Technology Enhanced Learning Team


How to set up Blackboard Collaborate with the Collaborate activity

Blackboard Collaborate, a.k.a. Bb Collaborate, BbC or just plain Collaborate, is one of the platforms we support at QMUL for online classrooms. 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. Note that even though it is possible to participate in a session without logging in to QMplus, it is not possible to set up a session without doing it via QMplus.

This guide provides an overview of setting up a Collaborate session on QMplus using the Collaborate activity. 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 button in the top right corner of your QMplus area.
Turn editing on link

Select Add an activity or resource in the section where you wish to add the Blackboard Collaborate session.

Add an activity or resource link

Select the Collaborate item. You can select the activity tab to narrow down the list of items to select from.

Select the Collaborate activity from the activity list

A Collaborate activity will be added to your QMplus area and you will see the activity set up screen.

Add a name and description

Enter a name and a description for your session.

The 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.

Checking the Display description on course page option will display the description on your main page under the activity link.

Collaborate activity on course page showing link, session start date and time and duration and description underneath

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, unless you need more than 15 minutes.

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. You can select a duration in half hour increments from 30 minutes to 2 and a half hours. Note that your session will not be ended if you overrun.

Using the "Duration of course" option

If you select the Duration of course option, this will create a re-usable link that can be joined at any time from the start date and time that you have set and used for meetings of any duration. This might be useful if you want to create an online classroom that you can use at any time without having to set up a session for every individual session.

Note that if you do use this setting, the date displayed under the activity will be the start date for the session.

Start date and time appear under the activity link

The E-Learning Unit use this option for our online drop-in sessions as shown above. It allows us to publicise a single link for multiple sessions. Note that the start date and time is listed as 1pm on 16th March 2020, however this link can be used to start sessions at any time and for any duration. We use the activity title to advertise the times of the sessions.

If you use this option, be aware that participants can start the session without a moderator being present so there’s nothing to stop participants starting the session outwith the scheduled times. e.g. our drop-in sessions run on Tuesday and Thursday from 1-2pm but there is nothing to stop participants starting the meeting at times outside of these…there just won’t be a member of the E-Learning Unit there!

We strongly recommend avoiding using guest links for these types of session. This is much more secure. If you absolutely have to use a guest link, restrict it to participant access only. See the Giving guest access to a session for more information.

Guest access

Allowing guest access to your session

By default, the Collaborate session can only be accessed by those who have QMplus logins and are enrolled on 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 or Viewer access on a course area will enter automatically as a Participant.

Those who are using guest access to a QMplus area, or those who do not have access to the course area at all cannot participate in a Collaborate session unless you have generated and distributed a guest link. This should be used with caution as it is not secure. See the Giving guest access to a session for more information.

Session settings

In the Instructor settings session, there are a number of things that you can set before you start the session. You can change these while the session is in progress however it can be helpful to have some of them set beforehand. Remember that participants can join a session before the moderator so think about what you might want to allow, or not allow, them to do at this time.

Instructor settings section

  • Post messages – check this if you want participants to be able to use the chat. We recommend having this checked as this will be the only way they can communicate with you, or each other, if they are having audio/video problems.
  • Annotate on the whiteboard – do you want your participants to be able to use the whiteboard annotation tools? Note that if you are sharing a file, this will appear on the whiteboard and participants will be able to annotate on top of it. This may or may not be what you want! You can keep this feature turned off and only turn it on during the session at the point you want participants to start annotating
  • Share video feed – do you want participants to be able to turn on their cameras when they join the session? You can turn this on and off during the session itself
  • Share audio feed – do you want people to be able to turn on their microphones when they join the session? You can turn this on and off during the session itself
  • Download recordings – this allows you to control whether participants are able to download a copy of session recordings. Note that the chat transcript is always downloadable, regardless of this setting. Also, if the download is disabled, staff will not be able to download the recording either
  • Enable sessions to allocate up to 500 participants – by default, Collaborate sessions can cope with up to 250 participants. Check this box to enable a session for up to 500 participants. Be aware that some features are not available for these larger sessions e.g. breakout groups.

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 a QMplus login and 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 generate a guest 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 here as guest links are not secure. Once someone has entered the session, a moderator 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, only staff can see this 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.


  • Anyone with the link can access your session, they will be asked to enter a name as they join but there are no security checks for guest access links
  • Anyone you send the link to can pass the link on to others, it is not unique to them
  • Only use the participant role for guest links
  • Avoid guest links if at all possible!

Starting or joining a session

Joining a session via QMplus

A session becomes available to join from 15 minutes before the scheduled start time. To join a session, click on the activity title and you will see a Join session button.

The join session link appears in the activity

Anyone can start the session, it does not have to be started by a moderator/presenter. When joining this way, participants names are automatically passed from QMplus 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 or a Viewer 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.

Changing the session settings when the session has started

You can change your settings while you are running your session using the Session settings section which is accessed via the Settings (cog icon) tab in the Collaborate panel.

Recording the session

Blackboard Collaborate sessions can be recorded. You will get a recording reminder when you start a session but the record option can always 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..

Notes about recordings

  • Recording is not started automatically. You will see a recording reminder when you start your session. You can click on it to start the recording or use the controls in the session menu on the top left
  • Ensure your participants are aware you are going to record and that they consent to it. It should be made clear who will have access to the recording
  • The chat transcript is always downloadable, regardless of the download setting for the recording. The chat is not anonymised. If this is important, you should use the LTI/External tool version of Collaborate which allows you to control this.
  • If you use breakout groups in your session, these are not recorded.

Accessing and downloading recordings

Recordings are automatically made available on QMplus. They can be accessed by clicking on the Collaborate link and then clicking on the recording link that appears below the session. If you started and stopped the recording multiple times, there will be more than one recording link.

If you have allowed recordings to be downloaded, that can also be done here, by using the download link or they can be downloaded by selecting the recording and then downloading from the session menu.

Links for watching the recording and downloading a copy

  1. Select the recording link to watch the recording online
  2. Select the download link to download a copy of the recording (does not include the chat)
  3. For staff only – you will be able to see how many times the recording has been viewed and downloaded.
When you watch the recording online, the chat is shown synchronised with the recording. If you download the recording, this feature is not available. You can download the chat transcript separately.

Tips for using the Collaborate activity

Use the calendar and/or upcoming events blocks

When you set up a Collaborate session using the Collaborate activity, an item is automatically added to the QMplus calendar. If you add an Upcoming Events block to your QMplus area, this will display the calendar events associated with it. Selecting the event in the block provides an easy way to go directly to the activity without having to find the link in the QMplus area.

Collaborate activity appearing in the upcoming events block

You can get a direct link to the activity which you might use elsewhere in your QMplus area or you might use in an email or on a website to allow students to access the activity directly.

Note that this is not the same as a guest link. Those who use the link will still have to log in to QMplus and they will have to have access to the QMplus area that the activity is in.

To get the link, simply select your Collaborate activity and then copy the address in your browser’s address bar.

Copy the activity link from the browser address bar

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

Produced by the the Technology Enhanced Learning Team at Queen Mary University of London.

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