Comparing Lesley’s Online Meeting Tools

Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and Collaborate Ultra are all great online meeting tools. They simply do the job in slightly different ways. The one that’s right for you depends on your task, your preferences, and your attendees.

Scheduling Meetings

It’s fairly easy to schedule a basic meeting in all three tools.

Creating a meeting in Teams is very similar to creating on in Outlook. Enter a meeting title, the date and time, the names of the attendees, and click Save. Your meeting will be created and your attendees invited.Calendar invite Teams

To create a meeting in Collaborate Ultra, navigate to your myLesley/Blackboard course and use the Collaborate Ultra scheduler to enter the name, date, and time for your meeting. Optionally, you may set controls for what tools you attendees can use during the meeting. Your students will be able to access the meeting from your class site or you can copy the guest link for the meeting and send it to anyone you wish to join including outside guest speakers.
Create Collaborate Ultra meetingmeeting options for Collaborate Ultra

Zoom meetings are created using the Zoom application or web portal although you can optionally use add-ons for Outlook. Simply click Schedule a New Meeting, enter your meeting name, date, time, and duration and click Save. You can choose meeting options such as requiring a password or enabling a waiting room for security.

Once your meeting is created, copy the invite and email it to your attendees or share the link in your myLesley/Blackboard course.


Meeting Online

All three options are solid online meeting tools. Which one is right for you depends on what you need to do.

Looking for the most webcams: Zoom
If you are looking to have a meeting where you can see everyone’s face and have a discussion, Zoom is the way to go. Zoom can potentially display up to 49 participants. However, that number is dependent on your computer hardware and you will likely need to scroll to see everyone. That said, if your meeting has 20 people or less you should be able to see their face using the gallery view.

Teams will currently display four people, although that number is supposed to go up to nine very soon. Collaborate Ultra will display four people when using Chrome and two when using Firefox. However, that number is expected to increase to around 30 later this year.

Collaboration around projects: Teams
Teams is not just an online meeting tool. It also has individual and group text chat, document sharing and collaboration using OneDrive. You could organize a whole project in Teams (and I have). Create a team for your class. Then create channels, or topics, for discussion and collaboration. The great thing about Teams is that you can use it synchronously and asynchronously allowing you to meet as needed, but keep working together in between meetings… all in the same place.

Traditional virtual classroom: Collaborate Ultra
Collaborate Ultra was built for educators to have class online. Therefore, it has participant management tools for allowing (or not) video, chat, and screen sharing. If you want present a Powerpoint or PDF to your online class in a way that won’t use up all the internet bandwidth, Collaborate is the one to choose. You can do all of these things in Zoom now, too. The main difference is that Zoom started out as a meeting tool and has been adding in participant controls and security. Collaborate Ultra began as a virtual classroom and has been adding in ease-of-use meeting features.

Breakout groups: Collaborate Ultra or Zoom
Both Collaborate Ultra and Zoom will allow you to create breakout groups on the fly for small group discussions during your meeting. Participants can use their mics, video, screen share and use the whiteboard. Zoom’s communication tools to the breakout groups is currently a little better while Collaborate Ultra is integrated into the Groups tool in Blackboard. This would allow each group to use Collaborate Ultra whenever they needed.



Collaborate Ultra is fully integrated into Blackboard. You can use the always available Course Room, schedule additional sessions as needed, view recordings, track attendance, and allow students doing groupwork to have their own Collaborate Ultra session within the Groups tool.

Zoom is integrated into Blackboard with almost all the same capabilities. It won’t integrate into other Blackboard tools the way Collaborate Ultra does, but you are able to schedule meetings, watch recordings and track attendance. Zoom also has a marketplace of apps you can integrate to make Zoom even more useful. Currently approved apps include Teams, OneDrive, Google Drive, Dropbox, and Calendly. Please note: Marketplace apps must be approved for use by Lesley.

Teams also has a long list of apps you can integrate, but most of them won’t be useful unless you are using all of Teams capabilities, not just meeting online.



Zoom began as a meeting tool that was easy to use and access. The downside of that ease of use is it has been less secure than other tools. However, there are ways to make your Zoom meeting more secure. Do not post the link to your meeting publicly. Set a password for the meeting for extra security. Use the Waiting Room feature and then admit each person as they arrive. Only the people you admit will be able to access the meeting. Or create your meeting in your Blackboard course and ask students to access it there.

