Recommended Technology and Equipment for Blackboard Collaborate - Students and Trainees
The sections below provide information and instructions for what technology and equipment students/trainees will need for Blackboard Collaborate.
Blackboard Collaborate has a 250 attendee limit.
To join a Collaborate session you will need the following:
A modern computer or laptop. You can also use a Android or iOS device.
Access to your Blackboard course so you can get the link.
Internet Access (Broadband connection highly recommended).
Soundcard with microphone and headphones (A USB headset with microphone/headphones is highly recommended). If you have Bluetooth on your computer or device a set of Bluetooth headphones with a microphone should work as well.
For the best experience, use the latest version of Google Chrome. The latest version of Firefox will work as well. The latest version of any browser that supports WebRTC should be ok, but Chrome is best. View the official browser support list.
Using a headset is preferred, users without headsets should be sure to be in a quiet area to prevent background noise, and should turn off their microphone when not speaking.
If using WiFi, try to be as close to the router as possible.
Close streaming services such as YouTube, Netflix, P2P, Spotify, or Pandora before accessing the session.
The following section is an extract from a blog post on the Blackboard Community site by Lloyd Stock. Since the site is not publicly visible useful extracts follow:
If running a session on multiple campuses across time zones, e.g. Boston, Los Angeles, and London, use Every Time Zone to pick a date for your session and see at a glance the best time to meet across time zones.
Before your session, print this Door Hanger out on card and hang it to let people know you’re not to be disturbed. We’ve all seen the viral video of the expert who had his video link news interview interrupted by his toddler. Though in fairness, you’ll need more than a door hanger with toddlers!
Collaborate uses dynamic bandwidth adjusting for Chrome and Firefox users. This allows Collaborate to actively monitor a user’s network connection and adjust the download speeds before a user should experience issues.
The primary factors in bandwidth consumption for Collaborate Ultra are sharing webcam videos and sharing applications.
Webcam video bandwidth uses ranges from 360kbps down to 20kbps per camera, up to 4 cameras
Audio always uses 48kbps
Ability to receive application sharing and audio as low as 88kbps
Application sharing bandwidth uses ranges from 500kbps down to 70kbps
It can show 4 cameras with audio as low as 128kbps and with a max of 1488kbps.
A small amount of overhead is also required for chat, and so on.
If network conditions falter and can’t sustain the minimum bandwidth needed, Collaborate will turn off cameras and application sharing. For 1 camera and audio the trigger will be 68 kbps and for application sharing and audio 118 kbps.
When network conditions improve, the cameras and application sharing will turn back on automatically for Chrome and Firefox users.
For sessions where bandwidth is a concern, we recommend that no attendees share their webcam video unless required for the instruction. We also recommend that the moderator or presenter use file sharing and whiteboard for content instead of application sharing. Use application sharing when it is required for the instruction. With no video and application sharing, a user with 128kbps connection will be able to participate fully in the session.
Application sharing: The framerate when sharing an application depends on the bandwidth available to both the presenter and the recipient. With a reliable broadband network, and still content, attendees may see around 25 to 30 frames per second (fps). If the content is video, the frame rate is also dependent on how big the video frame is and what is happening in the video. Frame rates can fall sharply for big and busy videos on even a reliable network.
Video: The framerate for video has a 40 fps cap. However, video framerate depends on user bandwidth and camera limitations. On a reliable network, 30 fps is realistic.
The technical bit if you are using Collaborate from an employer or institution that may have a stricter network
By default Collaborate with the Ultra experience will be using UDP on the port range 49152 through 65535, if your organization has a firewall in place that is not open to this range, we will next try UDP 50000 and if that fails we will allow traffic to connect via TCP on port 443. It should be noted that TCP is a slightly slower connection protocol than UDP, but the experience should still be acceptable.
Additionally, Collaborate with the Ultra experience uses HTML5 Web Socket traffic to connect to session servers. Network traffic filters such as Cisco Firepower may have a filter added to prevent HTML5 and thus WebRTC from connecting.
Furthermore, Proxy servers need to allow HTML5 Web Socket traffic in order for Collaborate to connect to the session servers through a proxy. Proxy servers may need to be specifically configured to handle this Web Socket traffic. Collaborate with the Ultra experience requires a HTML 5 Web Socket connection be allowed on browsers and networking appliances such as proxy servers. To test the Web Socket connection use the same setup that is failing to connect to the Collaborate with the Ultra experience. For example if you are using a proxy server, try this test from behind the proxy server.