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We are excited to announce that the Collaborate Session Timer is now available! This highly requested feature reinforces our commitment to delivering the teaching and learning workflows that ultimately contribute to several of our product unifying themes including, academic effectiveness and learner engagement.

 

This means that you can now set a timer at the beginning of the session to give students a visible indication of how much time is remaining before the Instructor starts, giving everyone time to prepare for the start of class. Instructors will be able to name, pause, and restart the timer that is also available in breakout groups - 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. With the new session timer, you’ll be able to do that.

 

 

For more details on this update, please see the Collaborate Ultra release notes.

The Collaborate Ultra July Release (18.7) was pushed to production environments yesterday (July 25, 2018). This release includes new features that span across several of our unifying product themes: learner engagement and education insight. The new additions provide a more engaging experience for students, save instructors time, and improve the accessibility and inclusivity of educational content.

 

Recording Post-Captioning

For situations where there is no live captioner, but you still want to add captions after the fact, you can now upload captioning post-recording. This new feature provides you with an additional tool for creating educational content in accessible formats. In the future, we’re also planning to support automated speech-to-text so captions can be created programmatically or automatically.

The Metric Report

The new Metric report is designed to provide a detailed overview of your Collaborate Ultra usage. Information includes the frequency and scale of your institutional usage so you can make informed decisions about the service. The Metric report will be available as a CSV download and can be requested by your Collaborate administrator by creating a case on Behind the Blackboard. 

 

Fast Mic

We have removed the delay when you first turn on your mic, improving the experience for all participants.

 

For more details on the updates, please see the Collaborate Ultra release notes.

 

Timer Update

The timer capability is still in beta and not available in the Collaborate July update. We will keep you informed of a new release date and you can follow the support bulletin for additional updates.

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 takeaways below. You can also check out the full recording here.https://us.bbcollab.com/recording/38da4701aa7342a68eb45936b21bfb0b

 

If you are attending BbWorld 2018, you can attend the Collaborate Roadmap session LIVE on Wednesday, July 18th at 4:40PM!

 

What’s (Almost) New – Countdown Timer

Collaborate's July release will include one of our most requested features, the Countdown Timer. This means that you will soon be able to (late July!) set a timer at the beginning of the session to give participants a visible indication of how much time is remaining before the Instructor starts. Instructors will also be able to use the Countdown Timer in breakout groups - 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. With the new Countdown Timer, you’ll be able to do that.

 

What’s (Almost) New – 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 Collaborate Ultra recordings. We’re referring to this as recording post-captioning and it will be available in late July.

 

What’s New – Download Session Attendance Report

We recently added the ability to export the existing Session Attendance report to calculate key metrics, reducing administrative overhead for Instructors and providing invaluable educational insight.  This highly requested feature will allow you to import the Session Attendance report into a tool like Microsoft Excel and calculate key metrics such as total # of sessions, total duration of all sessions, average session duration, and largest session by # of attendees.

 

Roadmap – Netstats: Network Quality Indicator

Netstats, which will be released in the coming months, will provide attendees with insight into the network conditions of other participants in the room. The strength of a participant’s network connection, if their connection is excellent or poor, and their upload & download bandwidth will all be available upon quick glance in the session. Instructors can use this information to easily identify if a participant is having a unique network connectivity issue, without disrupting the rest of the group.

 

RoadmapPause & Resume Recordings

We're adding the ability for Instructors to pause and resume the recording of a session, providing greater control over what gets recorded, and what doesn’t.  For example, if an Instructor is teaching and recording a two hour session and decides to take a 10 minute break, they can pause the recording for those 10 minutes and then resume the recording after the break.

 

Roadmap – AWS Infrastructure 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.

 

 

All timelines related to the Collaborate Roadmap are subject to change without notice.

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.