Collaborate Ultra: It's Not Just for Students

Blog Post created by jkane on Aug 3, 2018

About a year ago, I posted a question to the Community about whether or not anyone uses Collaborate Ultra to live-stream campus events. The thread got some good conversation going about live-stream platforms, limitations, best practices, hardware, and links to helpful resources. One such link was to Russ Lichterman 2016 discussion post on utilizing Collaborate Ultra for interactive live streaming!


Russ used Collaborate Ultra to stream keynotes and workshops for his University’s Faculty Development Days. This type of event was in the vein of what I was hoping to accomplish at our college, and while the technical setup that Russ used was more advanced than what I aimed to do, I was inspired by his discussion post.


At our college, we have a student/faculty book club called Pageturners. Pageturners is partially supported by Distance Learning, and the club sponsors several on-campus events including panel discussions and guest speakers. As a member of Pageturners, the faculty leader of the club reached out to me with an inquiry on whether there was a way to not just record these on-campus events for students, staff, and faculty, but offer them synchronously. Of course, I immediately thought of Collaborate, so I contacted our system administrator to create a Blackboard Organization for Pageturners, and we were off! Over the past year, we have been able to stream several panel discussions to virtual audiences on such titles as Franz Kafka’s The Trial and Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, as well the occasional guest speaker.



Suddenly, word got out about the popularity of this little college book club’s ability to transmit to an off campus audience live. I was soon approached by a faculty member who had invited an important community leader to campus to speak to some students and answer questions. She asked if I’d be able to work with her to broadcast his speech in a similar fashion as I had with Pageturners. This event involved several faculty members, deans, students, and an introduction by the President of the college, and once again, we were able to stream the event live to all interested faculty and students.


Now that we had the attention of some of the heavy hitters on campus, as time rolled around for the professional development committee to plan its faculty development activities for Winter, I was tapped to attend and live stream these as well. This time, the professional development sessions were actually planned with the idea that distance learning would be involved and would be streaming the sessions. Announcements were made in advance, and a three-part professional development series entitled Teaching Today’s Students was planned with our involvement in the forefront. The series involved a student panel, followed by a faculty panel, and culminated in a workshop (which I also had a hand in presenting!), all of which were highly attended and well-received.


Due to the popularity of the Teaching Today’s Students series, I was then approached by the Vice President of Instruction to see if I would be interested in streaming a listening session on campus safety that was going to be delivered by our campus chief of police, and this ended up being one of our most highly attended virtual sessions to date!


The listening session was so popular, in fact that these “listening sessions” have become a somewhat regular thing used to communicate out a variety of campus issues of interest, and our live streaming via Collaborate Ultra has become integral in getting these communications out. The President of the college has now run nearly 10 separate listening sessions on many different topics, all of which have been highly attended  and in person. My thanks to our media department, Adam Authier and Kaylynn Mortensen for helping stay on top of all of these sessions at various days and time!



I am amazed and proud of how we were able to utilize this outstanding Blackboard tool generally aimed at students and re-purpose it for our institution as a whole. Since we started using Blackboard Collaborate Ultra as a means for synchronous communication of live events on campus to faculty, staff, and students, we have noticed a growth in interest in the product. More faculty are interested in using Collaborate in their courses because they have seen it work from the “student” perspective, and now understand that it is nothing to fear. Our use of Collaborate as an institutional tool has brought heightened awareness and comfort with the tool that no tutorial or workshop could ever do. Furthermore, we in Distance Learning have had opportunities to work with many different groups, faculty members, and organizations on campus whom we generally don't have much contact with on a regular basis. Now Collaborate Ultra is one of our key resources for improving interaction across the board!