6 – Using Collaborate

In the video above, we will:

  • Give you an overview of the platform
  • Show you how to create and run a session
  • Show you how to manage past sessions including finding recordings and viewing the room reports

1 Getting Started

To get started in Collaborate, go into the Details and Actions menu on the left-hand side and you’ll see a section for Blackboard Collaborate. Right now, the Join Session link will open to the Course Room as that is on by default.

The Course Room is an open room in Collaborate – this can be useful for impromptu office hours, or if you want to have a space for students to be able to join without any notice. If you don’t want to use this, and you only want to use scheduled sessions, you can disable this by clicking on the three dots for the Collaborate Menu and choosing the last item – “Disable course room”. This is also where you can re-enable it if you would like.

Even if you do use the Course Room, we strongly recommend that you disable this before you run a scheduled session to avoid any confusion for instructors and for students.

However, let’s take a look at the session management area by clicking back into the three dots menu and going into “Manage All Sessions”.

Several of the options from the previous menu will bring you to this screen first, as it is the landing page for Collaborate, so it can be helpful to get in the practice of opening this first.

At the top, we can see the course room. The three dots next to this will let you join the course room, edit the settings for this room (including allowing you to generate a link you can provide to people outside of the course), view reports for the course room, and lock it which is the same action as disabling it from the earlier menu.

Below that we could see a list of upcoming sessions, as well as a filter on the right-hand side that would let us look for previous sessions if we had any in this module.

Let’s get started creating a session!

2 Creating a Session

To do this, we can click on the grey create session in the middle of the screen, or at the top left-hand side of the screen.

This will open to the first tab for creating a session – the event details. First you will need to enter a name. We recommend using something clear that will stand out if you or another member of staff return to this later. Also pay attention to level of detail in the name if you are creating a single session versus setting up recurring sessions.

The next item to is decide if you want to allow guest access. We recommend setting up the session with this as it can be handy to have the link to hand if you need it, and there’s no issues if you don’t use it!

When you tick this box on, you can decide how you want guests to enter. We recommend setting this up with “Participant”. This just determines the level of permissions people will start with when they enter the session with this link, you can change an individual’s permissions level once you are in a session.

Next, you can choose the start and end dates for the session. Although you can set up a “never ending” session with the tick box below, you likely will have a start and end date in mind. And remember you do have the course room if you want a continual room available to students!

Below that, you can tick the box if you would like to set up repeat sessions. This is a useful feature if you want to set up multiple sessions that will run at the same time, on the same day or days on a regular basis. If you tick this box, you can see that you can decide the frequency of daily/weekly/monthly, and if you want it to run every week or on a regular schedule. You can also select multiple days if you’d like. Do note that the name you gave at the top will apply to all of the sessions in this grouping – you cannot apply a customised name, like week 1 tutorial, to each. You can also tell it when to stop creating the sessions by date or by amount of sessions, so it will only generate as many as you need.

Regardless of whether you set up the repeat session, the last option in this page is the early entry. This determines when the room will open to all users, staff and students alike! We recommend that you leave at least 15 minutes before start time, however you can always add more time if you’d like it. The reason we recommend having some buffer time is because this allows the instructor time to enter the room, add any files they want to upload and share, or get their screen ready. The link to join the session would not be available to staff or students before the time you set here, so it’s likely sessions would actually start a few minutes late if you don’t allow for any early entry time. Now, you could call this done and click “create” to save this session, however, you will probably want to adjust some of the session settings first.

2.1 Session Settings

To do this, go into the cog icon that is the second tab at the top. Now, we’ll work our way down these settings.

Most of the first few settings should be left as they are – the default attendee role ought to be Participant. At the time of this recording, Collaborate should not be made available for students to download – you can review the current policy on recording and downloads in the link below for any additional information and guidance about this. We also recommend that you allow everyone to share profile pictures, however you can disable this if you would like.

The setting here you should change is the anonymise chat messages. You should turn this on so that the chat is anonymised if anyone watches the recording later. It is important that this anonymises the chat only after the session, it will not anonymise the chat during the session.

