Briefing Note – When to use a guest link to Blackboard Collaborate

During teaching proper you should not be using ‘Guest’ links to direct students to Collaborate rooms. Guest links are primarily used to invite external speakers or to use Collaborate with those who do not have UWE log-ins. They are incredibly useful but if not used judiciously they can do more harm than good.

What are the issues with guest links?

You have no way of knowing who an individual is which leads to problematic behaviour.

If the link is released too widely, you can have instances of people entering a room anonymously and posting explicit images or words within your teaching. This came to be know as ‘Zoom Bombing’ or ‘Porn Bombing’ during the pivot to online learning in April. It is a predictable but preventable outcome. This behaviour can escalate from nuisance to student complaint, and participants who have entered a Collaborate room using a guest link can be removed, but can’t be prevented from re-entering the session anonymously again. If this happened using Collaborate normally(i.e. not through a guest link) you could ban or punish individuals indulging in this behaviour.

The University has no way of knowing a student has engaged.

If a student doesn’t enter sessions via the Collaborate dashboard regularly they will not flag as having engaged with the system. This increases their likelihood of being contacted by the University about their engagement. It is not very nice to be contacted by the University if you have engaged and can lead to a lack of faith in the organisation that will ultimately lead to poorer outcomes such as lower NSS scores or increased student anxiety. This is easily preventable.

Managing links can get confusing and increases the risk of student queries.

Can you tell from looking at a link whether it is this years Collaborate link or content that has been copied across and needs changing? Neither can I. So it is harder to spot mistakes.

When should I be using guest links?

There is a longer list of practice around the Use of Guest Links on the FET LIU website.

  • During Block Zero when students may be having issues with their registration and therefore access to the course.
  • When inviting external partners to be involved in our teaching.
  • When hosting teaching related events teaching across modules content.

What should we be doing instead?

A screenshot image of the Blackboard Collaborate dashboard
The Blackboard Collaborate dashboard

We should be directing our students to the Collaborate dashboard. These can be a placed within your Blackboard course via either: Menu option on the left hand of a course or  adding a link within your content area. Linking to Collaborate in this way eventually will make students less dependent on your providing a link for each session.

The options within Collaborate for session security are covered by the vendor in their support documentation . Setting up Collaborate in general and including setting links outlined in this video series from the LIU. The first 3 videos are instructive here.

The videos deal with adding a link to the dashboard on your left hand menu, this is by far the easiest method. If you want to add it to a content area you can link using a tool link also.

Adding a Collaborate Ultra Link Using the Tools Menu

Taken from

3 thoughts on “Briefing Note – When to use a guest link to Blackboard Collaborate”

  1. Hi Tom
    What if students from different cohorts are joining a collaborate “hosted” in collaborate from a different module
    This is why I tend to use links…

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