Here we are looking at Collaborate Ultra – a web conferencing system for live online meetings, presentations, or just making a recording such as a screen recorded demonstration like this.
- First up you access Collaborate Ultra via a RMIT Canvas course menu. If you don’t see it there, check the Settings menu item, then click the Navigation tab, and see if it is listed there for enabling.
- When you click into your course’s Collaborate Ultra it will bring up a main dashboard where all sessions and recordings are listed. By default you will have a “Course Room”, which is a session set to be always available. You can get the link to the session for sending around to guests in the details icon in the far right of the “Course Room” row.
- NB. The session settings are also available there, be sure to “Allow recording downloads”
- Clicking the join session will open the session in a new tab, conveniently keeping your meeting dashboard in a separate tab. By default, participants will join the session with their microphones and cameras muted, but the profile image will remain visible. While this is a good default to have, especially if participants join late and with a lot of background noise, or if there are a lot of participants and bandwidth becomes an issue, it could be confusing for new people joining who want to talk and see each other. To enable your microphone and/or video, you need to click the main icons in the centre bottom of the screen. Also there is a button for your profile, and another for raising your hand. Clicking the Raise hand button will alert the moderators and presenters that you have a question.
- Looking to the bottom right of the session window there is an icon for sliding out some of the extra features. In the bottom of the slide out frame are a row of icons: Chat; the list of attendees; Sharing content and; settings.
- There are a number of tools that allow you to share content in a session, these include a whiteboard; sharing your screen or application; sending a file; polling and setting up breakout groups. By sharing an application or your entire screen you can give presentations.
- At this point it’s worth pointing out that you could easily use Collaborate Ultra to pre record a lecture, welcome video, interview or panel discussion. This is done by setting it up and recording, without inviting students to join. You can then download the recording and share and archive it on Youtube, or leave it on Ultra and share it from there.
- To make a recording you need to open the other slide frame in the top left of the meeting window. In there are a number of options including: Record start and stop; join the session by phone; and a number of help options. To access the recording, you need to return to the Collaborate Ultra dashboard for your course, which is the original tab before you opened the meeting. Click the slide frame in the top left of the dashboard and click “Recordings”. There is listed all the recorded sessions made in the course. To download the recording, click the details icon in the far right of the session list row and there you will see a range of options. If you don’t see a download option then check the session settings (see note 2).
- NB. Recordings can take some time to finish processing and be listed for sharing and download. In my experience, about 1 hour after the recording is stopped.
Collaborate Ultra is a well designed and relatively easy to use web conferencing system available to RMIT Canvas users. There is some help available at Blackboard Collaborate website: https://help.blackboard.com/Collaborate/Ultra but the Canvas Community appears to have very little on the tool, probably because it is not standard in Canvas and so not many Canvas users have access to it.
Speaking of access, it relates to broad applicability and therefore relevance in broader contexts for communication. This is why I have tended to emphasise more readily available and commonly used systems like Youtube Live and Hangouts on Air. To my mind, the time spent understanding that system develops a range of broadly applicable skills in a more widely used system (Youtube) – a “global experience” for “lifelong learning” to appropriate the language of strategic plans and the like. But if straightforward simplicity is what you need, with transferability being a secondary consideration, then Collaborate Ultra is good. Just try to get in the habit of downloading recordings and backing them up on your Youtube or Internet Archive channel. Then you’re at least keeping half a foot nimbly in that world of online learning beyond RMIT.