Collaborate Ultra Help & Support

Running breakout groups in a ‘Large scale’ session

This guide provides information on Blackboard Collaborate Ultra and gives a potential option for how to run breakout groups in large scale sessions.

Optional workflow for breakout groups:

Breakout groups are not available in ‘Large group’ sessions.  To utilise this functionality with large cohorts of students you must first sub-group the students using Blackboard groups into smaller (<200) rooms, and then enter multiple rooms to launch and control the breakout groups.

Set up Blackboard groups

  • Navigate to ‘Users and Groups’  under Site Management in the left-hand menu of your Blackboard module site.  Click on ‘Groups’.
  • Click ‘Group Sets’ in the top right of the screen.
  • Click ‘Create’ and select ‘Random enrol’ (you can choose manual enrol if you prefer).
  • Under ‘Name’ enter a prefix for the group names, Blackboard will automatically add a number to the end of the name; i.e. “Collaborate group”, will become “Collaborate group 1”, “Collaborate Group 2”, etc.
  • Ensure that ‘Group is visible to students is set to Yes.
  • Select the relevant tools for use with these sub-groups.  For the purposes of this guide; the only tool that needs to be ticked is ‘Blackboard Collaborate Ultra’.  Select whether you wish to allow students to create and access recordings or not.
  • Untick the option for ‘Allow personalisation’.
  • Under ‘Membership’, choose your options for distributing groups.  The simplest method is to determine the number of groups by a specific number and then to ‘distribute the remaining members amongst the groups’.
    • For example; for a cohort of 401 students, specifying ‘4’ as the number of groups will automatically create four groups each with 100 students, and then place the one remaining student into one of the groups.
  • Students will now see their Collaborate group in the left-hand menu of the module site under ‘My Groups’.

Direct students to their sub-groups

  • You can use the ‘Large-group’ main room to address all students on the module and can introduce the learning activity, set expectations and share a time-plan for the session. 
  • When ready; direct students to leave the main room and load their sub-group rooms by clicking on their group name in the left-hand menu of the Blackboard site, selecting ‘Collaborate’ and then clicking ‘Join Room’.
  • Let the students know that you will join each of their rooms shortly to launch breakout groups for their small-group learning activities.
  • You will now have multiple collaborate sessions running simultaneously.

Accessing sub-groups, enabling breakout features and monitoring

  • You can enter each of the sub-group rooms by accessing ‘Users and Groups’ then ‘Groups’ under Site Management in the left-hand menu of your module site.
  • Select the first of your groups, click ‘Collaborate’ and then click ‘Join Room’.  This will launch in a new tab.
  • You can launch breakout groups by expanding the right-hand menu (purple arrows), selecting the ‘Share content’ tab and clicking ‘Breakout groups’. 
  • Modify the number of groups as required.  Before launching breakout groups, ensure that students know the time-plan for the session and when they are expected to return to the main room.
  • Click ‘Start’ to launch the breakout groups.
  • You will now be able to switch tabs in your browser back to the Blackboard module page and navigate to a different group to launch breakout groups.
  • Using multiple tabs means that you will be in multiple rooms at once.  Take care to avoid confusion over rooms and clashes with your microphone/webcam and be aware that this may place a higher demand on your internet bandwidth and computing power (closing unnecessary programs may help).  Make use of the text chat and enable/disable audio and video when necessary.
  • With breakout groups running, you can keep the sub-group main rooms open, which allows students to send chat messages directly to you (chat with moderators).  E.g. in our working example; The tutor would have four tabs open with a sub-group Collaborate room.  Each of these four rooms would have breakout groups running.

Concluding sessions in the main room

To resolve a session; you can end breakout groups in each of the sub-group rooms and instruct students to re-join the main course room.

  • You should manage time-expectations so that students know the session structure and know the session plan.  Ending breakout groups is immediate and closes the breakout rooms, closing any shared files and shared whiteboards.  Make sure that students don’t lose work.
  • You can send a chat message to each sub-group room instructing students to re-join the main room via Blackboard.