Interactive seminars, tutorials and drop-ins using Blackboard Collaborate

Whether you’re using a flipped learning model, facilitating group work or just wanting to give your students some individual support, online interaction can be done through Blackboard Collaborate Ultra. Here are a few ways your students can interact with you and with each other.

Asking questions

At its most basic, Blackboard Collaborate provides a way for you to have real-time conversations with your students, either using the written Chat or speaking through a microphone. This may be a discussion or Q&A after a presentation, or a separate session for this purpose.

It is up to you to direct how you want students to communicate, bearing in mind some may prefer to type their questions, and others to speak them. Consider, if you are doing a live presentation, whether you want questions throughout or just at the end. Will you check the Chat box periodically, or can you get someone else to monitor it for you? If students want to speak, you may want to ask them to use the Raise Hand button and invite them to speak one at a time. Remember if you do get lots of people talking at once you can mute everyone’s microphone.

See our article Delivering webinars: Guides for using Blackboard Collaborate Ultra for how to set up a Blackboard Collaborate session.

Feedback icons

Unlike being in a room, where you can see students’ nods, expressions and looks of confusion, you will not be able to see more than four people at a time on the screen even if everyone has their camera on (which is not necessarily advisable as it can cause performance issues due to bandwidth). If you’re new to presenting webinars, you may find this a little disorientating. To get this kind of immediate feedback, encourage students to use the feedback icons. Read our article Feedback Icons in Blackboard Collaborate webinars to see how they work.

Presenter mode

If you want students to be able to share their files or their screen with you, for example so that you can help them use a piece of software, you can give them Presenter status.


Go to the participant list. Click on the dots next to the name of the student and select Make Presenter.

By default

Before students join the session, go into the session settings and change the Default Attendee Role to Presenter (if you are inviting some attendees by using a guest link, change the Guest Role dropdown to Presenter as well).

Using breakout groups

Participants in a breakout room automatically have Presenter permissions and can share their screen or their files. They will still be Participants when they go back to the main room.
See more about breakout groups below.


You can add some interactivity to the session by using the polling tool in Collaborate. See Using Polling in a Blackboard Collaborate Webinar for more information. It can be used to gauge opinion or get some quick feedback, e.g. “Should I go over Topic A or Topic B?” or “Which resources have you found most helpful?”. You will see the overview of results on your screen and, as a moderator, you will be able to see individual responses in the Attendee pane (the number of their response will show next to their name). Participants will not see individual responses.

If you want to do more complex polling or quizzes, you can use Mentimeter. Set up a Mentimeter presentation in the usual way and share your screen; you can then run it just as you would in a classroom. Note that Mentimeter responses are anonymous, however.

Breakout groups

See our article Setting up breakout groups in Blackboard Collaborate Ultra for details on how to get started with breakout groups. There are a couple of different ways you might use them.

For group work

Consider whether you want random groups, groups you have chosen or groups the students choose themselves. Select ‘Random assignment’ or ‘Custom assignment’ as required from the Assign Groups dropdown.

In the breakout room, students can show each other their files and share their screens. They can use their own chat channel or talk to each other using their microphone. They can draw collaboratively on a whiteboard or annotate a file (see our Blackboard Collaborate Participants’ Guide for more on this) but they can’t use Blackboard Collaborate to work simultaneously on a document or spreadsheet – for that they would need to share a file from their OneDrive.

As Moderator, you can move around the groups to see how each group is doing. You and your students can also still use the Everyone chat channel while in breakout groups.

For one-to-one support or feedback

If you are running a tutorial or drop-in session and you need to help one particular student or give them individual feedback while the rest of the group continues with something else, you can use a breakout room to take the student aside.

Set up breakout rooms with custom groups, and move the student and yourself or another course tutor into one of the groups. The rest will stay in the main room.

While in the breakout room, the student will be able to share their files or screen with you, and talk over the microphone or use the group chat channel to speak to you without disturbing other students.

Contact if you have any questions about interactivity in webinars.


Photo by Pixabay from Pexels