The last week of December is the time when CUNY Blackboard receives its major annual upgrade, which often consists of adding new tools and features, and this one was no different.  Among the changes is a new version of Collaborate (Collaborate Ultra) that makes live video streaming online user friendly, convenient and therefore accessible for faculty and student and can be a major tool in your pedagogy.  But first we’ll cover a couple a few other  new features.

One change that was instituted by EdTech is the Video Recordings button on the Navigation menu.  This replaces the Panopto Recordings button from the previous few semesters.  Panopto is the video recording, lecture capture and media manager tool building block application built into Blackboard that can be used by all faculty.  The new button still gives you Panopto, but now it’s clearer that that is the app you are using, and it also gives instructions on how to set it up for the course and begin using it.

Another new addition to  Panopto is the new interactive in-video quiz feature.  Multiple choice, checkbox and true-false questions can be added to quizzes through the video editor.  This, along with its features of video capture, media storage and managing, video download, and webcasting, and student project folders, make Panotpo is a very powerful media tool available to all faculty.

Blackboard Collaborate Ultra

The biggest new addition to Blackboard is Collaborate Ultra, the streaming web conferencing and collaboration tool designed specifically for education available to all faculty through Blackboard.  Collaborate Ultra replaces the original Blackboard Collaborate, which is actually still available in Blackboard.

The greatest advantage of Collaborate Ultra over Collaborate Classic is its ease of use.  With Ultra you no longer need to download Java plugin each time you use it.  Blackboard Collaborate is a comprehensive online learning and collaboration tool designed specifically

for education. Faculty and staff can create live sessions easily and free-of-charge, to facilitate engagement and interaction for teaching, learning, and other purposes.

Blackboard Collaborate helps you to create virtual classrooms, offices and meeting spaces that open more possibilities for effective learning experiences and interactions for online, blended, and mobile learning. It helps to open up all-new aspects of real-time learning to engage more faculty, staff, students and guests.

For first-time users, Ultra provides an in-session set up wizard that helps you set up your speakers, microphone and camera.  Faculty can schedule and deliver live sessions with capabilities that include high-quality audio, multi-user video, PowerPoint import, shared whiteboard, public/private chat, breakout rooms, application/desktop sharing, guest participation and closed captioning.

Sessions can be recorded and the recordings can be viewed online or downloaded in the MP4 format (for storage, or hosting on another video platform, like YouTube).  The ability to record sessions allows it to be used as a lecture capture application similar to Panopto but lacking Panopto’ s powerful editing and analytics capabilities.
For students one main advantage of Collaborate Ultra is that sessions are easily accessible on mobile devices using the the Blackboard Student app.

One powerful feature of Collaborate Ultra is the ability to create “breakout rooms” .  Breakout rooms allow you to organize your student audience into collaborative groups where live presentaions can be conducted that are kept privately from others.  these groups can be student-administered allowing them to  work on group projects online and manage their own workflow with the instructor as facilitator.

Please contact EdTech if you have any questions about or are interested in using Collaborate Ultra or Panopto.  Collaborate Ultra works best with Firefox and Chrome browsers and will not work as fast over a busy wifi connection.


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