Tips for Online Live Learning and Teaching

FAMILIARISE AND BROWSER – Make sure you familiarise yourself with Blackboard Collaborate (BC) and that you are using the correct web browser (Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox and not Microsoft Edge).

PRACTICE – Try some practice sessions (even if you have used BC before, and get used to the controls that the moderator of a session has.

GUIDANCE – Provide your students with clear guidance on how to join and take part in a BC session. Offer them a ‘low stakes’ practice like live session in the first week of a module or even before a module formally starts.

MODEL and therefore help your students to practice basic live online meeting ‘rules’, e.g.  

  1. Camera use should ideally be optional and only used where clear value can be added to the communication and if all participant’s connectivity supports the extra bandwidth required
  2. Mute their microphones when not speaking
  3. Use the chat for constructive and relevant comments only
  4. Use the ‘raise hand’ feature to attract the attention of the moderator and before attempting to turn a microphone on and speak.

EXPECT and prepare for technical issues. Providing students with clear requirements for getting the best experience (see 3 above) is essential to mitigate such issues. At the end of the day if some students have technical issues there may be little you can do to help them. In these cases, some immediate advice you can provide includes:

  1. Leave the session, close down the web browser and then re-open the web browser and re-join the session
  2. Clear the cache in the web browser
  3. Re-boot the computer being used and then re-join the session
  4. Join the session from a mobile smartphone
  5. Watch the recording after the session has ended

AGENDA – Set a clear agenda for a session (see example session plan below)

 An example LIVE session plan:




Introduction with the Whiteboard

5 – 10 minutes

When they arrive in the session have students think about ta question and write their thoughts on the whiteboard


5 minutes

Using the polling tool to push out to the audience an engaging and topic relevant question or an unrelation question as an ‘icebreaker’.

Short Presentation

10 – 15 minutes

Present and speak around PowerPoint slides or images or screen share to provide key topic information


5 minutes

Provide a poll question related to some aspect of the topic covered in the short presentation




Breakout Group Activity

15 minutes

Assign students randomly into groups and give them a task to discuss. Get them to feedback their groups answer/view on a shared Google doc or Padlet

Group Feedback

20 minutes

Have each group feedback for 2 minutes on their conclusions

‘Fuzzy’ Buzz

5 minutes

Have students write in the chat anything that they are confused about

Summing up

10 minutes

Address misunderstandings identified in the ‘Fuzzy’ buzz


5 minutes

Signpost to next steps

Engagement approaches in a live session Using Chat

You can actively encourage students to engage in meaningful synchronous conversations whilst you are presenting. This is known as back channeling and is similar in concept to the use of Twitter at live face to face events. Through this you are encouraging students to engage in the live presentation rather than just to listen. You can nominate one or two students in each session to help collate questions and comments that appear whilst you are speaking. 

Use the Whiteboard

Ask students to write or interact with the whiteboard in some other way as a way of engaging them maybe at the start of a session or during a break.


Make use of the polling tool built in to Collaborate Ultra to pose ‘ask the audience’ type questions. These can either be used to ‘gauge’ the understanding of the audience or to collect views on a question or topic or concept that you may then go on to explore in your presentation.

Use external tools such as PollEverywhere or Padlet or Google Docs

Take pauses from the live delivery to give participants opportunities to interact with other online shared spaces, the cumulative outputs of which can then be displayed in the live Collaborate Ultra session through sharing a browser tab to all participants.


You should always let students know if a session is being recorded and give them the option to not use their cameras if speaking or not to speak at all.


Whilst the Collaborate Ultra environment has been designed for accessibility, your content may not have been and what you do with any content you share may be inaccessible. Be prepared in any session therefore to clearly describe anything that you do or show in a session that is presented to make a point relevant to the presentation.

Collaborate Breakout Groups Top Tips

  1. Breakout groups can only be setup once all members have arrived.

  2. If you are showcasing breakout groups, then participants must expect to wait if there is a single moderator going to each group.

  3. Recordings will stop once you start breakout rooms.

  4. It is time consuming to move students into groups if you have a large number of participants that you want to organise yourselves. Participants could be waiting a while especially if you have small breakout groups of around 2-4 participants.

  5. It is advisable to populate all the groups with the participants and then press the START button. If you move the participants into groups as you go the first group for example will have to wait for a while for all the groups to be set up.

  6. If you have a large number of groups, you need to make sure certain information is given

    • set your tasks for the groups

    • give a time limit

    • try and visit each group to ensure things are going well and to give a time reminder,

    • provide a padlet or other whiteboard type link to showcase the area of work to be presented remember you can’t record breakout groups so a screenshot would be needed to record this unless you use something like padlet

  7. When making any changes during the breakout sessions you will need to select Update before the changes will take effect.

  8. No one can return to the Main room (other than Administrators) until you close the breakout groups using the square close button on the Share Content menu, Breakout Groups.

  9. You can access the chat for breakout group in the usual chat window. It will show the list of groups by name.


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