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 on systems without the Collaborate Ultra software installed.
The best way to learn how to use Blackboard Collaborate Ultra and further develop your skills is to participate in a Collaborate Ultra session. Drop-in Collaborate sessions are available every Friday at noon during every teaching session at the Blackboard support for staff users site, where any issues with Blackboard Collaborate or any of SCU's supported educational technologies can be raised and resolved. The site also has a practice room that all staff members are free to use.
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.
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
- How to create a Collaborate Ultra session
- How to join a Blackboard Collaborate Ultra session
- Enable microphone and camera in Google Chrome for Collaborate Ultra
- How to set up your camera and microphone when using Collaborate Ultra
- How to watch Collaborate Ultra sessions on a mobile device
- How do I watch a recording in Collaborate Ultra?
- Adding a profile picture to Collaborate Ultra
- Purple spinning wheel in Collaborate Ultra
- Troubleshooting audio and video issues
- After hours Blackboard Collaborate support
- Using groups for Collaborate sessions
- How to edit a Collaborate Ultra session
- How to play an embedded YouTube video from Powerpoint while in a Collaborate Ultra Session