Blackboard Collaborate

OverviewGetting startedGood practiceSupport

Blackboard Collaborate is a system that allows participants to collaborate online in real-time (synchronously). It is available through the module and programme coursesites on the Blackboard VLE (virtual learning environment). For information on how to access it, see Blackboard Support’s Web Conferencing page.

It is particularly useful for delivering online (or virtual) classroom sessions (also called webinars) to distance and work-based learning students. It is being deployed by a number of programmes across UWE, including the distance learning MSc Real Estate Management, which started in September 2013.

Blackboard Collaborate works on desktop PCs and Macs, as well as mobile devices such as iPads, iPhones and Android tablets and phones. Once logged in to your Collaborate session you will have access to a range of tools to support your learners including:

  • An interactive white board
  • Communication tools, including voice and video over the internet, chat rooms and breakout areas
  • Session recording for students to watch and review again
  • Integration with PowerPoint

The screenshot below shows the different components of Blackboard Collaborate.

Collaborate's user interface


Please watch this short demonstration to see the main functions of Blackboard Collaborate.

You can also use the whiteboard during your session to add a poll. See the YouTube clip below.

Here are a few introductory slides which you can download and adapt for your Blackboard Collaborate session.

Like any teaching activity, planning and preparation are key; the main point with running a virtual classroom however, is that it will not work if you try to drop in some slides and run it like a face-to-face session. Here are some pointers to help out:

  • Use diagrams and images to convey information – no one likes to read heavy text online.
  • Interact frequently by asking questions, using quizzes, polls and the whiteboard.
  • Have a buddy. You will never be able to talk, read, answer questions and deliver a presentation.  Bring another subject expert in to cover the reading and typing. This person can also troubleshoot for you.
  • Rehearse with a mock audience.
  • Be ready for students – perhaps log in 30 minutes before the start of the sessions to welcome participants in and go through any issues they have with Collaborate
  • Have an induction week.  It is vital that your students trouble shoot any technological issues before your first teaching session.


Case Study 1: MSc Real Estate Management (DL version)
Blackboard Collaborate is used on the distance learning version of the MSc Real Estate Management for the online classroom sessions. As a result of LIU’s experience supporting staff on this progamme, we have compiled a guide on how to set up the sessions. We have also produced a one-page sheet of points to remember when you start your session.Student induction for the Blackboard Collaborate classroom is very important. It was made clear to students on this programme that they needed to test their access to Blackboard Collaborate well in advance of their first online classroom session. See the joining instructions for the programme. The further information on Blackboard Collaborate for students (referred to in the joining instructions) is available for you to adapt and use. For those students who didn’t have a UWE account set up in time for their first session, we sent them an e-mail (to their personal e-mail address) with a weblink for the induction session.
Case Study 2: Ground Engineering UBGLV9-10-3
John Savage (Module Leader): “I used the software on my 3rd Year Ground Engineering UBGLV9-10-3 module which had 2 cohorts – 17 students on the blended learning River and Coastal Engineering programme and 37 on the Civil Engineering programme. The rationale was slightly strange. I had no intention at the start of the year to use webinars. However towards the end of term we had arranged to go on a trip with the blended learning cohort which ate into precious teaching time. Trips are always more fun than lectures and so I reckoned we would need to find a way of catching up – without contact time the only way this could be achieved with students all over the country was via Blackboard Collaborate. This was conducted during the Easter break. This prompted the first webinar which was successful and the students wanted another webinar which was targeted at revision. I also decided to run one of these sessions for the Civil Engineering cohort which was really useful and the students appreciated.


  • Accessibility – ease and flexibility of access Students liked chatting using the text input box
  • Knowing the session was recorded meant that students could be more relaxed and engage with the dialogue knowing they could pick up bits they missed after
  • Students could chip in anytime by putting up a virtual hand and then I could bring them in – perhaps this was less intimidating than a hand up in class
  • I was much more relaxed and could take a more relaxed/informal style to my lecture – the second time I stayed at home in my office with a cup of coffee!


  • On the first time there was an issue with students dropping out of the webinar due to a connection issue – they came back later and could catch up by watching the recording
  • ??? I can’t think of many disadvantages at the moment, it was a really enjoyable foray into the world of online teaching – the start of a journey which can only get better.

Oliver [Oli Haslam in the FET Learning Innovation Unit] was a brilliant help in getting going and being there to give technical and moral support – he listened in to the first lectures and made sure it was all working. The real beauty of Collaborate is in the name – it needs to be much more than delivering material over the web. The collaboration between students and staff is what the software is best used for and although I had open dialogue throughout with students in future renditions I can do much more two/multi-way conversations.”

UWE’s Learning and Development Centre deliver training on Blackboard Collaborate. There is an accompanying UWE Blackboard Collaborate training manual available from their IT Training Documents webpage.

Have a look at the Blackboard Collaborate website for tours and videos.

There is an excellent, comprehensive guide on the JISC (Joint Information Systems Committee) website: Chatterton, P. (2012) Designing for Participant Engagement with Blackboard Collaborate.

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