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Learning Technology - Practical Guide

Blackboard Collaborate Ultra

Available resources to assist with students during their time at University.

Blackboard Collaborate Ultra

Blackboard Collaborate is a real-time video conferencing tool that lets you have discussions, files, share applications, and use a virtual whiteboard to interact.

What is Collaborate Ultra?

The official name is Blackboard Collaborate Ultra, but it's usually just called Collaborate.

Collaborate is a video-conferencing tool used for online seminars and other study sessions. You can talk with the tutor and other students, ask questions in the chat, share files and show your screen.

Video demonstration (for a good overview): Blackboard Collaborate user interface tour [YouTube video]

What you'll need

You'll need one of these options to join a Collaborate Ultra session:

  • A Windows or Mac computer/laptop with either Mozilla Firefox [Webpage] or Google Chrome [Webpage] browser (other browsers don't have all the functions).
  • An Apple smartphone or tablet with Safari browser (not any other browser).
  • An Android smartphone or tablet with Chrome browser (not any other browser).

If you're using Chrome v86 (or newer), you'll need to enable cookies [Google Doc].

Collaborate runs through the VLE, so you don't need any extra software.

You'll also need headphones/speakers, and optionally a microphone if you want to talk and a webcam for others to see you.

Video calls can be very demanding on your internet connection, so use a cable internet connection if you can, or try to get a good wifi connection.

Find out more:

Joining a Collaborate session

There are two main ways to join a Collaborate Ultra session, depending on how your tutor has chosen to set up the sessions.

Joining from a VLE site:

  1. Click Blackboard Collaborate Ultra in the left-hand menu (the name might vary from module to module, but it'll probably have Collaborate in it).
  2. On the Blackboard Collaborate Ultra page, choose the session your tutor has asked you to join:
    • you may need to join the Course Room at the top of the page.
    • you may need to join a specific session (for example, a session just for your seminar group).
  3. When you join you may see a few messages pop up requesting permission to access your camera and microphone, “allow” these unless you don’t plan on using them. 

You may need to go to a Group area before you can access the Blackboard Collaborate Ultra page - see the guide below for more details on this.

Collaborate Session list, showing Course Room and specific sessions for seminar groups.

Joining from a link:

  1. Click the link to the session (e.g., sent by email or in a calendar invite).
  2. Enter your name when prompted.
  3. When you join you may see a few pop-up messages requesting permission to access your camera and microphone, “allow” these unless you don’t plan on using them. 

Once you've joined a session, make sure your audio and video are set up, and you can hear what's going on. It's a good idea to try to join a few minutes early so that you can get set up before the class starts.

Find out more:

Find your way around a Collaborate session

Here are the key things you need to know to participate in a Collaborate session. Don't worry if it all seems confusing to start with - once you try it out, it'll be much easier.

Main window icons

In the centre of the main window, you'll find some circular icons at the bottom of the screen.

Main window icons.

  • Participant icon (outline of a person): click to set your status
  • Microphone icon: click to turn your microphone on/off. If you are unmuted, the microphone icon is shown in green. If you are muted, it is shown in grey, with a line crossed through it.
  • Camera icon: click to turn your camera on/off (if you have permission). If the camera is on, the camera icon is shown in green. If the camera is off,  it's shown in grey, with a line crossed through it.
  • Raise hand icon (person with arm raised): click to show you'd like attention (e.g., to ask a question)

Collaborate panel icons

In the bottom right corner of the screen, you'll see a purple button with two arrows. Click this to open the Collaborate panel, which has four icons at the bottom:

Collaborate Panel icons.

  • Chat icon: to chat, click this icon, then 'Everyone' towards the top of the panel. Click in the 'Say something' box and type your message.
  • Participants icon: click to see a list of people in the session. Very handy if you're working in groups.
  • Share icon: files that your tutor is sharing appear here. If you have permission to share files or your screen, you can do that here.
  • Settings icon: click to check your audio/visual settings and manage notifications.

Find out more:

Using the Chat function

To open the Chat, first click the purple arrow icon to open the Collaborate panel, then the Chat icon (speech bubble):

To write a chat message, click 'Everyone' and then write a message in the box below:

Collaborate session recordings include messages to 'Everyone' in the main session room. Private messages, and chat within breakout rooms aren't recorded.

Breakout Groups

Your tutor might put you into smaller Breakout Groups groups to discuss a topic or work on a task together.

Nothing is recorded from Breakout Groups - no audio, video, chat or shared content.

Sharing content in Breakout Groups

To help you collaborate, there are some useful sharing tools. To access these, first click the purple arrow icon to open the Collaborate panel, then the Share icon (box with an arrow):

Showing icons to open the sharing panel.

The sharing options are:

  • Share Blank Whiteboard: a simple place to draw or write notes. This is deleted when the Breakout Group closes.
  • Share Application/Screen: choose this to share a webpage, show a Word document or another application.
  • Share Camera: to share an additional camera (not the webcam looking at your face).
  • Share Files: a way to upload PDFs and PPT files for the group to open.

You could also share the link to a Google Doc or Slides in the chat.

Moving between Breakout Groups

Your tutor might automatically move you to a group, or you might need to move yourself into a group.

To move Breakout Groups, first click the purple arrow icon to open the Collaborate panel, then the Attendees icon (two people). Then click the door icon next to the group you want to join.

Showing icons to open Attendees panel.

Find out more:

Using Blackboard Collaborate recordings

If session recordings are available, they'll include the audio and screen from the main room and the Everyone chat channel. Nothing is recorded from breakout rooms.

To access recordings:

  1. Go to the Collaborate area in your VLE site.
  2. Click the hamburger icon (three horizontal lines) and choose 'Recordings'
  3. Select the recording you want to watch and press 'Watch now'

To access recordings for a Group:

  1. Select the Group name under the left hand menu on the VLE site to reveal the options.
  2. Choose 'Collaborate' from the list of options.
  3. Select the recording you want to watch and press 'Watch now'

To download the recording or captions (if permitted), click the three dots icon to the right of the session name.

You can adjust the volume, turn captions on/off (if available) and jump forwards/backwards using the playback controls.

To view the Chat messages, click the purple arrow icon to open the Chat panel, as you would during a session.

Collaborate playback icons: jump 10s forward, volume, fullscreen, open chat.

Captions are available if live captions were used in the session, or if the tutor has added them later to the recording. You can use these while watching the video, or download them as a transcript. Alternatively, a text-based summary might be provided instead of captions.

Find out more:

Other video conferencing tools

You may also use other video conferencing tools like Zoom or Google Meet: