New Features on Blackboard Collaborate Ultra (Sep 2021)

Blackboard have been adding new features to Collaborate Ultra, their video conferencing platform. In this post, we have listed the new features and upgrades included in Collaborate Ultra since April 2021 that could have an immediate impact on the way we run the synchronous sessions. In addition to the features mentioned below, there have been improvements in managing session recordings, the functionality of the mobile apps, other user experience (UX) elements as posted on their release notes webpage.

  • Gallery View
  • Pin videos to the top
  • Whiteboard
  • Breakout groups integration with Blackboard Learn groups
  • Camera as content on mobile devices

Gallery View & Pin Videos:

  • Gallery view lets the participants see up to 25 other attendees on a page. Attendees can be moderators, presenters, participants, and captioners in a session.
  • Attendee videos are in alphabetical order. Moderators appear at the start of the list on the first page.
  • When you Pin a video, it moves the video to the top of the list and pins, or anchors, it there. It doesn’t change the number of videos you see, just the order you see them in.
  • However, streaming multiple videos requires a faster internet connectivity. Collaborate may turn off Gallery view when the load is too much to improve your experience. You can also turn Gallery view off, if you want.
  • Go to Settings > Audio and Video Settings > check/uncheck the Auto (recommended) check box under Video Quality Experience. Check the Auto (recommended) check box any time you want to turn Gallery view back on.
  • Other than the Gallery view, we have options such as Tiled and Speaker views – that emphasize who is speaking. These views show up to 4 videos with one video larger than the others. The larger video shows who is speaking so you can see them more clearly. As the discussion unfolds, the larger video changes to match the active speaker. The only difference between Tiled and Speaker views is layout.


With the new whiteboard all attendees can enjoy better formatting, usability, and annotation persistence. During a live session, the annotation tools can be used on whiteboard or shared file.

Better formatting:

Pencil thickness, fonts and font size, shapes with color fill, arrows, and more are added to the annotation tools.


It’s easier to copy and reuse elements and paste text. You can now erase part of the annotations or clear all. There are multi line text blocks, text wrapping, and safeguards before clearing all annotations. The whiteboard editing tools are easier to see. The Clear whiteboard tool is represented by a trash can icon to better represent that the tool clears the entire whiteboard and not just a selected element. To delete just one thing off the whiteboard, select the item and press Delete on your keyboard.

Interaction with breakout groups:

You can annotate a file in the main room and then share it with the breakout groups including annotations. You can bring a breakout group’s own annotated file into the main room together with its annotations.

Annotation persistence:

Annotations made to the whiteboard, or on a file, are saved in the session. You can share something new, go to a new slide, or stop sharing. The annotations remain. Select Clear Annotations to remove them all.

Breakout groups integration with Learn course groups

Groups created in your Blackboard Learn course are now available in your course’s Collaborate sessions to create breakout groups in advance and save time. This helps to further build on existing student collaboration. To do this, the instructors should create Group Sets in their Learn Course. These Group Sets will be available as an option on Collaborate Ultra under the Breakout Sessions tab. The Group Sets can contain only 20 groups as 20 is the maximum number of breakout groups currently possible on Collaborate Ultra. 

Camera as content on mobile devices

The new ability to share the camera as content on a mobile device means that moderators can now choose to use their either front or rear facing cameras. When attendees share their video using the main tools along the bottom of the screen, their front facing camera is used. 

Visit our dedicated PPLS webpage to know about the basics and how to use Collaborate Ultra.