Information Services

Virtual Classroom for seminars and groupwork

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

Why use the Virtual Classroom?

You can use a 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?

  • You can create Collaborate session directly in Learn. Add Blackboard Collaborate Ultra from Tools > More Tools in the top menu, or Courses Tool in the left-hand menu. Find out more about creating and managing sessions.
  • You can create a Zoom session directly in Learn. Enable the Zoom Tool in a course and add a tool link from Tools> More Tools in the top menu. Find out more about enabling and using Zoom in Learn.
  • When using Collaborate in a Learn course there is no need to invite and add students to sessions, course members are added automatically. This is the only secure route into sessions. Find more information on how to keep your Collaborate sessions secure.
  • When creating a Zoom session in a Learn course there is no need to invite and add student into a session as they can access the sessions from the Zoom Tool Link. Participants will need to be sent the meeting passcode before the meeting.
  • You can invite guests to the session via a web link that can be easily shared on email.
  • Collaborate is also available on mobile devices. You can download the Blackboard or Blackboard Instructor app to access your session from a phone or tablet device. Find out more about accessing on mobile devices.
  • Students and staff can create their own Blackboard Collaborate sessions directly in the Collaborate channel in MyEd. Find out more about using Collaborate via MyEd.

What can you do in the Virtual Classroom?

  • Collaborate and Zoom are virtual classrooms and provide 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 in Collaborate.
  • 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.
  • You can record Zoom meetings which will also be automatically added to your Media Hopper Replay library. This creates a copy of the recording that will then be available in your Media Hopper Replay library for students and staff to view.

Some tips for using a 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/ Host) 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 are able to do this yourself by selecting “allow 250+ attendees to join” when setting up the session. Please see this webpage for further information.
  • 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. Zoom also has several accessibility-focused help documents.

Subtitling for live sessions:  automatic captioning is not available in Blackboard Collaborate, but can be enabled for Zoom. Captioning settings can be enabled via under ‘settings’.  In 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 that 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.

Zoom Recordings and captioning: Zoom recordings will be automatically added to your Media Hopper Replay library or course area which then allows you to use the Media Hopper Replay auto-captioning service to create subtitles for the recording. If you have used Closed Captioning in Zoom during your meeting you will need to generate closed captions again in Media Hopper Replay. 

Help and guidance

Please get in touch if you have any questions by contacting the IS Helpline.