Collaborate Ultra is available in your Blackboard course. Online meetings created in your course can only be accessed by students and faculty with access to that course. However, if you broadly share the guest link to your meeting or post if publicly, anyone with that guest link will have access to that meeting. Moderators may remove any uninvited guests.

For Teams meetings, you will invite each person to your meeting as you would when creating an Outlook calendar invite. Those invitees could forward the invite to others, but they will be placed in a waiting lobby until you allow them to join the meeting.



Real-time captions – Teams
Currently Teams is the only meeting tool that has live machine captions. Unfortunately, not everyone has it as it’s still in beta, but it should be rolling out to everyone soon. Both Zoom and Collaborate Ultra allow you to assign someone to act as a captioner. This person can then type in the captions and anyone who needs them can view in real time.

If you are using an ASL interpreter, both Zoom and Teams will allow your attendees to pin the interpreter’s video on the screen so it is always visible.

Captioned recordings – Zoom and Teams
Both Zoom and Teams will automatically caption your recordings using machine AI. This option is still not available for Collaborate Ultra, but it is expected soon. All three tools will allow you to download a video of your recording. This video can be uploaded to Kaltura in your Blackboard course. Kaltura will automatically caption the video.

Polls – Collaborate Ultra and Zoom
Both Collaborate Ultra and Zoom will allow you to create and share a poll during your online meeting, but they do it a little differently. Zoom requires that you create your poll in the Zoom web portal. This means that only hosts can create a poll, although co-hosts have the ability to launch it. Polls in Collaborate Ultra are created within the meeting and can be done by any moderator or presenter. However, polls are much simpler in Collaborate Ultra. You simply choose the number of multiple choice options and then either state the question or have it on a presentation slide. In Zoom, the question can be included with the multiple choice options.

Attendance – Collaborate Ultra
Collaborate Ultra has a slight edge if you wish to track attendance. Both Collaborate Ultra and Zoom will allow you to view a report of who attended your meeting. However, Collaborate Ultra will also allow you to send that information to your Blackboard courses Attendance tool allowing you to take attendance for all of your meetings in one place. An attendance grade will appear in the Grade Center for you to optionally include in your overall grade calculations.


View Online Meeting Skills and Tutorials to find out more about using each of these tools.


Invite a Guest Speaker into Your Classroom Via a Web Meeting

Would you like to invite a guest speaker to come talk to your face-to-face class? Maybe your guest speaker lives in another city or another state or even another country. Not to worry – you can invite them to speak to your class remotely using Blackboard Collaborate Ultra!

Collaborate Ultra is integrated into your myLesley course. But your guest speaker does not need to be enrolled in your course in order to join the session. Instead, you will create a session (or use your existing course room) and send them a guest link. At the appointed time, your guest speaker will click on the link and join your session. You can project your session using your laptop and the existing classroom technology. Your guest speaker will be up on the screen and able to interact with your class.

Sounds great! How do I begin?

Before you begin, check the the Blackboard Collaborate Ultra system Requirements and Accessibility to make sure that your system is compatible. For the best experience, use the Chrome browser.

Once you have determined that you are using a supported browser and your system is compatible, either create a new Collaborate Ultra session or use your existing Collaborate Course Room.

Once your session has been created (or you decide to use your existing Course Room), click on your session to open the settings.

  • Check the box to allow guest access,
  • change the guest role to presenter or moderator, and
  • copy the guest link.
Collaborate Ultra session information detailing guest access information
Collaborate Ultra session information

Paste the guest link into an email and send the email to your guest speaker. You should also include a link to the Blackboard Collaborate Ultra system Requirements and Accessibility. This will help your guest speaker make sure that their system is compatible. If your guest speaker has never used Collaborate Ultra before, send along Conducting Your Collaborate Ultra Sessionto help them familiarize themselves with the tool.

Do I need any special equipment?

For the most part, the technology available in your classroom should be sufficient. We recommend connecting to the wired Lesley network via the ethernet cable in your classroom. This will make for a smoother experience.

If you plan to have a Q&A session you may want to reserve the ClearOne Chat 160 microphone. You can reserve this equipment online using WebCheckout. If you do not need or want the microphone you can simply have your students ask questions and you can repeat the questions to the guest speaker.

Does my guest speaker need any special equipment?

Your guest speaker will need a webcam, speakers, and a microphone. If they are in a quiet location, the speakers and microphone built in to their computer will suffice. If they are in a noisier location we recommend that they use a headset. There is no need for a fancy headset – the earbuds that come with most cell phones will suffice.

