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Remote Teaching Resources: Collaborate Help

A guide to resources for providing online legal education in an emergency situation.

Tips, Tricks, and Troubleshooting in Blackboard Collaborate

Blackboard offers a virtual meeting space called Collaborate, available in every course at Drexel University's Kline School of Law. This space allows students to work together, attend lectures or office hours, hear from guest speakers, or view presentation material or multimedia in real-time with their classmates.

There are several overall suggestions when using Collaborate for the first time. Other troubleshooting help and information is available below in the various sections of this page.

We highly recommend using only the Course Room to hold classes. This is because the link remains the same for each session and provides consistency for students.

You may utilize any other sessions for events. When setting these up, you have several options:

  • Recurring dates and times: if you hold something like Office Hours at the same time each week, you can select a day (or multiple days) of the week and choose the number of times a session reoccurs or on what date the sessions should stop.
  • How early people can enter the room: you can choose anywhere from 0 minutes (no early entry) to 60 minutes. Students will receive a message that the session has not started yet until that time arrives.
  • You can also specifically choose if students can use audio, video, write on the whiteboard, or chat. We recommend leaving these settings on unless you have specific reasons to disable something.

Faculty always have access to their Course Room to set up their audio and video or test things like screen sharing out. Students can do this in a Test Room created specifically for them, found here.

Preparing Materials

If you are sharing your full screen, make sure to take measures such as shutting down email, closing tabs containing sensitive or personal information, and removing items from your desktop that you don't want the class to see.

If you are sharing content on your screen, queue it up ahead of time in a separate tab or application so you can quickly and easily navigate to them during class.

PowerPoints work best in Collaborate when saved as PDFs. This is because the slides are essentially converted into still images to be shared. That means things like animations and videos embedded within the PowerPoint will not work if using the Share Files feature.

We recommended sending a copy of the presentation materials to students before class to look over, or else after class for review.

PDFs and images can also be shared directly in Collaborate. These and PowerPoints can be drawn on using the annotation tools, and individual users can zoom in or out on the files being shared using the tools at the top left of the screen. You may also use a Whiteboard to sketch or write on. Students may also be able to use this function.

Learn more about the Whiteboard itself and annotation features here.

Students can present materials such as PowerPoint presentations in Collaborate. The recommended way to do so is:

A professor (the Moderator) can promote a student to Presenter, and ask students to submit their materials ahead of time. The professor can then upload the materials on their side, and the student as a Presenter can control them. This minimizes the amount of possible technical difficulties.

Recordings and Playback Options

To start a recording, open the menu at the top left of the main Collaborate screen and press Start Recording.

Recordings either end when Stop Recording is pressed at the end of a class or the last person leaves the Collaborate room.

Recordings typically become available several hours after the session ends, and can be accessed on the main Collaborate page. There is a menu above the Course Room that allows you to go from Sessions to Recordings.

Here, you can view the Recordings directly in Collaborate, download them (if this option was made available), or share them by copying the link to the recording and emailing it or posting it elsewhere.

Class Attendance Reports

To view who attended your classes and how long they were present, professors can click on the options icon next to the Course Room or specific Session and select "View Report."

See when each participant joined and left the session. With this knowledge, check in with individual participants to see if they were having any technical issues or need a quick review of what was presented and discussed.

These reports can be saved offline or printed for recordkeeping.

To keep all of this information in one place, we again recommend using only the Course Room for classes.

Checking your setup

Supported Browsers and Help Links

Collaborate only supports the most recent two stable releases of browsers. Be sure to keep your browsers updated to ensure compatibility.

Recommended and supported browsers are:

  1. Google Chrome (Faculty Support and Student Support)
    • Chrome allows moderators and presenters to share everything, including specific browser tabs with audio (such as YouTube videos).
  2. Mozilla Firefox (Faculty Support and Student Support)
    • Firefox allows moderators and presenters to share your screen, but cannot play audio from your computer.
  3. Apple Safari (Faculty Support and Student Support)
    • Safari only allows moderators and presenters to share the whiteboard and uploaded files, not your screen.
  4. Microsoft Edge also works for basic functions but may not be as reliable due to default settings in the browser.

