Synchronous Online Sessions

Synchronous live sessions are online meetings, webinars or collaborative sessions that take place in a video or audio conferencing tool. They are especially important when learning takes place mostly online, but are also powerful in complementing face to face sessions. You can use synchronous live sessions to:

  • present a topic
  • discuss topics with students
  • answer questions about a topic, or a course more generally
  • keep in touch with students
  • enable human connection with and between students when learning takes place mostly online
  • increase student engagement

Students can also use them amongst themselves to collaborate on tasks.

For online or blended learning, aim to include at least one synchronous session per week with students on each unit for an interactive taught session. Make the most of synchronous lecture sessions by including engaging interactions, such as polls or chat throughout. Use engaging and meaningfull tasks before or after a session, to draw out existing knowledge and views, or consolidate and build on the material discussed, respectively. Record these live sessions to provide an asynchronous option for students who cannot attend. This will maximize inclusivity and flexibility, as students will be able to learn from the sessions, even if they couldn't join at the time.


Collaborate, Teams and Zoom include chat, a whiteboard, polling, hand raising, screen, application and file sharing. However the detail of how these work may vary, so you should try them out to ensure they meet your requirements before use.

Tool comparison

Getting started
FeaturesCollaborate UltraMicrosoft TeamsZoom
Main support website Class Collaborate Ultra help MS Teams help Zoom help
UoB Support materials Collaborate Teams for teaching Zoom help from IT services
Accessibility Collaborate accessibility pages Microsoft Teams accessibility pages Zoom accessibility pages
Chat Yes Yes Yes
Hand raising Yes Yes Yes
Polling Yes Yes Yes
Breakout rooms (group work) Yes Yes (max 50) Yes
Share white board Yes Yes Yes
Share/download files Yes Yes Yes
Screen sharing capabilities Yes Yes – in a chat or a meeting Yes
Attendance tracking in Blackboard Yes No No

Participant numbers
FeaturesCollaborate UltraMicrosoft TeamsZoom
Max simultaneous webcams 25 in Gallery mode 49 on screen 49 on screen
Max. no of simultaneous audio 5 49 49
Max. no participants Standard: 250 – full functionality. Large: 500 – limited functionality, see large event option.

1000 (standard), (breakout rooms up to 300).

300 participants. (Up to 50 separate break-out rooms is possible, but with 50 breakout rooms, there is a max of 200 participants.)
Large event option Up to 500, but with limited tools. Non-presenters cannot share audio, video, or draw on whiteboard. No breakout groups or polling, but chat can be activated for Q&A. Yes Can have large meeting capacity or webinar. Both options allow 500 / 1000 attendees.

FeaturesCollaborate UltraMicrosoft TeamsZoom
Multiple moderators Yes Yes Yes
Control features Chat – private for moderators only


Invitee permissions can be set by organiser

Chat - public or private

Mute/unmute audience microphones/cameras

Invitee permissions are set by organizer

Waiting lobby room

Chat - public or private

Mute/unmute audience microphones/cameras

Invitee permissions are set by the owner

Waiting lobby room

FeaturesCollaborate UltraMicrosoft TeamsZoom
Supported browsers. Latest browser versions are recommended Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Microsoft Edge Chromium Chrome, Firefox, Safari, IE Chromium Chrome, Firefox, Edge Chromium, Safari
Browser based (no download required) Yes Yes Yes
Mobile app available Yes Yes Yes
Desktop app/client available No (web based) Yes (Mac, Windows, Linux (X86)) Yes (Mac, Windows)
Bandwidth information for audio with video. In general, when more bandwidth is available, quality and usage will increase to deliver the best experience. Up to 360 kbps (presenter) and 1488 kbps (participant) Up to 2 mbps per second recommended for presenter/participant  Up to 2 mbps per second recommended for presenter/participant single screen
Licence status Bundled with Blackboard licence Institutional licence for all staff and students Institutional license for all staff and students

Recording and captioning sessions
FeaturesCollaborate UltraMicrosoft TeamsZoom
Can record session Yes Yes Yes
Recording downloadable Yes Yes Yes
Recording format MP4 video MP4 video MP4 video
Edit video recordings No Yes, edit in Stream Yes, can be trimmed in Cloud
Automated Live Captions Yes Yes Yes
Manual closed captioning Yes (captioner role) Yes (captioner role) Yes (captioner role)

Teaching spaces

If you need to video conference in a teaching space, you can use your own computer, or a video conferencing room (Surface Hub or Logitech Meetup enabled).

In teaching spaces, audio from microphones or from computers is channeled to speakers in the room and to the Re/Play recorder. It is not designed to be channeled back into computers, which would be required for video conferencing. There are also no cameras in most teaching spaces, apart from a few required by maths-based subjects that use chalkboards. Class Collaborate, Zoom and Microsoft Teams are not installed on teaching PCs, as without audio or video they would not work (and might popup messages during teaching).