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Blackboard Collaborate Ultra Tips and Tools

Instructors who have been using Blackboard Collaborate Ultra offer the following troubleshooting tips:

  • Everyone has their microphone and webcam turned off by default when entering the session. It’s very awkward as the instructor to be staring at a series of empty profile silhouettes. Encourage your students to turn on their webcams to create a more organic experience. But it is best to ask them to keep their microphones muted until they want to speak, to cut down on distracting ambient noise.
  • Students have no access to the contents of the classroom-wide group chat when they are in breakout groups.
  • When you put people into groups, the recording stops. It DOES NOT restart automatically when you bring everyone back from the groups into the main room. You have to manually remember to restart it (it ends up starting a new recording).
  • Video and audio can sometimes stop being transmitted after bringing people back from groups. Walking through the camera/mic setup steps usually works to restart it.
  • There doesn’t seem to be way to see whether a student has viewed a recording of a Blackboard Collaborate session. You can see who was in attendance.
  • There doesn’t seem to be a way to preload poll questions into the session. If you want to use a poll, you have to type or copy/paste the poll question and possible answers before you ask it.
  • If you share a document, it has to be a PDF or PowerPoint. It’s a good idea to set up all documents you intend to share before the class starts.
  • Assigning someone as a presenter apparently mutes everyone else, and it’s not clear how to select one presenter over another when designating multiple people as presenters. Keep this in mind of you have multiple groups presenting.
  • Using the whiteboard option on Collaborate is unintuitive. I wanted to use text and not write by hand. You had to click anywhere on the screen to start writing but pressing enter completed the text line rather than starting a new line below. I had to just keep clicking in new places to write so that it wasn't one giant block of text. This likely made the end result look disorganized.
  • Beware of bystander effect; while students often wait for someone else to speak during discussions, this is exacerbated over the digital platform because of the awkwardness of video and audio lag. It can really kill any kind of organic interaction. Students are often more comfortable using the chat function than speaking. Consider limiting discussion questions outside of the breakout groups. If you normally hold a discussion heavy class, forgive yourself if you have to rely much more on lecturing, even on a synchronous platform.
  • Give lots of explicit instruction in order to increase engagement, even if it seems like hand holding. Try prompting students to use the hand-raise icon to respond to a directed question and to help overcome the bystander effect.
  • If your microphone is not working, use the phone number and access code listed in the Blackboard Collaborate Ultra webpage. You can use your phone as the microphone and audio source for your call rather than your computer’s built-in microphone if necessary.
  • If your Internet connection is slow or lagging, consider temporarily turning off your video stream and only maintaining the audio stream. Sometimes, running the web camera on your computer will use up the Internet’s bandwidth in a way that might make communication challenging. Turning off the video should improve communication quality and consistency.
  • If you have earbuds or a headphone set, wear them! Wearing earbuds or headphones will reduce the amount of noise that your computer will pick up during your quality, which will make it easier for your students to hear you. Similarly, you may want to advise others to wear earbuds or headphones during the call.
  • Check the “chat” space for student questions and contributions. Some students may not have working microphones and, therefore, may be unable to contribute via voice. The chat room is a good place for students to contribute, ask questions, and be involved.