Information Services

Virtual Classroom for seminars and groupwork: Blackboard Collaborate

Find out how to use the Virtual Classroom (Blackboard Collaborate) for teaching and group work.

Why use the Virtual Classroom?

You can use the Virtual Classroom to host and record interactive teaching sessions or group meetings digitally. The tool can be used for digital seminars and tutorials where staff and students can participate and interact.  It can also be used for less formal meetings.

What do you need?

You need a web browser, high speed internet, headphones or speakers and if you plan on using audio and video during the session, you'll need a microphone and/or a webcam.

How do I access the Virtual Classroom?

What can you do in the Virtual Classroom?

  • Collaborate is a virtual classroom and provides tools to help you engage with, and manage, a taught class.
  • You can communicate by audio, video,  and/or text chat.
  • You don't need to use all of these. You may opt not to use video and stick to audio. In some cases you may opt to only use chat (and some participants who don't have a microphone, or are in a noisy environment, may prefer to stick to chat).
  • You can upload and display a PowerPoint presentation.
  • There is an interactive whiteboard.
  • You can share applications from your desktop.
  • You can record sessions and share in Learn to allow students to review, including those who couldn't attend the live session.

Some tips for using Virtual Classroom for seminars/lectures/tutorials:

  • Start 15 minutes early. People need time to check mics and connections.
  • Advise participants to mute their microphone when not speaking. If everyone has their microphones on at the same time background noise can interrupt the session. Note that as a teacher (moderator) you can mute student's mics if things get overly noisy.
  • Setting clear etiquette for engagement at the start of a session is important (as you might in a physical classroom). For example, ask students to use the "raise your hand" function before jumping in to speak. Small things like this can really help a session run smoothly.
  • Please note that if you plan to have more than 250 attendees, you should contact us in advance. If you are planning a large class then there may be better way of doing it - for example pre-recording your presentation in Media Hopper Create, or even using last year's lecture if you have one (always making sure that you have a way to actively engage with students, even asynchronously. For example set up a discussion forum in Learn so that students can ask questions). Remember, this is contingency for periods of restricted access to campus , so it doesn't have to be perfect.
  • Remember that students can create their own sessions in Collaborate through MyEd. If, for example, they want to organise their own study groups you don't always have to create the session for them.

Find out more about accessing and managing Collaborate session recordings.


Blackboard have provided comprehensive information about the accessibility of Collaborate and using it with various assistive software applications.

Subtitling for live sessions:  automatic captioning is not available in Blackboard Collaborate.  There is a special role that can be given to a participant called 'captioner' - you may have a keen student volunteer to help out at the sessions they attend.

Subtitling for recorded sessions: you'd need to download the recording from Collaborate and then upload it to Media Hopper Create.  Automatic captions for your video can be requested through the Media Hopper Create interface, and there is a quick reference card which explains how to do this available here: Requesting and Editing Subtitltes.    However, automatically created captions are typically less than perfect and will definitely need to be checked and fixed.  We have a video which talks you through how to request automatic subtitles for your video(s) and how to use the subtitle editor to make changes.

Help and guidance

Please get in touch if you have any questions.