blackboard has a dedicated global data protection program and the structure of the security teams includes a leader of product safety and people with responsibilities in different functional areas such as Product Security Design, Product Security Engineering, Security Operations and Threat Intelligence, Vulnerability Management, Audit- und Security Compliance, Policy as well as security training and Security Awareness.
Blackboard Collaborate has therefore also been checked by the data protection officer of the University of Vienna and has of course been released for use.
Regular monitoring is just as important as processes for alignment with security guidelines and industry standards, which Blackboard has provided in a comprehensive documentation.