Blackboard Collaborate for New Users

Welcome to CIRTL's information page on Blackboard Collaborate, the software we use to host our online meetings, events, and courses. This page covers:

  • What is Blackboard Collaborate?
  • CIRTL's Blackboard Collaborate orientations
  • Technology requirements for using Blackboard Collaborate
  • How to use Blackboard Collaborate, including how to install the necessary software and how to connect to a session
  • Troubleshooting resources

 



What Is Blackboard Collaborate?

Blackboard Collaborate is a web-conferencing tool built specifically for live, multimedia, many-to-many collaboration using:

  • Voice over internet (VoIP) audio
  • Live webcam
  • Breakout rooms for small group discussions
  • Interactive whiteboards that let you show Powerpoint presentations
  • Chat-style messaging
  • Screen sharing and application sharing

 

At CIRTL, we use Blackboard Collaborate to host all our cross-network events and online courses, as well as our internal meetings. If you're a CIRTL member and would like to use Blackboard Collaborate to host your own long-distance meetings, presentations, or workshops, please contact Kate Diamond at kdiamond3 AT wisc.edu.



Blackboard Collaborate Orientations

CIRTL begins courses with a brief overview of the key Blackboard features that will help you follow along and interact. During events, workshops, and meetings, CIRTL staff sit in to provide as-needed user support.

If you would like to schedule a 15 minute Blackboard Collaborate orientation for an alternate time, please email Kate Diamond at kdiamond3 [at] wisc.edu. If you request a one-on-one orientation session, it will take place in the Blackboard Collaborate Orientation Room (Enter your name and institution. Ex: Dan Jacobs, UW-Madison). The sessions are open to anyone who will be participating in a CIRTL online event. Please allow yourself five minutes to download and access the session if you have never used Blackboard before. Keep reading below for first-time user instructions.



Technology Requirements

For you to enjoy all the features Blackboard Collaborate offers, you'll need to meet a few basic technology requirements. Meeting these requirements is particularly crucial for students in our cross-network courses, since all your class sessions will take place in Blackboard Collaborate.

1. Headphones*: Headphones or earbuds are required when using Blackboard Collaborate, as feedback can occur when participants use their computer speakers for audio. Earbuds/headphones are required for all CIRTL courses.

2. Microphone*: A built-in or external microphone is required in order to participate in discussions in Blackboard Collaborate. 

3. Webcam*: To take full advantage of Blackboard Collaborate's features, a webcam is recommended. Webcams are required for CIRTL Courses.

We also recommend a few extra capabilities; although these aren't required to connect with Blackboard Collaborate, they'll help the software function more smoothly.

1. Headset: Headsets - like any of these from Logitech - provide superior sound quality for those listening to a session in Blackboard Collaborate. While they're not required, they're strongly recommended, especially if you attend meetings, events, or courses in Blackboard Collaborate on a regular basis. If joining the Blackboard Collaborate room from a location with background noise, a headset is also strongly recommended.

2. Ethernet access: Connecting to Blackboard Collaborate through an Ethernet connection (as opposed to wireless) can clear up a number of problems that tend to arise from slow conenctions. So, although we don't require that everyone using Blackboard Collaborate have an Ethernet connection, we strongly recommend it, especially if you've had connectivity problems in the past.

*If you're attending a CIRTL event, these items are recommended, not required. As already discussed, they are required for students enrolled in our cross-network courses.



How to Use Blackboard Collaborate

Installing the software

Before connecting for the first time, visit the Blackboard Collaborate First Time Users page to verify that your system meets Blackboard Collaborate's requirements. The First Time Users page will provide additional instructions on how to upgrade the Java version on your machine, if needed (Blackboard Collaborate uses Java to operate, so keeping Java up to date is essential).

To be able to join a session in Blackboard Collaborate, you must install the Blackboard Collaborate Launcher.

If you need to install the Blackboard Collaborate Launcher on a PC, you can read our step-by-step installation instructions here: www.cirtl.net/Blackboard-Collaborate-Installation-Instructions-PC.

If you need to install the Blackboard Collaborate Launcher on a Mac, you can read our step-by-step installation instructions here: www.cirtl.net/Blackboard-Collaborate-Installation-Instructions-Mac.

Connecting to a session

Once you have installed the Launcher, you will be able to join sessions simply by clicking a link for your event's, workshop's, meeting's, or course's Blackboard Collaborate room. That link directs you to a login page, and after you enter your name to join a session your computer will download a meeting.collab file. Open that file to join your session (the Launcher software that you already installed is what enables your computer to open those files).

If you're attending a CIRTL event, you'll be directed to a registration form before you're able to log into the Blackboard Collaborate room (that registration form lets us know who attends which events). Once you fill out our registration form, you'll be directed to a Blackboard Collaborate login page, where you can enter your name and click "LOGIN" to download the meeting.collab file that lets you join the event room.

If you're attending a class or one of CIRTL's meetings, you'll bypass our registration page and go straight to the Blackboard Colalborate login page.

When you log in, be sure to enter your name as you'd like it to appear during the session; it's not possible to edit your name after you've already downloaded the meeting.collab file.

Even if you're a returning user, give yourself 5-10 minutes to enter a room before your event, class, or meeting is scheduled to begin.



Troubleshooting

If you cannot connect to the Blackboard Collaborate room, visit the Blackboard Collaborate First Time Users page to verify that your system meets Blackboard Collaborate's requirements.

Google Chrome users may see a message that the correct version of Java is not installed, even if the machine does have the current version of Java installed. If you've that verified the version of Java installed on your machine is up to date and you still cannot connect to the Blackboard Collaborate room, you may wish to try connecting to Blackboard Collaborate with a different browser, such as Firefox or Internet Explorer.

If you continue to have problems, review our Troubleshooting Tips page for additional suggestions. 

Additional resources

We've compiled a handful of presentations and instructional videos to help orient new users to Blackboard Collaborate. Please review the videos and Powerpoints below to learn mroe about using Blackboard Collaborate.

For students, event participants, and meeting attendees

For instructors and guest speakers


For all Blackboard Collaborate users