Blackboard Collaborate: Guide for external users

All you need to know about attending a Blackboard Collaborate session hosted by a staff member at the University of Sheffield, including how to join, set up your audio and camera, and share content.

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Information for staff and students

Blackboard Collaborate guidance for current students and staff is now hosted on the Staff and Student hubs (University login required).

Student hub

Staff hub


Test your audio, video and connection before the session

The Blackboard Collaborate test room enables you to check your connection to Collaborate, ensure your mic and webcam are working properly, and practice displaying content by uploading a file or screen sharing.

Click the link below to open the test room, and follow the instructions in the section below on joining a Collaborate session.

Refer to the section below on troubleshooting Collaborate problems if you experience any issues joining the session.

This room is public, so take care to delete any files that you upload.

Open the Blackboard Collaborate test room


Step 1: Joining a Collaborate session

Ahead of the start time of the session you will likely have been provided a URL, which you can click to enter when the start time arrives.

  1. Click on the link you have been provided. We recommend using Google Chrome to join Collaborate sessions.

  2. Enter your name (which will be visible to all attendees in the session).

  3. Click Join Session to open the Collaborate session.

  4. You might see a browser pop up asking for your permission to use your microphone and camera. This should be accepted to use all of the features within Collaborate. Follow the on screen prompts to select the correct webcam and microphone, especially if you have multiple devices connected. Your mic and webcam will be turned off when you join the session, but your host can allow you to turn them on at your convenience. 

Screenshot of the login page for a Test Room in Blackboard Collaborate

Recommended browsers and devices

We recommend using Google Chrome to access Blackboard Collaborate or Safari if you're joining from an iPhone or iPad.

Participants based in China should use Firefox to open Collaborate sessions.

If joining from a mobile device, Android users should join Collaborate sessions with Chrome, and iOS users will be prompted to use Safari. 

However we recommend using Collaborate on a computer for the best experience, and to maximise the amount of screen space available to engage with a Collaborate session. 


Call into a session using telephone audio and a computer

If you have connected to Collaborate from your internet browser and you’re having difficulty with your computer audio, you can use your phone to call into the session.

Click the session menu in the top left, and select Use your phone for audio.

Call the number listed on screen, and enter your unique personal identification number (PIN). You should not share the PIN displayed on your screen, as this is unique to you. Calls are charged at the standard rate for phoning a UK landline.

International numbers are available - just use the same PIN as displayed in the session. 

Screenshot of Blackboard Collaborate with the option "Use your phone for audio" highlighted in red.

More information on calling into a Collaborate session


Call into a session without internet access

Collaborate offers the ability for participants to join the session audio via a telephone using the Anonymous dial-in feature, for example, if you do not have access to a computer or stable internet connection.

ask the session facilitator ahead of time if you would like the dial in details. 


Step 2: Setting up audio, video and browser permissions 

Set up your audio and video

Once you join the Collaborate session, set up your mic and webcam so that others in the session can hear and see you. 

Audio settings in Blackboard Collaborate

Video settings in Blackboard Collaborate


Allow browser permissions

You might see a browser pop up asking for your permission to use your microphone and camera - this should be accepted to use all of the features within Collaborate. Follow the on-screen prompts to select the correct webcam and microphone, especially if you have multiple devices connected. 

A pop-up box reading "eu.bbcollab.com wants to use your microphone." The word "Allow" is highlighted in red.

Step 3: Sharing and presenting during the session

There are a number of ways to share different types of content in a Collaborate session, from sharing your screen or an application window, to uploading slides to display within the session. see Blackboard’s guidance for more information about the different types of content you can share.

Blackboard Collaborate: Share content

If you are planning to present slides during your session, make sure you follow our guide to ensure your slides are created following digital accessibility principles. 

General guide for creating accessible content

When ready, we recommend converting your presentation to PDF. This will ensure that all formatting is preserved during the upload to Blackboard Collaborate.

Try to keep file sizes as low as possible - there is a limit of 60MB per file, and a maximum of 128MB per session. Consider compressing your PDF before uploading. Uploaded PDF or PowerPoint files can be understood by participants using screen readers, helping to make your session more inclusive. 

We recommend uploading content ahead of the session. You could either send the file to your host or coordinate joining the session early to upload the slides. 

Saving your presentation as a PDF will remove any animations or audio files. Alternatively, you can share your screen or an application on your computer. There are specific tips for sharing whilst presenting in PowerPoint below.


Uploading and sharing your slides

  1. Open the Collaborate Panel in the bottom right corner of the screen.

  2. Click the Share Content tab.

  3. Select Share Files.

  4. If your presentation hasn’t already been uploaded, click Add Files or drag and drop your PDF to upload it. You can also upload images and PPTs, but we recommend saving presentations as PDF to ensure the formatting is preserved. 

