Blackboard Collaborate is a virtual classroom tool that provides web conferencing, instant messaging, video/audio recording and voice authoring features to facilitate online learning. Collaborate can be used as a standalone product, or can be purchased as an additional license by clients of Blackboard Learn, the company’s flagship learning management system (LMS). Blackboard has been active in acquiring products to support its LMS, and Collaborate represents a combination of these acquisitions (Wimba and Elluminate, to name two).
When an instructor logs into the system, they see four main areas in their dashboard: a video/audio control panel, student participant list, chat window and whiteboard. In the video/audio control panel, the instructor can permit up to six participants to speak or be displayed at once. As students join the session, their profiles and photos are displayed in the participant list, where their permissions (such as raising hand, speaking or messaging) can be adjusted to the needs of the class. As the class proceeds, the instructor can use the whiteboard and chat windows to view PowerPoint or other media, and moderate private or public messaging. Web conferencing is available on a number of devices, including mobile devices running iOS 4.3 and above, and Android 2.3 and above. Collaborate requires java-enabled browsers to function properly.
Outside class, instructors can continue virtual interaction through the messaging features of Collaborate. Similar to other instant messaging products, these features are available at the organizational level, and enable any user—instructor or student—to meet in office hours, hold one-on-one meetings, or participate in study groups. Messaging includes video, audio, and text with screen-sharing and whiteboard capabilities, similar to web-conferencing features. At the top of their messaging window, students can view their contact list, class lists and school services.
In addition to messaging, Collaborate provides voice-authoring functionality for instructors to use in a variety of verbal learning activities. An instructor can use this feature to give verbal instructions, to leave a voice email, or to attach verbal feedback to graded assignments. Instructors may choose to assign projects or assessments that integrate voice-related activities like podcasts, discussions, or debates. Students can similarly use voice-authoring to respond, question and discuss with their instructors and others.
In October 2013, Blackboard announced that Collaborate would be available from within Blackboard Learn. From there, students can access LMS features like grades, assignments, calendar and instructor interactions, as well as Collaborate’s web-conferencing, messaging and voice-authoring features.
Like all Blackboard’s products, Collaborate is licensed on an organization level, based on the number of users and classrooms.
Are you a teacher or administrator who has used this product? Be the first to share your experiences with others by writing a Case Study: