Blackboard Collaborate Ultra

Blackboard Collaborate Ultra is SCU's virtual classroom and web conferencing environment. This article covers the basics of Collaborate Ultra:

Collaborate Ultra offers a collaborative platform including features such as synchronous audio and video communication, a virtual whiteboard that can also be used to share applications, media, documents (e.g. PowerPoint presentations, Word documents) and web pages, text-based synchronous chat, polling, and other moderation tools and controls.

Collaborate Ultra is ideal for conducting workshops and tutorials with students independently of their location. Sessions can be recorded for viewing later and can be converted to a common audio or video format so that the session can be replayed.

Where can I get Blackboard Collaborate training?

The best way to learn how to use Blackboard Collaborate Ultra and further develop your skills is to participate in the Friday Free for All: MySCU Support & Training Room - Noon every Friday (NSW time) during every teaching session. You can discuss issues with Blackboard Collaborate or any of SCU's supported educational technologies.

Zoom vs Collaborate

The table below provides a brief comparison of some of the differences between Zoom and Blackboard Collaborate Ultra. Both software platforms share similar functionality so it's not worth getting too concerned about which is the better option unless you are teaching a large class.

Features

Collaborate Ultra: Standard sessions

Collaborate Ultra: Large sessions

Zoom Meetings

Zoom Webinars

Software required

Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox are recommended but most browsers will work.

Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox are recommended but most browsers will work.

Zoom Software must be installed and kept up to date.

Zoom Software must be installed and kept up to date.

Bb integration and scheduling

Located inside the standard Blackboard site template. Sessions can be open-ended or recur each week.

Located inside the standard Blackboard site template. Large Sessions cannot be recurring and maximum 24hrs duration.

Manually add Zoom LTI dashboard link to Blackboard. Meetings can recur each week.

Manually add links, no Blackboard LTI support. Large Webinars cannot be recurring or open-ended.

Recordings

Automatically generated, automatically become available on Blackboard within 24 hours. Can be downloaded by students.

Automatically generated, automatically become available on Blackboard within 24 hours. Can be downloaded by students.

Cloud Recordings will automatically appear in the Zoom LTI dashboard in Blackboard (deleted after 180 days). Local Recordings need to be manually uploaded and shared by the instructor.

Any recordings need to be manually shared by the instructor. Cloud recordings are deleted after 180 days.

Capture student attendance

Yes, through Collaborate reports

Yes, through Collaborate reports

Yes, through Zoom reports

Yes, through Zoom Webinar reports

Breakout Groups/Rooms

Yes, but stops the main room recording

No

Yes (must be enabled in settings first), can also record breakout rooms 

No

Support for large classes

Max 250 students.

More than 250 students

Standard Collaborate Ultra sessions do not support more than 250 students, the larger the class the more likely issues will develop with connections.

Max 500 students. 

Limited interactivity

Large classes provide a limited experience with no breakout groups. You must enable large classes in Collaborate session settings. Settings are also automatically disabled for chat, webcam, voice, and whiteboards at the start of the session.

Max 1000 students with a large class license.

More than 500 students

You must request a Zoom license for large classes through Technology services. A maximum of 1000 students is supported in a large class. You are encouraged to use co-hosts to help manage large Zoom classes.

Max 1000 students.

Limited interactivity

Zoom webinars provide a limited experience with no breakout rooms. Please see the Technology Services Knowledge Base - Zoom Webinars for more information.

Mobile Support

Yes, works in a mobile browser

Yes, works in a mobile browser

Yes, Zoom App must be installed

Yes, Zoom App must be installed

Polling

Yes

Yes

Yes, and Quizzes are also supported

Polls, Surveys and Q&A supported

Share files (PowerPoint, PDF)

Yes, integrated File Share or Application Share (PowerPoints must be converted to PDF to maintain formatting)

Presenter or moderator only, students need to be promoted.

Powerpoint via screen sharing, in meeting file sharing (limited)

Host and Co-Host only, students need to be promoted.

Whiteboard

Yes, can't be recorded or exported. Can't draw on mobile devices. 

Presenter only, students cannot draw on or use whiteboards.

Yes, can be saved as a file.

Yes, can be saved as a file, students cannot draw on the whiteboard.

Setting up Collaborate Ultra Sessions

Inside each SCU unit learning site, the Collaborate Ultra link is included under the Connecting menu. Collaborate Ultra Sessions, enable you to schedule times for students to join the virtual classroom in a live environment. The following video walks through the process of setting up your sessions ready for students.


Best Practices with Collaborate Ultra

After setting up your online teaching environment, consider the following suggestions to improve your virtual classroom environment experience for students.

1.  Upload some pre-prepared content.

You can add a presentation as either a PowerPoint or a PDF. The best practice is to load a PDF to ensure that the pre-set slide formatting is maintained. Remember, animation does not stay when you upload a PowerPoint presentation, so if you want to keep your animation then you will need to share your screen.

2. Make sure your PowerPoints are easy to read and interesting.

Less is more on your PowerPoint slides – remember each slide should have one concept and no more than 3 points – slides should complement what you are discussing. Change slides often to keep students engaged. Reduce student cognitive load with better PowerPoint slide design

3. Add interactivity.

If you have a large class, use breakout groups for discussions. Leave blank slides in your presentation for planned student activities, or you can share a whiteboard. This provides students with the editing and markup toolbar for writing and annotating. Use hand raising and the status and feedback tools so that students can provide real-time feedback about their learning experience. Plan on using these effectively before your session. Polling can be used to check student understanding.

4. Share a variety of content.

To switch between sharing different content (your screen, files and whiteboard) use the Share Content button at the top of the screen to see all of your choices.

5. Engage students in discussions.

Use the chat function in addition to audio, so that students can talk to you and each other. Don't assume that if a student doesn't 'speak' during your session that they aren't listening or learning. Ask a student a direct question to engage them, but allow them the option to answer in the chat or audio.

6. Don't forget to record your session.

Click the Record button; don’t forget to stop the recording when you are finished. Remember to speak clearly and use a quality USB headset to improve your students’ experience. After you click record, start your session by saying welcome to everyone, including to those who might be watching later. 

Accessibility considerations

Blackboard provides some great ideas about the best practice for these sessions. This includes accessibility considerations.

  • Make your content accessible: Whatever you share, make sure it is accessible. Use Blackboard's accessibility checklist.
  • Share content before the session: Give attendees access to whatever content you plan to share before the session. Allow users the chance to review materials so they can participate more fully during a session. For example, share your presentation files or a recording of your lecture. Give attendees time to think on the material, then use the session to discuss.
  • Upload presentations to Collaborate: Screen reader users can access text from PowerPoint and PDF files shared in the session. This provides an easy way to follow along as slides change. Moderators and presenters must select Share Files and upload the files to Collaborate for screen readers to access the text.
  • Describe annotations: When you share files or the whiteboard, you can let attendees mark on them. Describe edits for attendees with visual impairments.
  • Provide captions: Provide captions of what is said in the session. Assign someone to be a captioner during the live session or add captions to the recording later.
  • Share materials from the session right away: Put recordings, presentations files, and transcripts where attendees can find them and review. Share the material right away.
  • Give students time to review: Give students the maximum amount of time possible to review before the next session or any quizzes, tests, and so on.


Collaborate Ultra Resources

Technology Services Information guide for Blackboard Collaborate Ultra

Getting Started

Troubleshooting

Advanced features