Five Updates that Improve Blackboard Collaborate for You

Blackboard Collaborate has seen a lot of updates over the past year. Here are five improvements you might be interested in.

1. Breakout Rooms can be populated using Blackboard groups

Many of us have wanted to set up groups before a session starts and now you can. Create group sets in Blackboard at any time then choose to use the groups in a Collaborate session using the ‘Course group set’ option.

The location of the Course group set option in the Assign Groups drop down menu.

2. Breakout Groups can be paused

There may be situations where you want to bring the students out of Breakout Groups temporarily, before you select ‘Resume’ and they can carry on with what they were doing.

The Pause and End options available to the person who started the Breakout Groups.

3. Attendees can download the files and contents of the whiteboard

I’ve been asked a few times about exporting the contents of the whiteboard, and now there is a button that allows you to export the contents of the Whiteboard or files opened through ‘Share Files’, as a PDF.

The location of the Download button used to download the contents of the whiteboard tool.

4. Attendees are informed if their browser is not supported

Up-to-date versions of the main web browsers are recommended for the best experience in Blackboard Collaborate. Now students will be advised of this when they enter, although specific browsers will be blocked from entering.

Example screen showing the 'The Browser you're using isn't supported' message.

5. Attendees can change their preferred language

Some students may find it easier to work with the Collaborate user interface in a different language to the default one on the computer they are using. This is easy to do from My Settings, then Session Settings, then Default Language.

Languages can be selected from the drop-down list accessed under Session Settings then Default Language.
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Peter Beaumont
Learning Technology Development Officer

Are you ready for Blackboard Ultra Course View!

Following the 2019 upgrade to ‘Ultra Base Navigation’ within our Blackboard environment, the institution has decided to move forwards with the transition of courses to Blackboard Ultra Course View.  It has been decided that there will be a phased approach and a number of modules, that have been identified as ‘Early Adopters’, will move to Ultra ready for September 2022.   All remaining modules will move to Ultra in Sept 2023.  

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19th May – Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD)

To mark GAAD, ‘Anthology and Blackboard’ is hosting a 24-hour global event called…

Banner containing the words 'Fix your content day'.

Along with other institutions Edge Hill University is excited to be taking part, following our success in the event last year, Edge Hill University was placed 3rd in Europe for the most fixes.

The event is focused on making accessible and inclusive digital learning content. The goal is to encourage staff to fix as many digital course files as possible using “Blackboard Ally”.

Make sure your content counts.

Any fix you achieve, however small, on ‘Fix Your Content Day (19th May)’, through the Ally tool will be included in the count and added to the total number of fixes made by Edge Hill University.

Remember Ally can also be used to improve WYSIWYG (text editor) content, fixes here will count too. Here’s a demonstration of using the WYSIWYG editor with Ally.

Support for participation.

Learning Services is holding a two-hour Fixathon 12-2pm (19th May), in person from the Catalyst ‘Oak Room’ and online via web conference, where you can drop in, ask questions about accessibility and bring any documents you want to work on.

Outline drawing of a group of people standing in a circle hands touching, placed to the centre of the circle.  To the left of the group is a caption that reads "May 19 Fix Your Content Day".

Are you up for the challenge?

Get involved by making improvements to your content during ‘Fix Your Content Day’. Simply click where you see the red, orange or green Ally indicators next to the content you share with your students and follow the guidance to make those positive changes.

A captioned image containing the following text "Challenge Accepted!" beneath that an hash-tag (#) followed by the "fixyourcontent".  The Blackboard Ally logo sits at the bottom of the image.

Track the Leaderboard.

When the clock strikes May 19th in the first time zone on Earth (Kiribati), the global leaderboard is launched and the competition begins.

Leveraging usage data from Blackboard Ally, the Leaderboard ranks each participating institution by their total number of files improved out of their total number of students and also tallies the total number of files improved across all Blackboard Ally users over the 24 hours.

Earlier posts may help you on your accessibility journey.

How can YOU use LinkedIn Learning?

All staff and students at Edge Hill University have access to LinkedIn Learning. It is a library of training courses that you can use to help you develop business, technology, and creative skills.

Desk set out ready for study, with a laptop, phone, notebook and pen, and a cup of coffee.

How can I get started?

There is a LinkedIn Learning page on the Edge Hill University website containing videos that will show you how to set up an account and log in. Once you are in, the How to Use LinkedIn Learning course contains lots of videos about how LinkedIn Learning works.

Can I use it for my own professional development?

Jennifer Rouse Barbeau has written about her use of LinkedIn Learning as part of planned professional development time. Jennifer suggests planning to use 20-25% of your personal development time actually watching the videos and the rest for note taking and hands on practice.

Here at Edge Hill University, Chris Nicholas, a Computer Science Research Assistant, spoke to us about using LinkedIn Learning (when it was called Lynda.com) to improve his knowledge of software development. Oladotun Omosebi, a Computer Science Doctoral Tutor, talked to us about his experiences too.

What courses do you recommend?

Last year Laura Glancey wrote a post on this blog sharing her five favourite courses. Katie McCarthy and Daniel Bresnahan have shared some course recommendations here too.

If you don’t have time to go through a whole course then the weekly tips courses might be for you, or even the new TikTok style Nano Tips courses.

How could I use LinkedIn Learning with my students?

The book ‘Applications of LinkedIn Learning in Ontario’s Post-Secondary Institutions‘, edited by Anne-Marie Taylor shares experiences from a few courses where LinkedIn Learning resources were used. We see the resources being used:

  • to “reduce the burden of creating new content” (Chapter 1)
  • to help students learn to use audio editing software that the teacher was not familiar with (Chapter 2)
  • to replace ‘click-and-follow’ demos in class which weren’t working well (Chapter 3)
  • as a framework for student-led courses. This involved identifying knowledge gaps, looking at available resources, deciding on an area of focus, and developing a curriculum and study plan based on this (Chapter 7).

In Chapter 6 ‘Exemplary Practices for Integrating LinkedIn Learning Video Assets in Online Post-Secondary Courses’, Amanda Baker Robinson advises on three stages of using the videos with students, i.e. preparation, integration and consolidation.

Finally, Xiangping Du reports that some Master’s students found LinkedIn Learning useful for the following things. Your use could take these into consideration.

  • “1. enhancing their knowledge and understanding beyond classroom delivery
  • 2. boosting their professional profile by gaining certificates attached to their LinkedIn profiles
  • 3. improving their research skills and helping with their final research project
  • 4. enhancing their employability by learning industry-relevant technical skills
  • 5. inspiring them to embark on more LiL courses for continuous professional development”
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Peter Beaumont
Learning Technology Development Officer

Iphone Apple Photo” by Freestocks.org is marked with CC0 1.0.

Caption.Ed – What Students are Saying!

Here at Edge Hill University, Learning Services offer students their own Caption.Ed account. Caption.Ed is a real-time and pre-recorded captioning tool that can be used to caption live taught sessions or recordings they produce and save to their computer.

Automatic captions can offer students a means to engage with academic content, the resulting editable captions can be improved so that recordings are meaningful to users.

It is important to note that automated captions are not entirely accurate and are not a substitute where communication support is required.

Student Volunteers

Five Student Advisors volunteered to try the new Caption.Ed app in ways that helps and supports them through their studies.

This is what our students had to say about Caption.Ed and how they are using it not only to generate captions, but also to create an editable transcript of a recording or live session, they also liked how simple Caption.Ed is to set up and use.


Callie HortonCallie Horton

Callie is in the 3rd year of her BA (Hons) History with Politics degree.  Callie used Caption.Ed during lectures to capture a transcript of what her tutor was saying.  She described to us how it enabled her to fully listen to the lecture, knowing that Caption.Ed was working in the background capturing the transcript.  “This meant I could fully listen to the content rather than desperately trying to note everything down”. 

Find out how Callie has been using Caption.Ed.


Alex EvansAlexander Evans

Alex is a third year BSc (Hons) Geography & Geology student.  Alex used Caption.Ed to add captions to YouTube videos where the auto captioning feature may have not been accurate and also for online lectures.   When asked about the benefits of the desktop and browser app his response was: “The desktop app can be used to caption any video, not just something in a specific browser which means its possibilities are endless…..The browser app is very useful due to its pure ease of access, once pinned in the top right hand side of your screen it can be used to caption anything within the browser almost instantly.”  

Find out how Alex has been using Caption.Ed


Laura GlancyLaura Glancy

Laura is studying MA English and Nineteenth-Century Studies.  Laura used Caption.Ed to provide transcripts of meetings. She found this really helpful in preparing her research notes and found the timestamps particularly beneficial.  When asked how Caption.Ed supported her studies Laura commented: “It also saves excessive notetaking, which would be handy in seminars/lectures.” 

 Find out how Laura has been using Caption.Ed


Maya GibsonMaya Gibson

Is a third year BA Hons (Film and Television Production) Student.  Maya used Caption.Ed to generate captions to add to films that she had produced in her course.  Maya loved using the browser version and commented how the software is “Very clear and easy to use with quick results.  

Find out how Maya has been using Caption.Ed


Paula GarlickPaula Garlic

Paula is studying her third year BSc (Hons) in Psychology.  Paula used Caption.Ed to transcribe interviews which was part of her dissertation.  She described to us how it really cut down her usual process of doing this and asked if she would recommend Caption.Ed to other students her response was: “Definitely, I think it is a really worthwhile tool and I will be using it in the future”. 

Find out how Paula has been using Caption.Ed

How do I get access?

To get your free account, email a request here. Our team will process your request and you will receive an invite with further instructions on how to access the software.

Further Reading: Caption.Ed for Online Learning!.

Six Things You Can Do with Box of Broadcasts and TRILT

Edge Hill University provides staff and students with access to the Box of Broadcasts (BoB) on demand TV and Radio broadcast service, and The Television and Radio Index for Learning and Teaching (TRILT).

An old fashioned television set.

Here are six things you can do with these services.

One: Access Old Recordings from the BBC’s Digital Archive

The BBC is currently digitising its library and making it available to education institutions. The records of all BBC broadcasts can be searched using TRILT and the recordings requested although not every broadcast will be available.

At Edge Hill we have access to 24 requests per year, so if you want to view or give your students access to very old BBC broadcasts you can try to access them this way.

Some recordings will already be on BoB, so check there first, but otherwise Learning on Screen advises that:

Members can login to TRILT with their institutional login and make an enquiry about a historical BBC broadcast by emailing the TRILT URL to the services team: [email protected]

Two: Make Clips from Sections of Broadcasts using BoB

Three: Request Copies of Broadcasts as an MP4, MP3, or on DVD

As an example we’ve had requests for an MP4 version of a sports event so it could be analysed with software.

Four: Create Playlists of Videos Using BoB

Five: Get Notifications of Upcoming Broadcasts

Television and Radio Index for Learning and Teaching (TRILT) allows you to request email alerts for forthcoming programmes up to 10 days in advance of their broadcast. This helps ensure that you don’t miss the chance to record useful programmes.

To set an alert up, go to TRILT, click on ‘Sign in’ at the top right of the screen, and log in as you would to BoB.

Choose ‘Auto Alerts’ from the menu on the left hand side.

On the Auto Alerts page you can use the ‘set up your email address’ to set your preferences for the computing device you are on now. You can then save Auto Alerts which will be emailed to you on a selected day of the week.

If the programme is broadcast on one of the channels that BoB records, you can then make a note to log in to BoB to search for it and request that it is saved.

Six: Access films you were struggling to get hold of

While the TV broadcasts are sometimes edited, it may be your only free (legal) option. I’m tempted to say that it’s one of the few places where you can see a pre-special edition version of Star Wars, but the quality is too poor for you to get your hopes up. I can honestly claim that you’ll be getting the experience I got when watching it for the first time as a kid.

Next Steps

We have a list of playlists and related resources that we’ve created to get you started thinking about how to use these resources, along with links to guides on our Wakelet page.

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Peter Beaumont
Learning Technology Development Officer

my new television set” by brandon king is marked with CC BY-NC 2.0.

Top 5 Reasons for using Groups within Blackboard

The group tool in Blackboard has been around for a while but did you know it can be used for more than just giving students access to group tools? Groups can also help you control access to content items and make lots of admin tasks so much quicker too!

Below we have picked out the top 5 reasons why you will find Groups a useful tool…

1. Student Collaboration

Groups allow students to collaborate using various features and tools within Blackboard, such as discussion boards, journals and Blackboard Collaborate.  Think of a group as a room which you populate with various tools and only the members of that group have access to these tools.

To do this, simply create your groups and choose which tools you would like them to access.  For example, you might want different groups of students to work together on different topics in their own Discussion Board. Only the members of the group and the instructor can view the content so it’s safe and private for them.

2. Using groups with Blackboard Collaborate for Break Out Rooms

You can now use Groups created in your course or module to auto-create groups for breakout rooms in Collaborate, which will save you time when in the flow of teaching.

Students can stay in their same groups without any extra work for the tutor or facilitator however there is also flexibility for the tutor to adjust groups as needed during the session without altering the groups in Blackboard.

When you start a breakout group (Open the Share panel and select Breakout Groups), go to the Assign Groups menu and select Course Group Set. Choose the set of groups you want to use and start the breakout.

N.B. You can only use group sets (not standalone groups).

3. Using with Tests & Adaptive Release for Content

Tests are often time and date limited.  Groups are an easy way to give certain students a different set of constraints to the rest of the class. For example if a number of students have special dispensation for an extra 25% time, putting these students into a group saves you having to manually enter them one-by-one every time you create a Test.

In this scenario, once you have created your group & created and deployed your Test, follow the steps below:

  • Find the Test and use the chevron to open the Context menu.
  • Select Edit the Test Options.
  • On the Test Options page, scroll down to the area labelled Test Availability Exemptions and click Add User or Group.
  • On the Add User or Group page put a checkmark next the group you want to apply and click submit in the bottom right hand corner.

You can also use Groups with Adaptive Release to control how content is released to Students.  Simply click on the grey chevron next to an item title and select Adaptive Release (or Adaptive Release Advanced).

In Adaptive Release, scroll down to Membership and select the groups you want to view the content. Once a Membership criterion is created only those specified will be ale to view the content.

By accessing the Adaptive Release menu for some content, you can select groups under Membership.
Membership Options within Adaptive Release

4. Self-Signup for picking a topic

You may be running several sessions and want students to pick a topic or session time to attend.  You can manage this by creating self-signup groups where students add themselves to a group rather than being allocated. This might be a group set or single groups depending on the situation.  Students get to make their own choice and you can limit the maximum number of students selecting each group. Note, you can tweak the groups if you need to move students around!

Group Tool – Creating Group Signup Sheets

5. Filtering the Grade Centre (Smart View)

You can use ‘Smart Views’ to help filter the Grade Centre screen to only see certain students or groups of students.

Create the Smart Views whilst creating the group or at any other time by following the below instructions:

Once a Smart View is set up you can apply it to the Grade Centre.

You only need to do the above once. Now that the Smart View is created you can view it from the Grade Centre by clicking on the Filter button.

**Do not set a custom Smart View to be the default view – if a student drops out of the course the view will become inaccessible and you will locked out of the Grade Centre.

Leah Wilson
Leah Wilson – Digital Learning Technology Officer

Caption.Ed for Online Learning!

Student seated in quiet study space.

Caption.Ed is a real-time automatic captioning tool for live online events, recorded media and operates cross-platforms. Caption.Ed works on your desktop (Windows and Mac) and in your browser.

Why do I need Caption.Ed?

Captions are useful for everyone, to aid understanding, help you retain focus and might help if you’re accessing video content in noisy environments.

Learning Services has invested in Caption.Ed so that students can have a free account.

What makes Caption.Ed standout from similar services?

Ease of use, it works within your browser, improved accuracy, select specific dictionaries such as Social Sciences and Law, Health and Life Sciences, change how your captions appear to you by choosing a suitable text size and theme.

Situations Caption.Ed can be used, In including live teaching sessions on Blackboard Collaborate, YouTube and when videos have no captions, where captions are available but they’re inaccurate and for reviewing a video on a module in Blackboard.

Caption.Ed also produces a transcript you can download and edit to support your own note-taking strategy.

Watch Caption.Ed in action…

Caption.Ed used with Blackboard Collaborate (gallery view).

How do I get access?

To get your free account, email a request here. Our team will process your request and you will receive an invite with further instructions on how to access the software.

Week 9 Blog

It really does not feel like it’s been 9 weeks of this internship. It pains me to say, in 4 more weeks this internship will be over. However, I always try to look at the positive side of things, when this internship is over I will have made a massive positive impact on the module areas on Blackboard for my department, learning episodes will have been created, the accessibility rating of each module will have been improved, tutorial videos created for how to download specialist software, a navigation video of how to navigate around the Blackboard module areas and improved the captioning of the lectures. 

Overall, I cannot wait to get started with this week. Keep on reading to find exciting, events that happened throughout the week. 

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Microsoft Educator

What is it? 

Microsoft Innovative Educator is a free service Microsoft offer which offers educators, or even those interested in using technology, certifications to prove they have bettered their learning. 

The Microsoft Educator Center offers access to many courses that let you earn professional development credit in the comfort of your home and your own time. Whether you are an educator or anyone looking to enrich your skills to offer your students the best possible learning experience or a student yourself, the Microsoft Educator Center will have activities that will help you improve your use of Office 365, Flipgrid, Microsoft Teams and many more.  

Microsoft Educator Center has a variety of different courses and just like LinkedIn Learning, have learning paths you can complete which aims to improve your skills at a particular topic such as the learning path we completed ‘Getting started with Office 365 and Windows for leadership’. This learning path shows how to efficiently organise and communicate frameworks by using the tools the software’s offer. Many of the beginner and intermediate learning paths will also offer recommendations of other learning paths which will help with furthering your knowledge on a particular subject. 

What does it offer? 

The Microsoft Educator Center also offers badges which will be given once you have completed courses, and these can also be shared with peers or other students to show your achievements. To earn learning path badges, you will need to complete earn all badges within that learning path by completing all the quizzes each course will provide. When 2 hours of courses have been completed, you will also earn the Microsoft Innovative Educator badge which is the first step in becoming a Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert. The Microsoft Innovative Educator Programs will be further explained below. 

Excluding courses and learning paths, the Microsoft Educator Center also offers learning through its resources. Unlike courses and learning paths a resource doesn’t offer badges, what it does offer is resources you can use to further educate yourself on different topics. One resource I found interesting was the ‘Introduction to Excel’ resources, as this offered helpful tips which will increase my efficiency when using Excel in the future.  

Screenshot of badges achieved on Microsoft

Microsoft Educator Center also links and post your qualifications onto your LinkedIn profile, where you can show your certifications to potential employers. This is also great as during your interviewing process you can provide certifications of being competent in the required Microsoft office programmes.  

What is the Microsoft Innovative Educator Programs and what to do?  

The Microsoft Innovative Educator Programs are great and are not necessary for just educators, I am hoping when I go to gain employment after university that these accreditations will stand as I do have the knowledge regarding Microsoft and it’s products that I have stated on my CV. 

I found theses course to be educational and engaging. The Microsoft innovate educator courses are online and therefore were easy to fit around my busy schedule. 

 These courses are mostly videos with an interactive quiz built into the video itself. Therefore, as the video plays along you must follow along within a new document within the website page. 

I chose to complete a course pathway first which included “Getting started with OneNote” and “Getting started with Office 365 and Windows” I found these to be simple and faster than the 1 hour time Microsoft had said they would take to complete. I find these useful and there was many hints and tips I did not know about this software.   

To gain your Microsoft Innovative Educator badge you need to complete 2 hours training and therefore by passing these courses I had done this. I found some of the learning pathways to be interesting and therefore chose to continue on with these. Below is some of the certifications I have gained through this programme.  

Screenshot of badges achieved on Microsoft

By Katie McCarthy and Daniel Bresnahan (Student Interns)