Blackboard Collaborate allows you to connect with students using audio, video, file sharing, screensharing, chat and a virtual whiteboard. It was designed specifically for educators to host a virtual classroom, but can also be used for more traditional web conferencing. Collaborate sessions have to be set up in QMplus but once set up it is possible to give access to people who do not have QMplus accounts. Participants will need to have a stable broadband connection and modern internet browser.
This guide provides an overview of setting up a Collaborate session on QMplus and basic guidance on starting and running a session. More comprehensive help about the tools available in a session can be found on the Blackboard Collaborate website, links can be found at the bottom of this guide.
This guide covers:
- An overview of Blackboard Collaborate – what it is and what you can do with it
- Adding a Blackboard Collaborate activity to your QMplus area – how to add and configure the activity
- Giving guest access to a session – giving access to people without QMplus accounts
- What you need to participate in a session
- Starting or joing a session
- Recording your session – and where the links to the recording appear
- Tips and tricks for a successful Blackboard Collaborate session
- Find out more on the Blackboard Collaborate website – this website provides more in depth guidance on using Collaborate, including managing your attendees and using advanced features such as breakout groups.
An overview of Blackboard Collaborate
This video will give you an overview of Blackboard Collaborate and what you can do with it.
Adding a Blackboard Collaborate activity to your QMplus area
Add the activity
Turn editing on via the slider in the top right corner of the screen & select ‘Add an activity or resource’ in the section where you wish to add the Blackboard Collaborate session.
Select ‘Collaborate’ from the list of activities
Add a name and description
Enter a name and a description for your session. The description can be displayed on the main course page by checking the box.
Your name will appear as the link that people click on to join the activity. The date and time of the session will also be displayed so you do not need to enter this in the name of the session.
Set the date and time for your session
Select the date and time for the start of your session.
Set the duration of your session
Now select the duration of your session from the drop-down menu.
If you select the Duration of course option, this will create a session that can be joined at any time from the start date and time that you have set. This might be useful if you want to create an "ad-hoc" online classroom that you can use at any time without having to set up a session for every individual session.
By default, the Collaborate session can only be accessed by those who have access to the QMplus area that you have put the activity in.
Anyone with Teacher, Non-Editing Teacher or Course Administrator access to the course area, will automatically enter the session as a Moderator. Anyone with Student access on a course area will enter automatically as a Participant.
Those with Viewer or Guest access to a QMPlus area, cannot participate in a Collaborate session.
The guest access settings on the activity allow you to make the session accessible to participants who do not have access to QMplus. See the Giving guest access to a session for more information.
Grading the session
You can set the session to be graded, this will create an item in the gradebook for the activity. It is only possible to assign a grade and a feedback comment for the activity. Advanced grading features such as grading forms and feedback files are not available.
Giving guest access to a session
By default only those with access to the course area that you put the activity in will be able to join the Collaborate session. If you want someone who doesn’t have a QMplus account to join the session, you can set your activity to allow guest access. This will generate a web link that you can send to people to use to access the session.
In the settings for the activity, check the Allow Collaborate guest access check box.
You should then select the role that you wish to give those that enter through the guest access link. We strongly recommend that you choose Participant or Presenter here. Once someone has entered the session, you can change their role.
Once you have enabled guest access and saved your changes, click on the Collaborate activity title.
Click on the Guest links tab and you will see the link for the session. Click on the icon to copy the link and then you can distribute it as required. Remember that anyone with the link can access your session, they will be asked to enter a name as they join but otherwise there are no security checks for guest access links.
What you need to participate in a session
Blackboard Collaborate runs in a web browser, there is no software to download and install. The recommended browsers are Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox. Mac users can also use Safari. You will need up to date versions of these browsers.
You will need a microphone for audio and a webcam if you want to use video. You will also need a stable internet connection.
When joining a session, you will be given the opportunity to test that your audio and video is working.
Starting or joining a session
Joining a session via QMplus
A session becomes available to join from 15 minutes before the scheduled start time. It does not have to be started by a moderator/presenter. To join a session, click on the activity title and you will see a Join session button. Clicking on this button will take you in to the session.
As soon as the Join session is available, anyone can join. This means that some or all of your participants may already be in the session when you join it. When joining this way, participants names are automatically passed in to the Collaborate session.
When joining via QMplus, anyone with Teacher, Course Administrator or Non-editing Teacher access to the QMplus area will automatically join the session as a moderator. Anyone enrolled as a Student will join the session as a participant.
Moderators can change people’s roles during the session if required.
Joining a session via a guest link
Those accessing the session via a guest link should just click on the link they have been given to join. They will be asked to enter their name as they join and they will join with the role that was defined for guest access in the activity settings.
Recording the session
Blackboard Collaborate sessions can be recorded. You can choose to start and stop the recording at any time during the session and as many times during the session as you like. For instance you may not wish to record someone’s presentation. Simply stop the recording while they present and start it again afterwards.
Tips and tricks to ensure a successful session
- Since it is not possible to configure the session in advance, write a checklist of the items you need to set at the beginning of the session. e.g. start recording, allow participants to use the chat feature, allow participants to share audio and video…etc.
- If possible, be online early. Put up a slide for your participants to see as they join the session…don’t assume that people will be able to hear you as they join.
- If you are uploading content to use in your session, add the slides in the order that you are to use them & give them appropriate names so that sharing the content is seamless when the session is live.
- Set some ground rules for your session and let the participants know what they are. If you are going to allow people to share audio it is usually best to tell people to mute their audio until they are asked to speak.
- Have a practice session before you do it for real. Set up a test session and ask a colleague, or a group of colleagues, to join in to try out the features
- Ask a colleague to co-moderate your session…particularly if you have a large number of participants
Find out more on the Blackboard Collaborate website
You will find more help on the Blackboard Collaborate website. Since we use Blackboard Collaborate through QMplus, some of the guides, such as those on scheduling sessions, are not relevant. Those likely to be of particular interest are:
- Find out more about the Blackboard user interface for session moderators
- Find out about the different roles that attendees can have: moderators, presenters, participants and captioners, and how you can switch people between them.
- Learning about managing your attendees.
- Learn to use the polling feature
- Learn about using breakout groups, if you have a large number of participants.
Did this answer your query? If not, you can raise a ticket on the online Helpdesk or email: firstname.lastname@example.org . Alternatively you can also request a particular guide or highlight an error in this guide using our guides request tracker.