  5. When uploaded, click your file in the list and click Share Now.

  6. Use the arrows underneath your slides to navigate through them. Note that all moderators and presenters in the session have access to these controls.


Sharing your screen

Screen sharing is available within Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge and Firefox. You will not be able to start screen sharing using Safari or a mobile device.

Take care to close any applications or notifications you don’t want participants to see before starting screen sharing. 

If you’re using multiple monitors, make sure that your application windows are positioned correctly and you know which one to share in your session. You can also choose to share a specific browser tab or application. 

  1. Open the Collaborate panel in the bottom right corner of the screen.

  2. Click the Share Content tab.

  3. Select Share Application/Screen.

  4. Choose the screen, window or tab you would like to share. If you need to share computer audio, use the Share Screen or Share Tab option, and select the Share System Audio checkbox. You cannot share audio using Firefox. 

More information on sharing your screen in Blackboard


Sharing while presenting in PowerPoint

Any animations and media content in your PowerPoint presentation (.ppt/.pptx) will be removed when it is uploaded to Blackboard Collaborate.

If the animation is really important, you can run the presentation in PowerPoint and use the Share Application option to display your screen to your attendees.

For the best experience, don't use normal or full screen views for your presentations. These views can make it challenging for you to monitor the chat, or other session features in Collaborate. Instead, share your slides in a resizable window:

More information on sharing PowerPoint presentations


Sharing video content in Collaborate

Use the chat window to share web links to video content. This way, attendees can access them on their own device in their own time. Sharing media content via screen sharing might create an inconsistent viewing experience for attendees, and video playback is likely to be stuttery.


Troubleshooting and contact

Firstly, if you are joining from a Windows, Mac or Android device, check you are using Google Chrome to access Blackboard Collaborate. Safari should be used to join from an iPhone or iPad.

Many issues, such as a frozen image, can be fixed by reloading the Collaborate session in your browser tab.

If you still have problems, have a look to see if your issue is listed below.

For immediate technical support, use the live chat on the Blackboard Collaborate support page. Alternatively, contact us at digital.learning@sheffield.ac.uk.

My connection quality is intermittent

Collaborate can be quite demanding on your internet connection. Collaborate is smart, and will dynamically adjust your experience to enable you to remain in the session for as long as possible, but follow the steps below to ensure a successful session.

  1. If sharing your webcam, turn it off.

  2. If you’re able to use a wired internet connection instead of WiFi, do so.

  3. Close all unused programs and browser tabs open on your computer that you’re not using. Pause any downloads or uploads on your computer.

  4. Check to see if others are using the same internet connection in your house. If possible, ask them to minimise internet usage - especially if they are streaming video or doing other network-intensive activities.

  5. Try opening the session in an Incognito tab.

  6. Try clearing your browser cache, and reloading the session.

  7. Restart your computer.

  8. Try using Firefox instead of Chrome.

  9. Try dialling into the session using your phone. Calls are charged at the standard rate for phoning a UK landline.

If you are presenting in a session, you should use the Share File option to upload your presentation as a PDF, as this requires far less bandwidth than screen/application sharing.

I can’t hear anyone speaking

If others in the session can hear audio, but you can’t, you need to check your speakers.

Try opening YouTube in a new browser tab and play a video. If you can’t hear the video, ensure your system volume is turned up by clicking the volume icon in the taskbar. If you can now hear the YouTube video, pause it, return to Collaborate and reload the page. If you still cannot hear audio, follow the steps below.

Check your sound output

  1. Blackboard Collaborate uses the system default audio output, so ensure this is set correctly.

  2. Ensure your speaker volume within Collaborate is 100%.

    • Click the purple Collaborate panel in the bottom right-hand corner of the session and select the Settings tab.

    • Scroll down to Audio and Video Settings and check the speaker volume is 100%.

    A screenshot of audio and video settings in Blackboard Collaborate. The "Speaker Volume" option is highlighted.
  3. Ensure your browser isn’t blocking audio.  

    • Click the padlock icon in your browser address bar.

    • Click Site Settings.

    • Search for Sound, and check this is set to Allow.

    A screenshot of a menu in Google Chrome. The option "site settings" is highlighted.
  4. Try entering the session using Firefox.

  5. Dial into the session using a telephone.

    • Click on the Session Settings menu on the top left hand side of the Collaborate session.

    • Click Use your phone for audio. This will give you a UK (020) phone number to dial, and a unique PIN number. Calls are charged at the standard rate for phoning a UK landline.

    • International numbers are available - just use the same PIN as displayed in the session.

    • Dial *6 to mute and unmute yourself.

