Blackboard Collaborate Ultra Experience, often referred to as plain old Collaborate Ultra, is software used for online classroom sessions or web conferencing (webinars), where participants can collaborate online in real time by synchronous text or voice chat. It is currently used across UWE, mainly for classroom sessions for work-based or distance learning students, but also for a number of other purposes such as vivas or drop-in advice sessions and ‘office hours’.
The system can be used on both module and programme sites in the Blackboard VLE, and it is possible to invite external guests to participate or facilitate a session, if required.
Blackboard Collaborate Ultra Experience works on PCs and Macs. The BB Student app (Blackboard’s own app for students – available for both Android and iOS) works with Collaborate Ultra, although with some limitations to functionality.
Once in the sessions, you will have access to a range of tools to support your learners, including:
- An interactive whiteboard
- The use of PowerPoint
- Communicating with students by speaking, text chatting, video and emoticons
- Breakout rooms
- Screen sharing applications
See for yourself
The Ultra Experience version of Blackboard Collaborate is a replacement for the Blackboard Collaborate Classic web conferencing system. There are two main differences; firstly, Collaborate Ultra does not require Java, which has greatly improved the connection stability and accessibility. Secondly, although Collaborate Ultra does not have all the functionalities of the classic version yet, the settings have been simplified, making it more user-friendly for participants. See for yourself in the video below.
For information on how to get started, please visit UWE’s Blackboard Support pages on the Collaborate Ultra Experience, where you will also find a short video clip demonstrating the main functionalities.
Additionally, here are some introductory PowerPoint slides, which you can download, adapt and include in your Collaborate Ultra sessions to help you and your webinar participants get started.
Using Blackboard Collaborate Ultra Experience for your online classroom is similar in many ways to teaching in a face-to-face classroom and many teaching techniques can be converted to an online equivalent. When preparing for a session, keep the following in mind:
- PowerPoint slides can be presented at a faster pace than in the face-to-face classroom to keep the participants attention.
- Where possible use diagrams or images; too much reading is likely to distract the participants.
- Set up the session 30 minutes early and be ready to welcome participants and assist with any technical issues.
- Set up the room or session a couple of days early, and encourage the participants to go in and familiarise themselves with the technology in preparation for the session.
- Plan for interaction by asking questions, using the emoticons or polling for instant feedback or set up an activity on the whiteboard, in the same way you would ask for a show of hands or engage participants in a face-to-face session. Have a back up plan in case the attendance is unusually high or low.
- Consider pairing up with another presenter, it can add to the variety of the session as well as functional support.