Using Blackboard Collaborate

For information from UW System about using BB Ultra as campuses focus on continuity of service, please see Blackboard Collaborate Ultra – Continuity of Service.

Tip Sheet: Alternatives to Lecture

This tip sheet explains how to use written material, reflection, and student-generated content to replace or supplement traditional lectures.

Why Use Blackboard Collaborate Ultra?

Blackboard Collaborate Ultra (BB Ultra) allows live, real-time communication between students and faculty. Therefore, you may find it useful for:

  • Virtual office hours
  • Whole-class meetings
  • Virtual study or collaboration rooms for students

BB Ultra is not appropriate for all situations. You may find it less effective if:

  • You want to hold synchronous meetings for very large groups, such as 50 or more people. BB Ultra has a hard limit of 250 users maximum, but we have found that, when groups grow to about 50 people or more, you and your students may spend an inordinate amount of time troubleshooting connection, audio, and video issues. In addition, only 25 users can dial in to a meeting with a telephone at once, although others can join using computer microphones.
  • Not all of your students have access to:
    • A reliable Internet connection.
    • A decent microphone.
  • You want to bring together multiple people from different time zones. However, note that BB Ultra does include a recording option that allows you to record sessions and share them with users who cannot attend in person.

Given these limitations, if you still feel BB Ultra is a good choice for your course, we have provided information showing you how to set up a dedicated BB Ultra room and a practice room in your course.

Note: The instructions provide basic information on how to make BB Ultra functional in your course.  For more advanced information, visit Collaborate Ultra Help for Moderators.

Task 1: Choose Your Audio Connection Method & Browser

  1. Determine how you will connect your own audio (voice) to the BB Ultra room. Using your computer’s built in microphone is not recommended, as the sound quality is mixed at best. Your best options are:
    1. Connecting with a computer headset that includes a microphone. This is by far the option that results in the best sound. We recommend this Logitech headset.
    2. Calling into the BB Ultra room with your telephone. If using a mobile phone, make sure you have good reception. Note that calling in to a session counts toward the 25 maximum user limit, while connecting via a computer headset does not.
  2. Make sure you’re using one of the web browsers that BB Ultra supports. Note that, at the time of this writing, Safari does not allow screen sharing/application sharing.

Task 2: Make BB Ultra Visible in Your Course if Necessary

  1. Log in to Canvas and open your course.
  2. Look at the navigation options on the left. Do you see Collaborate Ultra? If so, you are done with this task and can move on to the next one.

    Collaborate Ultra

  3. If you don’t see Collaborate Ultra, then it hasn’t been enabled yet. You can usually enable it yourself. Go to Settings.
  4. Click the Navigation tab.
  5. Scroll down to the lower list of items (titled Drag items here to hide them from students).
  6. Find Collaborate Ultra.
    1. If Collaborate Ultra does not appear in the list, you may need to clarify with your campus’ LMS Administrator whether or not it has been enabled. Direct this question to the appropriate campus technical support resource.
  7. Click the three dots to the right of Collaborate Ultra and choose Enable.

    Enable Collaborate Ultra

  8. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and click Save.
  9. Confirm that you now see Collaborate Ultra in the list of navigation options on the left, and it does not have an eye icon with a slash next to it; the absence of the icon indicates that Collaborate Ultra will be visible to your students.

    Collaborate Ultra

Task 3: Set up a Dedicated Course Room

  1. In the list of navigation items on the left, click Collaborate Ultra.
  2. Confirm that you see a screen similar to this:


  3. Click Blackboard Collaborate – Course Room.
    • This is your dedicated course room that is always available to you and your students. Please see Blackboard Help’s Course Room page.
  4. Confirm you are looking at the session settings and:
    • To understand what these settings do, review Blackboard Help’s Session Settings page.
    • In general, you probably don’t want to share the Anonymous Dial-in or Guest link information with your students because both of these options allow students to connect anonymously. If, instead, they go through the Collaborate Ultra option directly in Canvas, each BB session will record and display their name, so you can better keep track of who attends and participates.
    • In general, you probably do want to check the Allow recording downloads option, which will allow your students to download recordings of sessions they aren’t able to attend.
  5. Once you’ve made any adjustments to the settings, click Save.

Task 4: Practice Using Blackboard Collaborate Ultra

Before you go any further, now is a good time to go into your dedicated course room and get used to BB Ultra’s interface and perform some basic tasks.

  1. Click the Blackboard Collaborate – Course Room again.
  2. Click Join Course Room.

    Blackboard Collaborate - Course Room

  3. Go to Blackboard Help’s Get Started with Collaborate Ultra for Moderators page and learn how to perform various tasks. Most importantly, make sure you can connect your audio and video.
  4. Review Blackboard Help’s Find Your Way Around page, which is a great page to bookmark and share with students, as it clarifies what the different parts of the screen are called.
  5. If you want to be able to share your screen with students (to present slides or demonstrate a piece of software, for example), review Blackboard Help’s Share Content page. You can try practicing it now.
  6. At some point, you’ll likely want to be able to record your BB Ultra sessions, so visit Blackboard Help’s Recordings page and make sure you are able to find the Start Recording button in your BB Ultra room.
  7. Right now, your room is probably empty, but now is still a good time to read Blackboard Help’s Chat page and at least make sure you can find where chat messages appear. Chat will allow students to communicate even if they have issues with their microphones.
  8. Finally, take a look at Blackboard Help’s Manage Attendees page, which shows you where participants will appear. Pay particular attention to these sections:
    1. Mute attendees. When many people connect to a room and forget to mute their phones or microphones, everyone can end up hearing a lot of background noise. Muting attendees can solve this problem.
    2. Promote attendees. When students enter a BB Ultra room, their default role is likely “Participant,” meaning they can chat and use voice communication but not share their screens. If you want students to be able to share screens, you’ll need to know how to promote them to a “Presenter” role.
  9. When you’re done practicing how to use a BB Ultra room, simply close your browser tab.

