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How to set up Blackboard Collaborate with the Collaborate activity

Blackboard Collaborate, a.k.a. Bb Collaborate or just plain Collaborate, is our main platform for delivering webinars. It has been designed for education and has a variety of features which make it easier to teach online, especially with larger cohorts. It is very easy to set up a Blackboard Collaborate session, anyone with editing access to a QMplus area can do it.

This guide provides an overview of setting up a Collaborate session on QMplus using the Collaborate activity on QMplus. This is one of two ways of setting up Collaborate.

If you want to know the differences between the two ways of setting up Collaborate, please see our guide The two ways to set up Blackboard Collaborate sessions and how to choose.

This guide covers:

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.

Collaborate activity on QMPlus course page showing date and time and description of session

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

Choosing the date and time for a session

Select the date and time for the start of your session.

Blackboard Collaborate automatically allows participants to join the session 15 minutes before the start time. If you set the start time as 9am…participants will be able to join from 8.45am. You do not need to build in extra time when setting up the activity.

Set the duration of your session

Selecting the duration of a session, in half hour increments from 30 minutes to 2 and a half hours

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.

Guest access

Allowing guest access to your 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.

Allowing guest access to a Collaborate activity and choosing the role
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.

Guest links for a Collaborate session

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 to a page for you to complete an audio and video test before entering the session. If you wish, you can Start Tutorial or go straight to the session by clicking on Later.

 

As soon as 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 into 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. Once you have entered the session, you can then share your audio and video using the icons at the bottom of the screen.

 

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. The record option can be found in the Session menu which is available on the top left side of the page. 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. Once you have started recording, the stop button can be found in the Session menu.

Recordings can be accessed via QMplus, underneath the ‘join session’ button. Recordings are available indefinitely however aren’t downloadable.

Please note: Should one use the break-out room functionality, the recording will stop. When one returns to the ‘main room’ another recording will need to be started. This is because the system cannot record multiple break out rooms simultaneously.

 

The Collaborate panel is where you will find the chat panel, the list of attendees, settings and the content sharing function. To access the Collaborate panel, click on the arrow icon which can be found on the bottom right of the page. To access the required area, click on one of the four icons at the bottom of the panel.

Session recording is not started automatically so you must remember to start the recording. It’s worth putting this on a session checklist which you go through at the beginning of your session. It’s something that session moderators often forget!

 

Once the session has ended, to leave the session, click on Leave Session at the bottom of Session menu. Any recordings are made available automatically and can be accessed by clicking into the activity that you created it in your QMplus course area:

Break out groups

If you have configured groups in your QMplus module, then you will find group guest links under the guest links tab in QMplus.

Alternatively, the groups can be set-up via the break out group settings within the live Collaborate session itself. This is done by clicking on the chevron in the bottom right of the screen and then on the rightward facing arrow, to share content. You can now add your attendees to the groups via ‘Breakout groups’.

One can now configure the groups by either randomly assigning the attendees (auto-created groups) or by custom groups (drag and drop each student/facilitator into which groups are preferable).

Should there be sufficient attendees, one will also see an option to configure the number of groups that are created too. It can also be configured, via the checkbox at the top, to allow students the ability to change groups should they wish to.

Whilst the break out groups are active, the attendees group details will display in the participants list, as shown below:

As with any shared content in Blackboard Collaborate, to end the groups and return the attendees to the ‘main room’ one should click upon the ‘stop’ icon:

Remember, starting break out groups will stop any Blackboard Collaborate recording. Once the break out session has ended one will need to start a new recording.

 

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
  • If you have enabled participants the ability to share audio, then it is useful to be able to mute their audio if you wish to continue without interruptions. To do so, please see the steps below:

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:

Did this answer your query? If not, you can raise a ticket on the online Helpdesk or email: its-helpdesk@qmul.ac.uk . Alternatively you can also request a particular guide or highlight an error in this guide using our guides request tracker.

Produced by the the E-Learning Unit at Queen Mary University of London.
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