Blackboard Collaborate

Blackboard Collaborate Ultra is a web conferencing system connecting staff, students and external guests. Sessions are accessible through a web browser with no need for additional software. It's simple to use – once set up, a Collaborate Room can be accessed via a Blackboard course or a weblink.

The DEO recommends using Blackboard Collaborate Ultra for teaching and learning because it is integrated into Blackboard, easy to access for students and staff within their courses, and has tools specifically developed for educational purposes. We offer guidance and support on using Collaborate for learning.

While other tools, like Zoom, could in theory be used for teaching, they don't have the benefits above and are not supported by DEO. Please keep this in mind when deciding which tool you will use in your online teaching. See IT Services guide to video conferencing for further Zoom information and support.

With Collaborate you can:

  • Share files, websites, screen views and applications
  • Create interactive learning experiences – text-chat, quizzes and polls add a more responsive and social experience
  • Host online meetings or scale up to webinar-style sessions for users at many locations
  • Create session recordings, giving users access at a later date.

This video from Blackboard Inc introduces the Collaborate Ultra tool.

How it works

  • A Collaborate room is created within a Blackboard course or organisation. Timed sessions are then set up within this room, which participants can access at the relevant time through Blackboard or via a guest link (for example, if the guest link is sent as an announcement).
  • When an enrolled member of staff joins a session via the Collaborate room they are automatically logged in as a moderator.
  • When students join a session via the Collaborate room it will automatically log them in as a participant.
  • Where someone clicks a guest link they will be prompted to add their screen name and then logged in as a participant. 
  • When a user first joins a session they will be given a brief tutorial to orientate them in the tool. We recommend that you allow for this and ask students to join five minutes before the first session.
  • Collaborate Sessions allow up to 250 attendees by default. A Collaborate Ultra Large Event is defined as a session consisting of 250 - 500 concurrent attendees. When creating a session tick "Allow 250+ attendees to join" option in Session settings.
  • Collaborate Ultra Large Events will have chat, whiteboard editing, webcam and microphone sharing disabled upon entry for participants. Participant chat can be enabled in a session by a moderator via My Settings > Session Settings. Breakout Groups are also unavailable for Large Events. We suggest using Blackboard Groups with Collaborate enabled for larger cohorts, this approach makes setting up groups easier to manage and can be created ahead of time. 

Student access

For most Collaborate sessions students will be a participant. Usually it’s as simple as clicking a link and joining the session. The Collaborate Ultra Help for Participants page will help a participant get started. There is also a Student Practice Space in Blackboard, where students can have a go with some of the Blackboard tools, including a Collaborate classroom. Anyone can self-enrol on the Practice Space: Follow the link, then choose ‘click here to self enrol’, then look for the option to ‘enrol’ from the course menu. Then click ‘submit’.

If accessing as a participant, we recommend:

  • a device with speakers/headphone
  • in some cases you may need to be able to share video from your device
  • a reliable Wi-Fi or mobile signal (be mindful of bandwidth/data costs)
  • mobile access can be via the Blackboard App or via the following browsers:
    • Android: Chrome browser
    • iOS 11+: Safari browser
  • Further guidance on using Blackboard App or Guest Links (eg emailed links) is available via Blackboard Collaborate in the Blackboard App page

Staff access

The Collaborate Ultra Help for Moderators page has guides to help you give the best experience through Collaborate. Note that where variations in advice for different systems are displayed, staff need to follow guidance for Blackboard Learn.

If running a Collaborate session we recommend:

  • Use a supported Browser, e.g. Chrome or Firefox
  • a USB headphone/mic headset
  • a webcam
  • a quiet space with minimal external noise or distraction
  • a reliable Wi-Fi or mobile signal (be mindful of bandwidth/data costs)

Getting started

We have converted our Synchronous Online Teaching with Blackboard Collaborate workshop into an online resource. It is an excellent way to understand the tool, consider when it should be used and to understand Best Practice.

‌‌Screenshot of DEO Bb Collab Guide.

This interactive video demonstrates how to set up a Collaborate room, how to create sessions, and basic techniques like sharing a screen with participants.

Image of collaborate training video.

Blackboard also provide excellent guidance for getting started with Collaborate.