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Blackboard Collaborate (for Instructors) Last Updated January 21, 2014

Blackboard Support Office Library 321 202-885-3904, blackboard@american.edu Collaborate allows you to talk, chat, present PowerPoints, share your screen, and invite guests. It is similar to Skype or Google Hangouts except it can support up to 400 people. Because Collaborate runs with Java, make sure your Java is up to date. You can install (or reinstall) it from Java.com, just make sure to uncheck the boxes to not install McAffee anti-virus or the Ask toolbar as these are unneeded programs. People can also use iOS and Android phone and tablet devices to view (but not present) Collaborate sessions. Just install the app from the App store or the Play store and when you click on a link for Collaborate it will launch within the app.

Creating a Course To access Blackboard Collaborate, go to a specific course and click on Tools (or Course Tools in the Control Panel) and then Blackboard Collaborate. You should see the scheduling manager. You can also make a Collaborate button in your menu by clicking on the blue plus button and then TOOL LINK > BLACKBOARD COLLABORATE SCHEDULING MANAGER. Give it a name, check the box AVAILBLE TO USERS and then SUBMIT.

Next, click on Create Session and go through the settings. Most can be left on the defaults, but you will need to change the time for when the session will be available, otherwise it will only show up for the next three hours:

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One important note is that Collaborate is very touchy about your session starting in the future. If the time is 2:27, and the session is set to start at 2:30, it might not let you schedule the session because it is not far enough into the future. Setting the start time at least 15 minutes into the future can resolve this issue (if you want to enter the session immediately, you can schedule it up to an hour from now as long as the EARLY SESSION ENTRY time is 1 hour, as in the image above). Occasionally even changing the start time will not work if the session creation already failed, so you might need to start over and create a new session. Once your session has been created it will show up in your session list. All you need to do is click on the link for the Collaborate session and then follow the prompts to open it:

When you click on the link it will download a file called a JNLP file, which will launch the session once opened. Some browsers do this automatically, while some will require you to double-click the download. If you do not see the JNLP you will need to open up the folder that your browser downloads to, and then double click the file once you have found it. In Chrome it will also ask you if you want to keep the file. Make sure to press KEEP, and then the file will download.

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Some users prefer Firefox since it handles JNLP file with less intervention from users, but any browser should work. If the session fails to launch, it is probably because Java is not up to date or installed (you can update or install Java from java.com). Make sure it is up to date and then try again. If it still does not work you can contact us at 202-885-3904, or blackboard@american.edu Sometimes on Macs you will not be able to open up the JNLP file because it says the file is from an unidentified developer. You can still open the file by right clicking (or by pressing CTRL click) and then telling it to open the file. Alternately, you can go to SYSTEM PREFERENCE > SECURITY & PRIVACY and then change the “Allow apps downloaded from” settings to allow downloads from anywhere. Because of security reasons it might be better to leave this setting alone, and to just go with the CTRL click (or right click) option. The reason this warning comes up is because each JNLP file for a session is unique to that user and session so each one cannot get individually certified and verified. They are still safe, however.

Navigating Collaborate Once a Black board Collaborate session launches, it should look like this (mac users might have to press the window’s green plus button to maximize):

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While there are many features, as the instructor the main features you will need to remember are the load content button, the Whiteboard button, the screen-sharing button, the website sharing button, the talk button, and the record button. Below is an overview. The load content button is located at the top right of the page. Click it to upload a PowerPoint, image, audio, or video file up to your session. Please note that once you leave the session these files will not be saved into the session. To do so you will need to save the files during session set up in Blackboard, under the SHARING tab. PowerPoints need to be converted into Whiteboard files, by clicking FILE > SAVE > WHITEBOARD before they can be added.

If you would like to share any other types of files, such as PDFs, you can also press the load content button, but the difference is that it will give you a message that this file cannot be uploaded to the session, but that you can share it with others in the course. This will send the file to everyone’s computer and give them an option to save it.

The Whiteboard button is similar to a home button. It is located at the top of the page, towards the left, and is on the left of a group of three buttons. You usually use it after having used the screen share button or share website button (explained below), in order to get back to the main page of your session (or to a PowerPoint, if you had uploaded one).

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The screen share button is in the middle of this same group of buttons. It can be used to share your desktop with others, have students follow along as you page through a document, or demonstrate how an application on your computer works. Note that it is not suited for sharing video because it only refreshes a few times a second. After sharing the screen, you can click on the whiteboard button to get back to your session. The share website button is relatively straightforward. Click on it and type in the address of a site you want to send everyone to. Everyone will be taken to that site. Once you are there, if you scroll up and down nothing will happen for others, but if you click on a link, it will take everyone there. Once again, to get back to your session or PowerPoint, click on the whiteboard button. The talk button is located under the webcam window. While it may sound unnecessary to mention it, many people forget it because this is different from programs like Skype, which automatically have talk activated. In Collaborate that would not work in situations where you have something like 30 people in a course with talk activated, and thus background noise from 30 people. Note, there is also a video button if you want to share your webcam video. If there are problems with your microphone or webcam not working, click on the little icons on the top right of the video area to try walk through any issues.

The record button (located at the top right of the Collaborate session) is used only if you need to record a session, such as archiving it for students who could not come to class. All you need to do is press it to start your recording. If you want to pause your recording, just press it again. When you come back, you can pick up where you left off. In order to save it, all you need to do is exit the session. The recording will then automatically process and be available within about an hour, under the RECORDING tab.

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Other Features You should also know that students can raise their hands by pressing the button, after which a number will appear next to that student’s name. Students can also respond to polls that you give them in the session, by pressing the or button, depending on the type of poll you have specified. This feature is similar to an iClicker where students can respond in real time to questions or quick polls during a lecture. These options are all available for students under the PARTICIPANTS box. To change the type of poll (such as from Yes or No, or A, B, C, D) go to TOOLS > POLLING. This is also where you go to change settings for making polls anonymous or publishing them to the whiteboard. There is also a basic chat feature, located on the left, in the middle of the Collaborate session page: In addition, you can grant students moderator privileges by clicking on the option button next to their names, which brings up an option menu:

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Sharing Your Session with Guests One final feature to be aware of is the ability to invite non-AU users to a Collaborate session. To do this, while in the session simply go to TOOLS > IN-SESSION INVITE > INVITE NEW PARTICIPANT. This will give you a link that you can email to anyone, or even post on a website. This setting is available as long as the IN-SESSION INVITE option is checked during session setup (which it is by default).

Collaborate on Apple and Android Phones and Tablets People can also use iOS and Android phone and tablet devices to view (but not present) Collaborate sessions. Just install the app from the App store or the Play store and when you click on a link for Collaborate it will launch within the app. If you have not already installed the app, clicking on a Collaborate link will send you to the App store or the Play store to download the app. The next step is to click on the link again, and it will launch the session. Note that this only allows people to listen, view, and talk, but not to present.

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