Distance Library Skills Workshop and Induction with Collaborate


Angela Joyce contacted the Digital Education Office enquiring about Blackboard Collaborate Ultra, a webinar and video-conferencing tool built into Blackboard. She wanted to improve the student experience for distance learners studying at a partner institution in Hong Kong. Angela was keen to try something more immediate and interactive than simply sending students a PowerPoint presentation or linear video, so using Blackboard Collaborate Ultra seemed like a good fit, as it would allow her to present and interact with students in a different timezone and continent.


School of Education, Library Service


  • Angela Joyce (Subject Librarian for Education)
  • Dr Janet Orchard (School of Education)
  • Martin Nutbeem (Digital Education Office)

Tools used

Related guidance

Objectives for the Digital Education Office

With Collaborate Ultra being a relatively new tool, we were happy to support using it to deliver workshops to overseas students. Objectives included:

  • Identifying or creating a suitable Blackboard space to host the Collaborate room needed for the sessions
  • Identifying and supporting a workflow for the presenter and attendees to follow
  • Advising on best practice
  • Setting up a dry run, with Angela in the UK and Janet in Hong Kong, prior to the event to help inform future support/enquiries.

What was done

The DEO met with Angela to discuss her plans to deliver library sessions to overseas students via a webinar format. We evaluated what was needed in terms of technology, hardware and location. Angela then set up a suitable date to have a dry run, while Janet was in Hong Kong, in order to test out the equipment and evaluate the quality of the connection. With this successfully tested, a date was agreed for Angela to deliver a Library Skills Workshop to students gathered in a room at the partner institution. As well as using Collaborate Ultra as a platform, Janet and Angela identified several alternative methods to deliver the workshop in the event of technological issues.

In May 2018, Angela and Janet held the Collaborate-based workshop. Unfortunately, a faulty headset on Angela's end meant the attendees in Hong Kong could not hear Angela, so the alternative plans were implemented and the session went ahead. Although it hadn't worked as planned, the students were very keen on the idea of a webinar-style session, and appreciative of the efforts made, so another attempt was planned for a later date.

The DEO met with Angela to investigate the issue and quickly identified the faulty headset as the cause of the lack of sound. A replacement headset was tested, with Janet in Hong Kong, confirming the technology was working. 

In September 2018, Angela and Janet successfully ran two Library Inductions back-to-back, with students viewing the presentation in a classroom setting and then being able to ask questions to Angela directly. This second attempt was so successful that Angela and Janet found themselves 'twiddling their thumbs', as they'd allowed addtional time for troubleshooting which was unneeded. 

As a result of this experience, Janet has been using the tool for other online meetings due to its ease of use and availability. 

Issues and Considerations

  • Testing equipment and platform is needed to enable familiarity and confidence.
  • With users in different timezones, arranging timeslots correctly is important.
  • Ensuring backup methods of communication or instruction are in place; being prepared for technical glitches.