Next is the section on Participant Permissions. These determine what settings participants (your students) will join the session with – you can change these during the session itself. For that reason, we recommend starting the session with audio and video disabled as that way your session can start without distracting sounds as people enter the room. When you are in the session, there is a way to enable a single student to speak, or to change these settings to allow everyone access to turn on their mics when you are ready!

We do recommend that you leave them the ability to post chat messages. Based on the session, you can decide if you want to turn off the ability to draw on files or whiteboards – again you can toggle this on and off in the session if you want to use a whiteboard collaboratively, but not let participants mark up your slides.

Below that, you have the option to disable students from being able to have private chat messages amongst themselves. You can also allow moderators to supervise private chats. Moderators are those with the highest level of permissions – all instructors by default will have moderator roles, but we’ll talk more about role permissions later.

Below that is a really important one if you are going to have a large session with over 250 people attending. You have to turn this setting on before the session starts, you cannot change this once the session is open. If you do not have this setting on, anyone after the first 250 participants will not be allowed to join the session. If you will not have over 250 participants, you should leave this setting off as it restricts some of the things participants can do such as sharing audio, video, or posting messages.

The final tab in this panel is for attendance – as SEAtS is the primary attendance tool for the University of Dundee, we won’t cover how to set this up the session. You will always have access to the room reports after sessions to see who attended, how long they were in the room for, if they joined multiple times, etc.

Once you’ve got your setting in place, click Create!

3 Running a Session

Let’s go back to the main course page and take a look at how you and your students will join your scheduled session. One important thing to note for both you and your students is that this link will only appear after the entry time once the page has been refreshed. For instance, if your session starts at 11:00, you set an early entry time of 15 minutes, and you log into your module at 10:30, you will not see the link at 10:45 unless you refresh browser. But, if you navigated into your page at 10:46 you would see the link already there.

The first time you use Collaborate, you will have to allow your mic and webcam access to the session – neither you nor your students will be able to join the session without this step!

3.1 The Main Interface

Once you do that and are in the room, there are a few things to you may want to do first. The first is the notice in the top-right corner that will remind you to record the session. If you close this window, or want to record later in the session, you can find the recording in the top left-hand menu. You can this area to start and stop the recording.

The next things to notice are the controls at the bottom of the screen – this is where you can turn your mic and camera on and off and raise your hand. This will be the same for you and your students, although they may not be able to turn on their mics or camera if you disabled this for participants when you set up the session.

If you click on the person icon, you can see additional feedback you can provide that will appear for the rest of the class – this is useful for quick agree/disagree polls, and for letting your students react in real-time to your presentation. These feedback icons face after 30 seconds.

At the bottom of the screen, moderators can see a few basic, real-time engagement statistics. In the bottom right-hand corner, you’ll see a purplish button with two arrows – if you click on this it will open the side panel that contains nearly all of the controls for the session (it’s only missing the recording start/stop feature).

3.2 Side Panel Controls

When you open this panel, the first tab on the bottom is for the chat. You can have a chat with everyone, or if you click on the tab at the top that says “everyone”, you can see that you can also have a chat with just the other moderators in the chat, or find a specific person if you want to send a private, direct message. Students can do this, too, unless you turned this feature off during the set-up stage.

The next tab on the bottom lets you see everyone in the room and gives you control over permissions on a person-by-person basis. For instance, if you have disabled microphones and videos for participants, but a student has raised their hand and you want to allow just that student to turn on their mic to ask a question, you can go to this tab click the three dots to the right of their name and give them the role of “Presenter”. This will elevate them so they can use their mic, then you can move them back to a “Participant” when they have finished. Another common use case may be if you have an external person coming in to give a lecture or guest talk. You may have set up the guest link as “participant”, as that is good practice, but once the guest has joined, you would want to give them either presenter or moderator access to the session. The three roles have more of an impact in the next tab, but in this panel, Moderators are the only ones who have full control.  Both presenters and participants can see this list, but their “three dots” menu only allows them to pin a video or send a direct message (if this has been allowed for participants).

