Collaborate comes out swinging!

Collaborate, Learn’s virtual classroom, was way ahead of its time being widely rolled out in 2011. I must admit, I very rarely used it for teaching, using it mainly for meetings. When the pandemic hit it was my ‘go to’ as it had a massive advantage of being integrated in to Learn so there were no ‘extras’ I had to consider such as how do my students access it. However, since its early conception it had stagnated as a tool and new kids on the block, such as Zoom and Teams had the advantage of starting from scratch. Collaborate fell behind, sometimes doing the job, and sometimes not being fit for purpose as we scrambled to deliver curriculum online.

That has changed, with Collaborate coming off the ropes and hitting back hard. So what is new?

The new whiteboard 

With the new whiteboard all attendees can enjoy better formatting, usability, and annotation persistence. With the improvements to the annotation tools, attendees can enjoy these features on a session whiteboard or shared file.

  • Better formatting: Pencil thickness, fonts and font size, shapes with color fill, arrows, and more are added to the annotation tools.
  • Usability: It’s easier to copy and reuse elements and paste text. You can now erase part of the annotations or clear all. There are multi line text blocks, text wrapping, and safeguards before clearing all annotations.
  • Interaction with breakout groups: You can annotate a file in the main room and then share it with the breakout groups including annotations. You can bring a breakout group’s own annotated file into the main room together with its annotations.
  • Annotation persistence: Annotations made to the whiteboard, or on a file, are saved in the session. You can share something new, go to a new slide, or stop sharing. The annotations remain. Select Clear Annotations to remove them all.

Gallery view 

Previously only 4 people could be seen on screen at one time. This has now been increased to 25. Streaming videos can demand a lot from your network connection or device, especially with a high number of videos such as the 25 at once that gallery view now supports. Collaborate will now monitor your experience and when the load is too much will automatically reduce the number of videos to 4, to improve your experience. When it does, it will show you a notification in the banner at the top of your screen.

Instructors may want to keep a close eye on students who are struggling with the course. Students may want to follow a sign language interpreter, stay focused on the instructor, or see their study buddies. Now with Gallery view, attendees can pin videos so they are always in view.

Camera as content on mobile devices 

Now moderators can share a camera on their mobile device as content on the screen. When attendees share their video using  the main tools along the bottom of the screen, their front facing camera is used. This ability to share the camera as content on a mobile device means that moderators can now choose to use their back or rear facing camera as well.  

Choose your preferred language 

Up until now, Collaborate used the default language set in your browser, which may not be your preferred language. Now you can choose any language supported by Collaborate as your default language during a session in Session Settings. Your selection is then remembered by this browser on this device for your next sessions.

Share video from Chrome 

Moderators and Presenters can now share video (with audio) or audio files via the Chrome browser, and allow the attendees in the session to hear the audio.

More browser pop-up notifications 

Attendees can now get browser pop-notifications when someone joins or leaves a session. Moderators can also set notifications for when someone raises their hand.

Share content to breakout groups 

Moderators can share files, with one or more breakout groups. When sharing a file with a breakout group, the first slide of the file displays in the breakout group.

Custom polling 

Moderators can now add their own questions and answer choices to Collaborate polls. Select the poll type, type your question and answer choices, and select Start.

Coming Soon – expected 14th October. Playback Speed

Adds a playback speed button to Blackboard Collaborate recordings.

Want to know more?

Quick start guide

You can also book a 1 2 1 session.





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