Internet Explorer is not supported whatsoever, and Firefox is not supported on mobile devices. Screen sharing is not available on mobile either.

Supported Operating Systems

Windows 10 is highly recommended though Windows 7 and 8 are still supported. Apple's macOS 10.14+ or higher is recommended and macOS 10.13 is still supported at this time. Mobile devices will need iOS 11 or higher or Android 8 or higher.

Troubleshooting Common Issues

Connection Error: Spinning Purple Wheel

If someone is trying to connect to a session sees a spinning purple wheel, ask them to check your cookie settings. 

 

Collaborate requires cookies in order to work properly. Check your browser settings to ensure that your browser is set to allow third party cookies and that adblockers are not turned on.

 

Audio or Video Not Displaying or Breaking Up


Unstable Internet Connection

You should have a stable Internet connection. WiFi connections may drop unexpectedly especially when using shared network connections. When possible, use a wired connection or stop using other bandwidth-heavy programs like streaming or gaming services.

 

Dynamic Adjustments in Blackboard are made when a connection isn't strong.

Audio and Video Setup

Check your audio and video setup when you launch a Collaborate session so they are ready when you need to use them. If you are on the same computer and browser each time, these settings should be saved.

 

Microphones and cameras should be turned off when not in use to prevent slowdown or loss in audio quality.

 

If are having persistent audio issues, you may also call in to the meeting using your phone. 

Speakers and Headphones

Headphones can help you hear others better. If you aren't using headphones, be sure to mute your microphone when not speaking to prevent feedback.

Repeatedly Removed from Room/Reloading Room

If you experience problems staying in a room or need to keep leaving and rejoining the session, you should check your Internet connection and try a different browser.

Collaborate Tools

Learn more Breakout Groups here.

Some best practices are:

  • Don't assign yourself to a specific group if you are the moderator! You are able to go freely between groups once they begin.
  • Tell students when they should start wrapping up their breakout discussions, usually with a minute or two to spare.
  • Use the main room chat to communicate with everyone - each group can see what you type here.
  • Double-check that you are still recording class after Breakout Groups have ended. If no one was present in the main room at any point, the recording may have stopped.

Polling is a great way to check understanding of your students as well as ask them opinion-related questions or their feelings on a certain topic. Learn more about Polls here.

Best practices for Polls include:

  • Set up a question and communicate it verbally to the students, then give them some time to answer before displaying their responses.
  • If you want their answers to remain private to the class, don't click "Show Responses." You can still click in to the Attendees tab and see how specific students answered if you need.
  • To start a new poll over your old one, click back in to the Polling area and you can start another.

Chatting and using the Raise Hand option are ways for students to non-verbally communicate with the class.

Learn more about Chat and Statuses and Feedback (such as Raising Hands)

Best practices include:

  • Listening for the chat notification sounds if you are viewing another tab or somewhere else on screen. Pop-up notifications can be turned on for some browsers too in the Settings tab in Collaborate.
  • Try to respond to chat questions when appropriate. Don't interrupt every thought to try to keep up.
  • Hand raises are numbered in order in the Attendees panel, so you can see who should be able to speak first.

Welcoming Guests

The guest link is a public link that can be used and shared by anyone who has it.

Guest access is on by default. We recommend leaving it on for technical support purposes.

Everyone who joins from this link joins with the same guest role. Decide if guests join as a participant, presenter, or moderator.

For guest speakers, we recommend setting up the guest role to be Presenter. The presenter role is designed to allow students or guests to present without giving them full moderator privileges. Presenters can upload, share, edit, and stop sharing content. They can also see hand raise notifications and can lower hands.

Add a Profile Picture

To upload a profile picture for when you don't have video on:

  1. Open My Settings in any Collaborate room (in the purple panel at the bottom right of your screen).
  2. Click on the profile picture icon.
  3. Upload any image or use your device camera to take a photo.

Crop the picture as you'd like (it will be a square), then select "I Like it!" to save.