The two last things to point out in this menu is the little box full of lines next to the three dots. This is a general indicator of that user’s connectivity status, so you can see if someone is having internet issues. Finally, if you see the three dots at the top of the screen, you can click on these to mute find an attendee or mute all participants if you need to do this quickly.

3.3 Sharing Content

Next, let’s go into the tab that has a box with an arrow pointing out of it. This is the panel that you will use to share your screen or files, set up polling or use breakout rooms. We can see that this is set up into three sections – Primary Content, Secondary Content, and Interact.

Moderators have access to all of these areas, but presenters only have access to items in the “Primary Content” section. Participants don’t have access to anything in this panel.  

In the primary content, there are two things worth pointing out – sharing application/screen and sharing files.

If you click on Share application/screen, you can see a drop-down menu that lets you choose between your open applications and your screen (or screens). You’ll see a preview of your choice before you click “Allow” and share your chosen screen. It is important to remember that if you share an application, such as an excel spreadsheet, but then want to share your screen to share a website or another application, you will need to come back into Collaborate to change this setting.

One key tip if you share your screen – make sure that Collaborate is not open in the screen you are sharing! If you only have one screen, we recommend minimising the window or browser with Collaborate once you start sharing, and bring it back only when you are ready to stop sharing. This does mean you can’t see the chat or any raised hands, so you may want to designate a colleague or a student as a “presenter” so they can share any questions in the chat or any issues you may not notice. If you have more than one screen, just be sure to have Collaborate open on the screen you are not using.

If you want to share a PowerPoint, PDF, or image, you can click on the Share Files option. Do note that it will “flatten” any PowerPoint, essentially turning it into a PDF which means that animations, transitions, or videos will not display. Also note that anything you add here can be downloaded by anyone attending the session. If you want to upload a file, remember this can take a bit of time depending on how large the file size is, so you may want to enter the session early and do this first so it’s ready for you when you need it. Once you’ve added it, select what you want to share on the screen and click the button at the bottom that says “Share now”. Once this is shared, you can navigate in the main window by using the arrows.

You can use the icons at the top to select a pointer that all of the attendees can see, if you want to gesture to something on your slide. You can also use the pen or text tool to mark up your file as you present. The bin icon on the right will clear all of the marking on the screen.

To turn off sharing – either of your screen or a file, click on the square button in the top right-hand corner of the screen.

Returning to this Share Content area, Moderators can create and deploy polls – be aware you can’t pre-populate the polls fields, so you may want to have a document open so you can copy/paste questions and answers.

3.4 Using Breakout Rooms

Below this is the Breakout Rooms area. If you click on this you can use the drop-down at the top to put students into any pre-existing groups you have set up in your course. For information on how to set up groups, see our dedicated session on that topic. However, you can also randomly assign groups, or create custom groups during the session. To do this, you can click the plus sign to create new groups, click on the group names to re-name them, and then drag and drop students into the desired groups.

Once you’re ready, click start and the session will pull the students (and any staff assigned to groups) out of the main room and into the new group room. While people are in the group rooms, they will have “presenter” permissions, plus the ability to run polls. This means that participants will have access to their mics and videos, even if you turned this setting off for the main session. They can also share their screens and files.

If people raise their hands while they are in the breakout rooms, you can see this in the second, “Attendees Control”, tab. This is also where you can switch what room you’re in – simply click on the tall icon that almost looks a bit like a door that is to the right of the group name.  

You can also pause and resume the breakout groups – pausing brings everyone back to the main room, but just puts the breakout rooms on standby. When you click resume the students will be put back in the rooms they came out, of and any work they had will still be there (e.g. uploaded files, chat).

What if you were recording before you started the breakout rooms, what happens then? Well, if your main room is completely empty, recording will stop automatically. You will then have to manually start recording again once you bring everyone back. We recommend that you stop recording before you start the breakout rooms to prevent any confusion, and then resume once you are all back and you are ready!

