Comparing Blackboard Collaborate and Google Meet for teaching

The University of Sheffield has two main platforms for online meetings and lectures - Blackboard Collaborate and Google Meet. They have overlapping features, and this page gives some information that will help you decide which is right for your purposes.

Blackboard Collaborate is a dedicated webinar (online lecture) platform, integrated into the University’s Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). It allows for automated enrolment of students via Blackboard, and multiple moderators in a course. It would be the usual tool for delivering online lectures within Blackboard, and can also be used for external participants.

Google Meet is the meeting tool within Google Apps for Education. It evolved out of the familiar Google Hangouts, with an expanding set of features in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. This has made it comparable in many ways with tools like Collaborate, though it lacks some features regarding enrolment and moderation that are useful for teaching activity. It would be the usual tool for delivering meetings outside teaching, as it does not require a Blackboard course to create sessions, and integrates fully with Google Calendar.

Both systems have capabilities for recording, interactivity and granting external access for participants.

While there is no mandate to teach via Collaborate, Meet should be used with recognition of its limitations on enrolment and moderation, and it is strongly recommended that decisions on platform are made across a programme where possible to maintain consistency.

Please note: Both products are regularly updated with new features, and all information below is subject to change.





Detailed feature comparison

Feature Google Meet Blackboard Collaborate
Setting up sessions

Sessions are created via Google Calendar, or manually directly via Google Meet.

Note: Manual links (that aren’t created via Calendar) expire after three weeks, so do not set up meeting or teaching links far in advance using this method.

Easy set up within Blackboard, however it requires a Blackboard Course or Organisation to have been set up to do so.

Enrolling students

For a closed membership, participants need to be invited to sessions via Google Calendar. Otherwise open guest links would need to be used.

Integration into Blackboard’s student enrolment.

Guest access

Participants (including those outside the institution) can attend via guest link. Participants without UoS accounts must be admitted by the host, and it can be set so all guest participants must be approved.

Participants (including those outside the institution) can attend via guest link.

Note: There is not currently moderation of guest entry, though participants can be removed by moderators.

Access in China

Accessible by students in China when using University Connect for China.

Blackboard products are not blocked by China, but Collaborate may be more stable when accessed via University Connect For China for some users.

Dialling in via phone (for participants without computer audio)

Yes - note participants dialling in will be charged at local rate. International numbers available.

Yes - note participants dialling in will be charged at local rate. International numbers available.

Participant limits

Dependent on status of session owner:

  • Contractual staff - 250
  • Students and visiting staff - 100

Note: Higher sessions may be possible on request from the IT Service Desk.

Default sessions have a limit of 250.

Sessions of 250-500 can be set up, but this removes some features (including breakout rooms and open-ended sessions).

Attendance monitoring

Attendance reports generated for meetings of 5-250 participants, and emailed to the session host.

Attendance reports accessible to all instructors on the relevant Blackboard course.

Moderation

Only the creator of a session can moderate sessions and launch features such as breakout rooms and polls. Multiple moderators are not possible at this time.

Therefore whoever has actually set up the session is the only person who can run the session. If the session is set up via Google Calendar you can change the owner of the event, but this must be done in advance, and can only be changed by the previous owner. This may cause issues if a staff member is absent.

Moderator roles based on course role in Blackboard, with the ability to change the role of participants within a course. By default, all instructors on the course will automatically enter as moderators.

Multiple moderators can run the session, and promote other participants to moderation roles.

Breakout Rooms

Breakout rooms can only be set by the host. Can be set randomly or you can move participants manually.

Participants cannot self-select rooms.

Groups can be set in advance, but only if the session is set up via Google Calendar, and attendees have marked their attendance in Google Calendar.

Note: Breakout Rooms are only available from sessions set up by contractual staff.

Breakout groups can be set by any moderator in the session. Can be set randomly or you can move participants manually.

Participants can self-select groups (if option selected).

Groups cannot be set up in advance.

Limit of 20 breakout groups per session.

Note: Not available for sessions >250 participants.

Screensharing

Yes, but no file-sharing option.

Yes. Can also share PowerPoints and PDFs which are preloaded into the Collaborate session without sharing a whole screen.

Polling

Multiple polls can be set up in advance. These have to be launched by the host.

Results can be emailed to the host.

Only one poll can be launched in advance. Can be launched by any moderator.

Results can be accessed by instructors on the course.

Whiteboard

Integration with Jamboard.

Yes, though currently Whiteboards cannot be saved without using screenshots.

Hand-raise

Yes

Yes

Other unique features

Q&A

Participant status and feedback, including mood emojis, agree/disagree.

Ability for participants to annotate presentation (optional feature).

Ability for moderators to disable features, such as chat, webcams, audio.

Background-blurring and virtual backgrounds

Background blurring and virtual backgrounds available for some users now, to be rolled out institutionally in the near future.

Not available for users on lower spec computers.

No

Concurrent visible cameras

Depends on view set by participant - up to 49.

Browser dependent - only 2-4 videos. Limited to 2 on 250+ sessions.

Pinned cameras

Yes

No

Captioning

Google’s auto captions are available on Meet sessions (though captions not recorded).

Participants with access to Caption.ed can use live captioning within Collaborate.

Other accessibility features

Screen reader compatible

Keyboard shortcuts

Screen reader compatible, including content that is shared as a file.

Keyboard shortcuts

Recordings

Sessions can be recorded. Recording is saved in host’s Google Drive.

Recordings can be started and stopped by all participants.

If set up via calendar, invited participants will see recording in their past calendar entry.

Note: Breakout Rooms cannot be recorded.

Sessions can be recorded.

Recordings can only be started by moderators in the session.

Recording automatically accessible to staff and participants via relevant Blackboard course. The link can also optionally be made public.

Note: Breakout Groups cannot be recorded.

Mobile access

Yes via browser, or Google Meet app.

Note: Polls not currently available via app.

Yes via mobile browser.





Further information and support

For technical support queries, please note: 

Blackboard Collaborate user guides

Google Meet user guides