    Screenshot of Blackboard Collaborate with the option "Use your phone for audio" highlighted in red.
Others can’t hear or see me

When you join a Blackboard Collaborate session, ensure you click Allow on the pop-up box that might appear.

If you didn’t see the pop-up box, try reloading the page.

A pop-up box reading "eu.bbcollab.com wants to use your microphone." The word "Allow" is highlighted in red.

Your microphone will be muted when you enter the session. To unmute yourself, click the white microphone icon with the diagonal line through it towards the bottom of the screen.

If others still cannot hear or see you, follow the steps below.

Check your microphone and webcam

  1. Check the correct microphone and webcam is selected inside Blackboard Collaborate.

    • Click the purple Collaborate panel in the bottom right-hand corner of the session and select the Settings tab.

    • Under Audio and Video Settings, work through the Set up your camera and microphone menu.

    • Select the correct microphone - you should see the purple bar moving when you speak.

    A screenshot of Blackboard Collaborate's audio test screen
  2. If you have an external microphone, check it is plugged into your computer, and that it has not been accidentally muted. Windows users should follow this link to check their microphone has been installed correctly.

  3. Check your browser isn’t blocking your microphone or camera.

    • Once in the Collaborate session, click the microphone (or camera) icon to the right of the browser address bar.

    • Ensure the option Allow https://eu.bbcollab.com to access your microphone and webcam is selected.

    • Refresh the page after saving this change.

    Screenshot of Google Chrome. The webcam icon and text "Continue allowing https://eubbcollab.com to access your microphone" is highlighted
  4. Check your operating system isn’t blocking access to your microphone or webcam. Follow the link below to find out how to grant access to Google Chrome (or Firefox if you are in China).

  5. Dial into the session using a telephone.

    • Click on the Session Settings menu on the top left hand side of the Collaborate session.

    • Click Use your phone for audio. This will give you a UK (020) phone number to dial, and a unique PIN number. Calls are charged at the standard rate for phoning a UK landline.

    • International numbers are available - just use the same PIN as displayed in the session.

    • Dial *6 to mute and unmute yourself.

    Screenshot of Blackboard Collaborate with the option "Use your phone for audio" highlighted in red.
My Collaborate session is presenting me with a failure code

If you are having difficulty joining a Blackboard Collaborate session, or your connection is disrupted, you may see an error message with a failure code. Below are some common Collaborate failure codes, what they mean, and recommended actions to take.

A01: Your authentication attempt for the session timed out after 20 seconds. Check your network connection, and use a wired internet connection or move closer to your WiFi router if possible. Also minimise other internet usage.

A05: You are attempting to join a session using a Join Link that has been copied and pasted into your web browser. Links to Collaborate sessions that include /join/ as part of the URL are single-use only. Connect to the session by clicking the Guest link you were provided by the meeting host.

A07: You have lost access to the session and tried to re-join but failed. Reconnect to the session by clicking the Guest link you were provided by the meeting host.

    My Collaborate session freezes in the browser

    If you are screen sharing in Collaborate, and your browser becomes unresponsive or crashes when using Google Chrome, try using Firefox or Microsoft Edge. Alternatively, try disabling Hardware acceleration in Google Chrome:

    1. Open Google Chrome, and type chrome://settings in the address bar.

    2. Scroll to the bottom of that page, and click on Advanced.

    3. Under the System menu, turn off Use hardware acceleration when available.

    4. Relaunch Chrome.

    Screenshot of a settings menu in Google Chrome. The option "Use hardware acceleration when available" is highlighted
    Everything is greyed out in my Collaborate session

    If the image looks very dark, or greyed out in a Collaborate session, a dialogue box is covering the page. This can happen if you have no webcam or microphone available on your computer. Browse to the top right of the Collaborate window, and you should see a small white ‘X’ you can click to reveal the page.

    Close the dialogue window

    If you do not have a webcam or microphone on your computer, you may need to close the dialogue box that appears. Click the small white 'X' highlighted in the screenshot below to enter the Collaborate session.

    Screenshot reading "it looks like you've blocked permission to access your microphone and camera."

    If you do have access to a webcam or microphone on your computer, see Others can't see or hear me above.

    Access from China

    Collaborate can be accessed from within China, but we recommend users download Firefox onto a computer to access sessions if Google Chrome is not available.

    Collaborate works best from a computer, and you should always try to connect your computer to the internet via da network cable. Using a phone to join Collaborate sessions from China is not recommended.

    Local browsers such as UC Browser are not supported. To ensure the highest quality connection, see My connection quality is intermittent.

    Testing by Blackboard indicates that users with China Unicom have the best performance with Collaborate, followed by China Mobile. Users with China Telecom can experience problems accessing sessions.