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Learning Technology Team

NILE & Other Technology Guides

Information for Staff

What is Blackboard Collaborate?

The University’s online Virtual Classroom tool Blackboard Collaborate Ultra enables you to interact live with your students online through a web browser via webcams, screen sharing, and chat without the need to download additional software. Up to 250 people can join a session at the same time. As the system is designed with learning and teaching in mind, it offers useful features not generally provided by other webinar software. It is integrated with Blackboard Learn as part of the NILE software which makes it easy to access for staff and students using their main University account details. Guests can also join your online sessions if required without the need for a University account, enabling guest lecturers to visit you and your students virtually, without the associated travel costs.

How might I use Blackboard Collaborate?

Collaborate Ultra sessions are live so they can be used for synchronous teaching. Among other use cases, to date Collaborate Ultra has been used in the following scenarios:

  • Large student cohort sessions led by tutors
  • Smaller cohort sessions led by tutors with high interactivity
  • Guest lectures from industry professionals
  • Seminar groups
  • One to one seminars
  • Student workshops led by tutors
  • Student group work without tutors present
  • Student presentations, including assessed work
  • Staff training and workshops

Technical requirements for using Collaborate

Collaborate works directly in the web browser and does not require you to download additional software. Below are some recommendations on the technical requirements of running Collaborate sessions successfully.

NOTE: It is important to keep your web browser up to date. Just like you would keep any other application up to date, keeping your browser up to date will mean that it will work best when using Collaborate.

Software

LearnTech recommends either the Chrome or Firefox browser for the best experience with Collaborate. Both of these are installed on staff laptops. If you normally use an Ad Blocker in your web browser, such as Ad Block Plus, you may need to disable it when using Blackboard Collaborate.

Staff can also access and run Collaborate sessions on a mobile device using the Blackboard Instructor App. Even if you don't intend to use it on a regular basis, this is a good backup option in case you ever have problems with your laptop. Once you've installed the app, you can find out how to use it here: Collaborate in the Blackboard Instructor App.

Internet

A reliable internet connection is required, preferably broadband. It is recommended that you prioritise your bandwidth for Collaborate when running sessions by closing other applications that use the internet connection. Consider asking household members to turn off other devices that use the internet when running sessions from home, such as video or music streaming services.

Device

A laptop or desktop computer is usually preferred due to the screen size and battery power. As mentioned under the software heading above, mobile devices such as phones or tablets can also be used as a backup device should you encounter problems with your staff laptop.

Peripherals

A microphone is required to speak, headphones or speakers to hear, and a webcam to share a video feed. Most modern devices, including staff issue laptops, have all of these built-in. You may wish to consider external webcams and microphones if your teaching style calls for it; to share a webcam feed of a live practical element, for example. Please contact the AV department for further advice in this regard on avinfo@northampton.ac.uk.

 

NOTE: Please see the section of this guide, 'Troubleshooting tips' for more advice regarding technical aspects of using Collaborate if you experience difficulties.

Finding support for Blackboard Collaborate

Should you require urgent assistance with NILE, please contact the LearnTech Support Helpdesk via the online contact form