Your guest speaker will also want to ensure that they are using a strong internet connection. If possible, they should plug in to a wired connection. If they cannot use a wired connection they should use a strong, reliable wi-fi connection.

I’m in my classroom on the day of the session. What now?

To begin, plug your laptop into the classroom projection system. If you are connecting via VGA, be sure to also connect the audio cable. If you are using an external microphone, plug that in to your computer.

Next, plug the ethernet cable into your laptop and connect to the Lesley network. Once you are connected, navigate to myLesley and launch your Collaborate Ultra session.

Once the session launches, check your audio and video settings to make sure they are working correctly. If you are using an external microphone, make sure the microphone is selected.

How does my guest speaker join the session?

Your guest speaker will click the link you sent and join the session. Once the session launches, they should check their audio and video settings to make sure they are working correctly. If they are using an external microphone, make sure the microphone is selected.

We’re both in the session. Now what?

Once you are both in the session, your guest speaker can turn on the webcam and the microphone and begin to speak. If they are sharing any content, they can either upload a file or presentation or they may share their screen. More information may be found here: Conducting Your Collaborate Ultra Session.

Making the Switch to Collaborate Ultra

Still using Collaborate Original as your myLesley web conferencing tool? It’s time to switch to Collaborate Ultra. Earlier this year, Collaborate Ultra was integrated into myLesley and this January 2018, we will remove Collaborate Original from myLesley as part of our migration to SaaS.

Why are we making the switch?

Collaborate Original has been integrated into myLesley for several years. It has served us well, but as a java-based tool it required users to install multiple softwares on their computer often making it difficult to simply access an online meeting. Many faculty and students also found the interface overwhelming and clunky.

Collaborate Ultra has many advantages. First of all, it’s web-based. There is nothing to install on your computer prior to using Collaborate Ultra. Simply click on the link to the online meeting and join.

Secondly, it has a streamlined, easier to use interface. Faculty who have used it to meet with their students have found it much easier to use with a more familiar interface making it faster find the tools they need. We’ve been using it here in eLIS for two years and have been able to meet with many faculty, staff and students online while providing minimal to no prior training.

Finally, Collaborate Ultra is also integrated directly into myLesley. You can start using it right now.

Check it Out!

Take a look at the new look and feel in this video tour.

If you have questions or need assistance switching to Collaborate Ultra, contact us at

A New Webinar Tool in myLesley

There’s a new web conferencing tool coming to myLesley this January and it’s called Collaborate Ultra.

Why are we excited?
Collaborate Ultra runs in your web browser window. That means that there’s no need to download and install the latest version of java or the Collaborate Launcher before you can join an online meeting. Just click on the webinar link and join your session.

Collaborate Ultra has been completely redesigned with a streamlined interface that’s easy to navigate. Users can easily view content, manage their audio/video, and participate in the chat.

Collaborate_Ultra_InterfaceThe new interface also includes the gallery or grid view of participants that you have been craving. Now you can see everyone’s face, not just the speaker.

grid view

Do you share your computer screen to demonstrate how to do something or give a tour of your course? Collaborate Ultra’s screen sharing feature is faster, smoother, and easier to use than the old Collaborate so your participants will be able to easily follow along.


A few important details
Collaborate Ultra works best in the Chrome web browser. Other web browsers, such as Firefox or Safari, will be missing a couple of features:

  • The gallery view of webinar attendees is only available in Chrome. When using another browser you will only be able to see the webcam of the person speaking.
  • In order to share your screen you must use Chrome. When using other browsers users will be able to see what is being shared with them, but will not be able to share their own computer desktop.

Your old Collaborate recordings will still be available to you within your myLesley course. Simply go to the old Collaborate tool to access them as always.


Learn more about Collaborate Ultra
Get all the info on how to use Collaborate Ultra at our support site and check out the video below to get a tour of the interface.

VoiceThread: Peer Review and Advanced Commenting Features (Webinar Recording)

On January 20, Sadie Anderson from VoiceThread conducted a training webinar for Lesley faculty, focusing on peer review and the advanced commenting features now available in VoiceThread. A recording of the webinar is below.

For more information on VoiceThread’s new commenting tools, see:
Private Commenting
Threaded Commenting
Direct Reply
Comment Moderation

Want to learn more about using VoiceThread in your course? Sign up for one of VoiceThread’s free online workshops or view a recording from a past workshop: