Initial thoughts: Blackboard Collaborate

I know I’m not alone in grieving the impending death of Wimba Classroom. I like it’s sleek interface, it’s friendly, low-key interface (not too corporate) and its robustness. I’ve used it lots and pushed it hard and it’s rarely let me down. However Wimba and Elluminate were acquired by Blackboard (BB) and BB is paring down the virtual classroom product to Blackboard Collaborate.

I’ve used Elluminate a bit as well and my first impression is that Collaborateis Elluminate, tweaked a bit. Elluminate Collaborate still has the somewhat scary one minute Java download messaging. I’m accessing this at work, so I’ve got bandwidth to spare; would this take a lot longer at home, over my wifi network? Must try to remember to try this from home too…

  • The interface is leaner and more streamlined.
  • Video setup is right in the main window, which makes more sense than Wimba’s floating window. I’m all alone in here so I can’t judge what happens when others launch their video: Wimba used to toggle between feeds when the speaker changed.
  • Audio setup is a bit buried (right above the Video feed). Gives the options for selecting and testing input and output. Nice!


Loading content is done by….clicking the Load Content button. Unlike Wimba Collaborate shows a “Powerpoint is generating images” message. And yup, my computer’s PP app has been launched. I find this troubling and creepy–why not just load the presentation itself? After just under a minute my 15 slides are loaded as .jpgs and a navigation window has opened to allow me to click through.

Resizing the classroom window shows a nicely vectorized graphic. Closing this window embeds the navigation into the top right of the classroom window–much nicer.

Loading a Quicktime movie (100MB or less–can we change that to 2GB???) is very slow…5 minutes to load.  Quality is good and the interface is clean.

Loading a Word document–now this is kewl. It says “<doc> file type is not supported for loading. Would you like to distribute this file to ALL participants using File Transfer instead?” That’s a neat option!

App Sharing hides the classroom window and adds a yellow border to the app window being shared. Nice! Clearing the classroom is done by clicking New page. There’s the standard white board stuff, plus a screen capture option. And clip art–yeah, me too–why clipart? There are some maps and math notations and other symbols. Again, very nice.

Overall I like Collaborate–but I’m reserving final judgement until I deliver a live session to at least 10 concurrent users with video and audio–which Wimba Classroom handled easily.

About John P Egan

Learning technology professional.
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2 Responses to Initial thoughts: Blackboard Collaborate

  1. Great set of initial thoughts! You?ve discovered many ?kewl? things about Blackboard Collaborate 11. Here?s some more info about some of the features you experienced.
    Live video ? When others start it up, you see their live video thumbnails in the same window. Video does follow who?s speaking, just like in Wimba. Collaborate supports up to 6 video streams at once. And if you can?t comfortably see everyone the video window, you can undock it from the main window and adjust it. Just grab, drag, and resize.
    Loading content ? Sure, you can use the straightforward ?load content? button. But you can also just drag your file into the top gray bar in the UI to load. You?ve discovered the smart-import characteristic on your own ? Collaborate just knows what to do with content (ppt, multimedia, a saved whiteboard.) If it doesn?t recognize the content type, it will ask whether you want to transfer it to participants.
    I?m looking forward to hearing your final judgment after holding a 10-user session. Try these things out ? the screen explorer, breakouts, and the new chat tool. I think you will be pleased.

    Donna Christopher
    Blackboard Collaborate

  2. John P Egan says:

    Hiya Donna,

    I won’t get to test it properly until February: i’m not teaching this current term. But I will blog about it once I do. I’m curious though: why does Collaborate convert a PPT to jpg images, rather than just leave it as is?



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