Blackboard Collaborate: Preparation

Prepare your equipment

  • You will need a PC (or Mac), desktop or laptop:
    • Ideally with an Ethernet connection – or at least very strong Wi-Fi signal.
    • Microphone – recommended part of a headset to reduce chances of audio feedback.
    • Webcam – Built in or external, optional requirement but can create a more personal environment between you and participants.

Schedule your session

  • Choose the Blackboard course that will be hosting this session:
  • Schedule a session:
    • What kind of session is this going to be? A one-off topic, part of a series, or a more informal meeting space. See Course Room and Scheduled Sessions page for guidance.
    • Decide if you need to use the Guest Link.
    • What tools do you want participants to use? How will you introduce these tools to them?

Inform participants/marketing

  • Identify who your participants are going to be and how are they going to know about this webinar session?
    • Students as part of a course:
      • Make a Blackboard announcement.
      • Mention it in class.
      • Have an easily identified link on the Blackboard module page to find the session.
    • External students (distance learning/international campus/outreach):
      • Do you know who your students are?
        • Do they have access to Blackboard? – make an announcement.
        • If they don’t have access to Blackboard – you will need to send them the Guest Link, by email if you know it, or hosted on a university website as part of marketing material.
    • Guest presenters:
      • They will need the guest link to join the session.
      • You may need to promote them to Presenter or Moderator role once they join.

Send instructions

  • Give some guidance to your participants about how to attend the session:
    • What date and time will the session be live?
    • Will they access through Blackboard or Guest Link? Send the link if using one.
    • Recommend browsers to attendees (recommended: Chrome)
    • Set expectations – if you are doing an active session, make sure they know you want them to participate in the activities so they can prepare their equipment and space accordingly.
      • What behaviour should they exhibit? Is it a formal or informal session?
      • How do you expect them to interact with one another – challenge but don’t offend.
  • See the joining instructions template for guidance.

Prepare materials

  • Slides – prepare the slides for your sessions:
    • Keep them simple! Collaborate will not support animations so basic slide layouts work best – the focus is on activity and discussion during a webinar.
    • Plan your welcome slide:
      • Welcome your students.
      • Remind about start time.
      • Let them know if the session will be recorded.
      • Invite them to participate in a fun little warm-up activity while they wait. (Writing or doodling using the annotation tools.)
  • Interactions: 
    • What are your activities with your students going to be? Plan them out in your slides as cues.
      • Polls – they work best with the questions on the slides so include them to save you time on set up later.
      • Chat discussions.
      • Breakout groups.
      • Annotation exercises.
  • Pauses:
    • Remind yourself to pause in your slide notes.
    • Before moving on, ask a question to get student feedback.
      • Give them time to respond as many will be typing, be relaxed, you don’t need to rush if things appear quiet, they need a little time to think and type.
  • Notes:
    • Have some detailed notes to help you stay on track.
      • Keep to your timings.
      • Where are your interactions during the webinar?
        • Are there special things you or a co-presenter need to set up? Remind yourself of what you need to do. 

Enlist help (optional)

  • Depending on your circumstances, you may find it useful to enlist some help during your session. For instance if it is your first time doing a webinar, having some support can be reassuring. Or perhaps you want to include another subject expert as part of the session to share presenting with you, or perhaps someone moderating the chat and answering questions – this could be especially useful with large groups.
    • Chat moderator – a chat moderator is someone that doesn’t take an active presenting role in the webinar, but will spend the session responding to questions in the chat, linking resources and stimulating discussion. They can also flag up important discussion points to the main presenter during pauses – these can be easily missed by a single presenter as they might not be able to pay attention to a busy chat in a large webinar session.
    • Co-Presenter – this could be a trusted colleague or an external guest speaker, but they will share some of the presentation time of the webinar with you. You should decide whether you will take it in turns to present, each having an allocated slot of time, or whether you intend to present together and build a more conversational rapport. This might work nicely for a more content-focused webinar, but perhaps not so well on an activity-focused webinar.

Choose your location

  • Find a place to present from that is quiet
    • You need a space where you can work uninterrupted – being disturbed in the middle of your webinar can be jarring for both you and the attendees, so take some steps to avoid this happening.
      • Make sure colleagues know you are doing a webinar at this time and should not be disturbed.
      • Put a note on your door asking not to be disturbed because you are doing a webinar.
      • If your office is on a busy and noisy corridor – is there somewhere else you can work? 
        • Book a quiet space somewhere on campus
  • Prepare your environment
    • Make sure your have a pleasant backdrop for yourself on webcam
      • Neutral colours
      • Books / plants
    • Keep your physical and digital desktops clear of clutter
      • You don’t want to share anything unintended during the webinar
      • Have space for your notes/cues
    • Have some water or hot drinks nearby
      • You don’t want to disrupt the session to get some water so make sure it is nearby before you start, you may be doing a lot of talking so stay hydrated!
    • Make yourself relaxed, though the platform is different, your teaching expertise and techniques can remain largely the same!

Get in the session early

  • Set yourself an early start time on the settings so you can get in before the attendees start joining. (Up to 30 minutes before session start time).
  • You don’t want to be rushed by dealing with last moment complications, so:
    • Keep your computers updated before the session so you’re not having Windows Updates locking you out of your computer!
    • Test your microphone and webcam early – give yourself time to correct the problems or get some help.
  • Upload your slides / files so that you aren’t waiting for them to process when you should be presenting.
  • Go through your notes to remind yourself of the cues for activities, and to keep to your desired time.