This fall, FSCJ Academic Technology will be phasing out the original version of the Blackboard Collaborate web conferencing tool so that we can have consistent use of the new and improved Ultra version of Collaborate. The two products function in much the same way by allowing students and instructors to meet together in a virtual space, regardless of where they are located or what device they are using.
Blackboard Collaborate Ultra, though, unlike the "original" version, is currently a major focus of product development for Blackboard and is being loaded with tons of new features as this year progresses. Information about what these new features are and when they will be accessible can be found in this Academic Technology blog post from earlier in this calendar year. If you are brand new to all versions of Collaborate, please view these useful webinars that go over the use of Collaborate as an instructional tool to give you an overview of the basics before you begin.
While, as mentioned above, the two products function in the same basic way (and with a similar interface) once a user enters the course room itself, the launch screen for the two versions is quite different and may cause some confusion for faculty and staff that were used to the original product. Below are two side-by-side screenshots of the "original" launch screen and the "ultra" launch screen:
Blackboard Collaborate "Ultra"
"Original" Blackboard Collaborate
Whereas in the "original" version of Collaborate, users simply need to click on the very visible "join room" button to become a part of the virtual learning experience, the ultra interface is not quite so simple to use, but as a result packs in some very useful features.
First of all, faculty have the ability to lock the course room very easily so that it cannot be accessed at all times (a useful security setting that prevents students from using the course room for non-instructional purposes). This can be done very easily by clicking on the three dots to the far right-hand side of the Course Room's name, as shown below. For this dropdown menu, you can also provide links for guest access, as well as view reports about student attendance and usage.
Instructors can also use the "Create Session" button at the bottom of the interface to to schedule sessions with a predetermined beginning and end time so that the Collaborate Course Room is only available at specified times. This is shown below. From this window, you can also specify who in the session can act as a moderator, whether it should be recorded, and if these recordings are downloadable. Recorded sessions, once made, will also be listed and searchable in the area below the "create session" button.
We hope that you find this product upgrade to be a great addition to the educational technology tools that are currently integrated with Blackboard. If you have any questions about how to use the more advanced features of Collaborate Ultra, please contact EdTech@fscj.edu.