Task 5: Create a Practice Room

We recommend you set up a BB Ultra practice room that is open 24/7 simply so students have the ability to connect and make sure their audio and video feeds work correctly. This can save a lot of troubleshooting prior to scheduled sessions.

  1. To see the basics of how to create a new session, see Blackboard Help’s Create and Edit Sessions page.
  2. Name this session “Practice Room.”
  3. When entering the event details, we recommend you select the No end (open session) box, which will ensure the room is always available.
  4. When you’re finished, confirm that you see a Practice Room in your list of sessions, similar to this:

    Practice Room in Sessions

Task 6: Create Other Rooms, If Needed

Note that you can create as many sessions as you want. However, it’s important not to create so many rooms that students are likely to get lost. To review the basics of making rooms, see Blackboard Help’s Create and Edit Sessions page. Here are some common rooms used by online instructors and their key settings:

Virtual Office Hours

  • Suggested Name: [COURSE] Office Hours
  • Start and End dates/times: Set these for the next time you plan to hold office hours. Then, after your office hours are over, change the dates and times to correspond to the next session. Alternatively, if you have the same office hours every week, you can use the Repeat session option.
  • Provide a description: Click this link and then enter a description that lists your normal office hours. This way, students will be able to see when you’re normally available, even when the room is closed.
  • Participants can only chat privately with moderators: check this box so that, if multiple students are in the room, they can’t privately chat with each other. They can still use public chat.

Collaborative Study Rooms

  • Suggested Names: [COURSE] Study Room 1, [COURSE] Study Room 2, [COURSE] Study Room 3, etc. It’s a good idea to make several of these so that multiple groups can work at the same time.
  • Start and End dates/times: Set a start date of today (i.e. the day you create the rooms) and select No end (open session).
  • Default Attendee Role: Choose Moderator. This way, students will have full access to all the BB Ultra tools when running their own study sessions, such as the ability to share their screen and record sessions.
  • Allow recording downloads: Check this box so students can record, download, and review their study sessions, if desired.

Task 7: Post Student Instructions

The final task involves letting students know that these BB Ultra rooms exist and how to use them.

  1. Create a new content page in Canvas, using Instructure’s How to I create a page in a course? page.
  2. Enter instructions for students, using the template below as a guide. Please modify this before posting so that the language and information is accurate to your course.


Some of our course interactions use a tool called Blackboard Collaborate Ultra (BB Ultra). This allows us to interact in real time when synchronous interaction is important, such as for interactive Q&A sessions, demonstrations, and office hours. These instructions should help you become familiar with BB Ultra and identify who to contact if you run into issues.

Before You Start

  1. Make sure you have a stable, reliable Internet connection. Your best options are often a home or workplace internet provider. Don’t use free wi-fi available in the U.S. at places like McDonald’s and Starbucks, as these connections aren’t fast enough to support BB Ultra.
  2. Make sure you’re using one of the web browsers that BB Ultra supports. Note that, at the time of this writing, Safari does not allow screen sharing/application sharing.
  3. Make sure you have the ability to connect audio either through a phone or a headset with microphone connected to your computer. In general, using the built-in microphone on a laptop doesn’t work very well, as the sound quality can be poor enough to interfere with other people’s ability to understand you.

Get Some Practice First

  1. In this course, click the Collaborate Ultra option on the left.
  2. Click Practice Room.
  3. In the sidebar that appears on the right, click Join session.
  4. Read through Get Started with Collaborate Ultra for Participants. Make sure you’re able to:
    1. Set a profile picture (if desired).
    2. Connect your audio and video.
  5. Look through Find Your Way Around and make sure you can:
    1. Mute and un-mute your microphone.
    2. Display and hide your video feed (if your computer has a camera).
    3. Find and use the chat panel.
    4. Raise and lower your hand.

    Note: you may not see all of the options presented on the Blackboard help page. This is normal. Some options, such as screen sharing, will only be enabled by your instructor when necessary.

Know Where To Go for Help

If you encounter issues using BB Ultra, your best first stop is Blackboard’s support page, which allows you to either chat with a support representative or submit a case ticket.

If you simply want to learn more about all you can do in Blackboard, visit Collaborate Ultra Help for Participants.

During a BB Session

  • Keep the Find Your Way Around page handy, as you may find it helpful.
  • When you’re not speaking, keep your phone or microphone muted, as this cuts down on background feedback noise for everyone.
  • If you need to share your screen, ask your instructor to promote you to a presenter.
  • If you encounter technical difficulties that you and your instructor can’t resolve, initiate a chat session with Blackboard support on the Blackboard’s support page.

Download Template

Published on March 16, 2020 at 11:48:31 am CDT. Last modified on March 19, 2020 at 2:25:27 pm CDT.