Blackboard Collaborate

Collaborate interface showing a notification from a student
Blackboard Collaborate is a web-based collaboration tool (think “webinar”) which has been designed specifically for use in educational contexts.

Please note that this software has been bought by Durham Business School and so is currently only available to staff and students in the Business School. If you want this tool to be available in your department then please lobby your Departmental Education Committee.

This post describes the new (java-free) version – Blackboard Collaborate Ultra – which is being rolled out in 2017.


There are a series of new guides available for staff and students who want to use Collaborate Ultra.

Highlights of the new version

 Simple yet effective collaboration

With quick startup (no more Java or need for a launcher app) and very intuitive workflows, staff and students are free to focus on interaction and engagement, rather than the technology.

 HD video for face to face collaboration

Engage students with high definition video, audio and webcam support. Display up to 5 HD videos at once. With a follow-the-speaker layout, it is easy to know who’s talking by placing the active speaker in a larger view.

 Personalised Profiles

profile pictures personalise the learning experience and can represent you in place of video – for times when you’d rather not go live in HD.

 Quick & easy file and application sharing

Share files with drag and drop ease. Share your entire screen or a specific application – for example your web browser, a PowerPoint a spreadsheet or statistics programme – more easily than before.


Interact with students and get real time feedback with class polls. Quickly set up a poll where participants can choose yes or no as their answer, or use multiple choice questions with up to 5 responses.

 Breakout groups

Experience a face to face collaborative environment while in breakout groups with the ability to share files and whiteboard together. Staff can choose to randomly assign groups in class or custom select them. Participants can even create their own groups!

 Go mobile

Students can join the session directly from the Bb Student app. You can also record sessions in a mobile-friendly format, perfect for flipped lessons. Captured video, audio and shared content can be played back as streamed MP4 files.

 Classroom chat

Instant, convenient chat with all participants promotes participation, but can be disabled as needed to focus the mind! The chat supports twemoji – Twitter’s emoji standard.

 Ask a question

Participation counts. That’s why the hand-raising feature tracks the order in which hands are raised and lets the moderator call on participants to speak.

 Live closed captioning

Choose a person to act as a captioner and provide an accessible alternative to audio content. Improve the learning experience for your students who are deaf or have impaired hearing, or whose native language differs from the speaker. This tool also offers the chance for creativity in modern language classes.