Blackboard Collaborate Ultra (BBCU)

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We will use Blackboard Collaborate Ultra (BBCU) for synchronous class meetings and consulting sessions. It is useful to take some time to set BBCU up so you can use it most effectively. Use this link to access it.


  1. Set it up correctly and test your audio/video beforehand
  2. Mute yourself (and turn off video) for “whole class” parts, except when you are talking
  3. Raise your hand if you want to speak to the whole class (breakouts can be conversational)
  4. Use chat, status, and emoticons to communicate when you are not speaking.
  5. The “room” for the lecture will open 15 minutes before class for pre-class conversation. There is a second “discussion” room that students can use outside of class time.

Why Another Video Platform?

BBCU is specifically designed for classes. It has a bunch of features that make it particularly good for running the synchronous class sessions. It has better chat, and other ways to communicate while conferencing.

Zoom and its competitors are catching up by adding features. Maybe after a while, we’ll switch to Zoom.

The video experience isn’t as good as Zoom (or its competitors). The audio is pretty good (but limited by being in browser).

Finding it

Go to a BBCU session via Canvas - you can use this link (notice it is on the right sidebar of course web pages). It’s called “BBCollaborate Ultra” in the left side (menu bar) on Canvas. That should take you to a list of sessions. From there, the specific session you want should be obvious. Select it, and click “join session” (yes, there are extra clicks here).

Getting Set Up

Make sure your audio and video work! While you might not use your video much in the “broadcast part” (when I am “lecturing” or leading a “whole-class discussion”), you will want video to work when we have breakout groups.

Adjusting settings can be useful. To do this, at the bottom of the screen there are 3 icons - the left most one says “my status and settings” when you hover over it. You can also get to settings from the bottom of the right pane (open the right pane by pressing the purple buttom in the lower right - the gear icon is at the right bottom edge).

It is very useful to put in a “profile picture” so people know who you are. You can do this on settings.

Another useful setting: turn notifications to fit your liking. If you aren’t careful, it will be busy beeping any time anyone does anything. I recommend turning off audio notifications.

During a session

Mute and video: there are icons at the bottom to mute/unmute yourself and turn your video on and off. In a “whole class” meeting, please keep yourself muted except when you are speaking. You can keep your video off (except when speaking). When we move to breakout groups, it probably works best to leave yourself unmuted and to turn on your video.

Raising your hand: it’s an icon at the bottom. It’s very helpful. In a “whole class discussion” please raise your hand and ask to be called on to speak

Being able to give feedback (happy, sad, slower/faster, agree/disagree) is useful. This is under “my status and settings”.

Chat and other useful things… The pink left arrow (lower right corner of the window) opens up a side panel. Chat (with emojis) is a good way to comment / ask questions while someone is speaking. I am less good at watching chat while speaking, so often I will have the TA watch the chat and stop me.

Breakouts and Sharing Documents

During a session, we will use various mechanisms for interaction.

We will divide the class into smaller “breakout groups” (usually randomly), so you can have a conversation wth a small set of people (it’s hard for many people to talk all at once). These groups should be small enough that everyone can turn on their microphone and video and have a conversation.

We will also try various mechanisms to share documents during these live sessions. For example, we might provide a Google Slides document that everyone can edit.


They don’t make it easy to leave. You can find “leave session” on “my status and settings.” You can also click the session menu (3 horizonal lines in a rounded rectangle at the upper left of the session space). Leave session will be at the bottom. In theory, you can just close your browser tab as well.