To end the breakout rooms, go to the “Attendees Control” panel and select the square that says “end”. This will bring everyone back to the main room.

If you want to keep any files students uploaded in their breakout rooms, you can do that! You will need to do this after you’ve ended breakout groups, but before you leave the session. Go into the shared area, and now you’ll see sections for groups under a title that says “Breakout Group Files”. Use the arrows under that to find the file that you want to keep, click the three dots to the right of it, and select “move to main room files.” Keep an eye on the reminder at the top of that screen  – “Once a file is shared, it can be downloaded by session attendees.”

For more information on breakout groups, you can use the link to the Blackboard guide below!

For now, let’s go on to the last tab.

3.5 Session settings

If you click on the cog wheel that is the last tab in the bottom row, you’ll be able to manage the session settings.

At the top, you’ll see a blank or generic icon next to your name – if you click on this you can upload a profile picture. We strongly recommend that you do this and encourage your students to do this also. Once you’ve added your file, you’ll see a small tick box above Save. This says “Always use this profile picture” – you’ll want to click this on if you want this to be your default profile image in Collaborate. Remember this is separate from your profile picture in My Dundee generally, so you will need to set one up here.

The first section is useful if you need to manage your personal audio and video settings. The next section, Notification Settings, lets you customise what notifications you see and/or hear for the session. These do follow you across different sessions, so once you’ve got it set how you like, you won’t need to do this in every new session.

Below that is the area for “Session Settings” that only Moderators can access. This is where you can change the settings for participant permissions for audio, video and chat. This means that if you want to run your session with audio and video off, but allow a free Q&A session at the end, you can start with audio video disabled, then to go this tab and enable these features when you are ready!

Now, let’s leave this session and check out how to access recordings and room reports after the session has ended.

4 Managing past sessions

One thing to remember is that it can take a little time for a recording to be processed and a room report to be generated after a session.

To view recordings, go to the main course content page in your module, click the three dots next under Blackboard Collaborate, and choose the option “View all recordings”. By default, this page will show only sessions from the last 30 days, but to view sessions older than that, click on the menu next to “Filter by” and change this to “Recordings in a Range” and set your desired date range.

Here, you’ll see a list of the recordings, when it started, and how long the recording is. If you would like to keep a recording, you should click on the three dots at the right of the row and select “Download”. Once this has downloaded on your computer, you will likely need to re-name it for clarity as it will download as something like “collab-recording”, then you should upload it to YuJa and publish it to your module’s channel. YuJa will autogenerate captions, and it is where you ought to be storing videos for re-use. One important thing to note about this process is that the chat panel does not download – this is only available if the video is streamed from within Collaborate.

The next thing to highlight is the room reports. Let’s click the blue X and go back to the Collaborate menu from the Course Content page. This time let’s select the option for “View Room Report”. If this looks familiar, that is because this is also the “Manage sessions” main page, so you can come in through that link instead if you prefer.

This page will show upcoming sessions by default, so to view past sessions, click on the menu next to “Filter by” and change this to either “All previous sessions” or “Sessions in a Range” and set your desired date range. Find the session you want to view the report for, then click the three dots to the right of that session and select “View Reports”. Here you can see a list of all of the start and end times – most sessions will only have one, but open sessions or the Course Room may have multiple entries with the start date and time. Find the one you want to view and click the link for “View Report”.

From within the interface, you can see a list of everyone who joined, what their role was, when they left, and if they had to join multiple times. If they did join more than once, you can click on an icon that will be present in the first right-hand column to see this detailed information for each join. If someone joins via a guest link, you see the name they entered and the “Attendee type” will say “Guest” rather than “Integration”. What this means is that students who entered with “Integration” logged in to My Dundee using SSO with their account and accessed the link within the module to join. The people who use the guest link did not do anything to verify their identity – they can type a name in manually when they join with a guest link.

If you want to download this information, you can go into the right left-hand menu that has details for the session and click either “Printable” or “Export to CSV” link depending on your preference. You can then save this information for your records.


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Updated on 09/09/2022

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