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Over the past several weeks we have conducted our quarterly Collaborate Roadmap webinars to ensure that you are up-to-date on what’s new and what’s coming for Blackboard Collaborate. If you were unable to attend one of the live webinars, we have compiled the top five takeaways below. You can also check out the full recording here.


1.) Blackboard Teaching & Learning Vision

We kicked off the Collaborate Roadmap webinar by sharing the Blackboard Teaching & Learning Vision and how it relates to our Product Roadmaps. At Blackboard, we’re committed to building a better model for educational technology – a model focused on addressing the core challenges faced by education institutions across the globe.  Solving those challenges is at the core of everything we do.  It helps us prioritize our resources and drives our product roadmap.


To achieve this laser focus on solving your most critical challenges, we’re evolving away from building products separately, and integrating them more meaningfully into the Learning Management System.  We are shifting our focus to the development of a comprehensive, digital learning environment focused on helping you solve your core challenges. You have told us that enabling face-to-face interactions, at scale, for online programs is essential for student success. Collaborate is a core component of our digital learning environment strategy.


As we share our vision for the future, we will do so through the lens of our unifying product themes that enable us to focus on your holistic experience:

  • We believe empowering excellence in teaching and learning is at the foundation of everything you do. We call this Academic Effectiveness.
  • We believe inspiring a love for learning is at the core of our shared mission.  We refer to this as Learner Engagement.
  • And, we must empower your continuous improvement by providing an accurate and deep understanding of the teaching and learning process. To us, this is Education Insight.


2.) What’s New - Phone-Only Access

Collaborate Ultra’s February release featured phone-only access. This means that you can now join a session by phone without first logging into your browser. Internet connectively shouldn’t hamper a learner’s engagement and we are thrilled to bring phone-only functionality to Collaborate Ultra.  Instructors can easily copy the phone number and pin from the session panel and distribute it to their students.


3.) What’s New – Rename Recordings

Instructors can now edit recording names in the Ultra Scheduler UI. Previously, recordings were named by default with the session name which made it challenging to search for a specific recording. The ability to rename your recordings makes it easy for learners to quickly locate the right recording and avoid any barriers to learning.


4.) Roadmap – Focus on Inclusivity & Accessibility

Recording Post-Captioning

For situations where there is no live captioner, but the Instructor still wants to add captions after the fact, we will allow you to associate a caption file to the recording – you can use any captioning service you choose, get the caption files, and upload/associate them to your Collab Ultra recordings. We’re referring to this as recording post-captioning. Eventually, we’re also planning to support automated speech-to-text so captions can be created programmatically or automatically.  Automatic speech recognition isn’t as accurate as a live captioner, so we’ll provide a mechanism to edit the automatic caption file and clean up any errors.


Sign Language Interpreter

We’re planning to support an in-session layout for a sign language interpreter. This would allow deaf or hard of hearing participants to follow both the active speaker and the sign language interpreter.  This is also a great option for teaching sign language and interpretation.


5.) Roadmap – Focus on Academic Effectiveness

Countdown Timer

The Countdown Timer, which is slated to be released shortly, will allow you give participants a visible indication of how much time is remaining before the Instructor begins, allowing students to get prepared before the start of class. You will also be able to use the Countdown Timer in breakout rooms - as an Instructor, you might want to break up the class into several breakout rooms, have them work on an activity for a fixed amount of time, and then bring them back into the main room. 


AWS Migration

We're also moving our infrastructure into AWS to leverage the scalability and reliability of Amazon Web Services. This will allow us to improve our session scalability and capacity and expand into additional International regions.