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Suggested troubleshooting steps

Summary

This article provides basic home network troubleshooting tips for users that are having issues accessing or participating in Collaborate Ultra sessions. Issue may include:

  • Poor audio
  • Poor video
  • Can't connect to a session

Best practices for best experience

All attendees

  • Close all programs on your computer except for the browser you are using for your Collaborate session.
  • Use a hard-wired (Ethernet) connection, if available. If not available, use a Wifi connection.
  • Only use up-to-date Internet browsers that are supported by Blackboard Collaborate.
  • Use video during the session only when necessary.

Moderators

If you are concerned about attendees missing something because of poor network connections, you also can try these things.

  • Record sessions so attendees can review what they may have missed.
  • Upload presentations and scripts where attendees can find them.
  • Mute attendees in large sessions. If you need to, you can also stop participants from sharing their video from Session Settings.
  • Monitor connection status of attendees to see if anyone may be missing anything. Keep the Attendees panel open to make this easier.

More best practices on Behind the Blackboard (available in English only)


If you suspect that your network or ISP is causing your Collaborate Ultra session issues, please try the following:

  • Use a hardwired ethernet connection to your router.
  • If hardwiring is not an option, and you must use WiFi, be sure that you are located as close to the router as physically possible.
  • Ensure that the router is properly placed in the home for maximum efficiency:
    • For example, place the router in a high spot in the centre of the room, away from other electronic devices, windows, microwaves etc.
  • Restart the modem and/or router.
  • Reboot your computer.
  • Shut down all unnecessary programs on your computer being used to access the Collaborate Ultra session, especially programs that use an internet connection such as email, instant messaging clients, streaming services (Netflix, YouTube etc), other web conferencing options (Skype etc).
  • Limit the number of devices and services using the network connection in the home like tablets, cell phones, smart tv's, streaming devices and streaming services (Netflix etc), gaming consoles, and other computers.
  • Call your ISP and ask them to test your network components.
  • If you purchased your router separately, call your router manufacturer for router support.

Connection status

You can check the connection status for everyone in the session, including yourself. There are two places you can watch the status of network connections.

  • From the Attendees panel
  • From your profile picture on the main stage

Look for the connection status indicator and move your pointer over it. From the details that appears you can tell if the connection is great, okay, or poor. To learn more about what the information means, see Connection status details.

If you are using a keyboard for navigation, use your keyboard to access the attendees list in the Attendee panel. Navigate to an attendee. The connection details for that attendee appears. Screen reader users can access this content using standard keyboard navigation commands.

If your connection is poor, a connection status indicator appears over your profile picture. Move your pointer over it for the connection details.

This information is always updating. Collaborate adjusts your experience based on your current connection.


Connection status details

There is a lot of information in the connection status details. But what does it all mean?

An attendee's network connection is either excellent, good, fair, or poor.

  • Excellent: Attendee can share, see, and hear everything with no issues.
  • Good: Attendee can share, see, and hear everything with little to no issues.
  • Fair: Attendee may experience some changes in their experience.
  • Poor: Attendee may have difficulty hearing, seeing, or sharing anything.

Up and Down

The Up and Down shows the attendee’s ability to upload and download information at that time. This includes their ability to share or see audio, video, and content.

If Up is poor, the attendee may have difficulty sharing their video. If Up is good, they should have no trouble. If Down is good, the attendee should have no trouble seeing and hearing everything. If Down is poor, the attendee may be having difficulty.

Up data only appears when the attendee is sharing something.

Bitrate

Bitrate is a measure of how much audio and video data is being delivered. Generally, the higher the number, the better the quality. However, the content being shared has an impact on this number as well. For example, if you are only sharing audio, this number will be low simply because audio does not have a very high bitrate. These are some examples of how much different features contribute to the bitrate:

  • Audio always uses 48 kbps.
  • Each video typically uses 360 kbps but can drop as low as 20 kbps depending on network conditions.
  • Application sharing ranges from 70 kbps to 500 kbps depending on the content being shared and network conditions.

Fortunately, there is no need to figure out from these numbers what an attendee might be experiencing. Collaborate does the math for you. The connection status indicator tells you what an attendee’s experience is most likely to be (excellent, good, fair or poor).

Loss (Audio)

As audio and video streams over the network, some information may be lost. Video loss generally isn’t important, but audio loss is. The Loss (Audio) row indicates the percentage of audio data lost on the up and down link. These are the thresholds Collaborate uses to determine the attendee’s experience:

  • 10% and lower: Good or Excellent. Attendees should have no trouble hearing anything.
  • 10% to 20%: Fair. Attendees might have some trouble hearing. But even at this level of loss, audio is often very good. Issues might arise if the loss is concentrated at particular times.
  • 20% or higher: Poor. Attendees will likely notice audio dropping out, or sounding robotic periodically.

Blackboard’s audio processing algorithms can often mitigate even very high rates of data loss. Losing 20% to 30% of audio data can still result in usable audio if the data is lost evenly over time. If someone’s Loss is at those levels, communication may still be possible, but it is not guaranteed.

Delay

The Delay value indicates how long it is taking for audio data from the attendee’s machine to reach the Blackboard servers.

Attendees that have particularly high delays of 1 or more seconds may not appear to be responding in a conversational way. Please allow time for them to respond before assuming they won’t.

Joining and reconnecting

Collaborate also tells you when attendees are in the process of joining or reconnecting to the session.

  • If an attendee is still joining you see Joining... with their name. In the Attendee panel their avatar is circled in purple and then green. After they have joined the avatar appears as normal.
  • If an attendee is reconnecting you see Reconnecting... with their name. In the Attendee panel their avatar is circled in red. After they have reconnected the avatar appears as normal.
  • If you are reconnecting your status changes to indicate you are reconnecting and your main tools, such as audio and video, are disabled.

You can turn on visual and audio notifications to let you know when someone is joining or reconnecting. Go to My Settings and select Notification Settings. Choose the notification you want.

Attendee is joining

Attendee is reconnecting

You are reconnecting


Dynamic adjustments

Collaborate dynamically adjusts to sending and receiving connection bandwidth changes in the quality of your internet connection. As your connection improves or degrades, the bandwidth use for video is adjusted up and down.

Some situations may require additional adjustment. Collaborate adds explicit experience changes to accommodate a wider range of connectivity blips.

When the experience changes, you are notified and told why.

Experience changes for download conditions

When your network connection can't handle downloads the video and application sharing experience changes.

Optimal bandwidth Reduced bandwidth Why it changes
Video for one active speaker is showing. Audio is on for all attendees. The active speaker's video is replaced with their profile picture.There is no change in the audio. The connection can't handle the video download.
Video for one active speaker is showing while an application is being shared. Audio is on for all attendees. The active speaker's video is replaced with their profile picture.There is no change in the audio and application sharing. The connection can't handle the video and application sharing downloads.
The profile picture for one active speaker is showing while an application is being shared. Audio is on for all attendees. There is no change in the active speaker profile picture and audio.If there is enough bandwidth, application sharing sends in reduced quality. A broken sharing badge appears in this case. If there isn't enough bandwidth, application sharing stops. The connection can't handle the application sharing download.
Video for multiple speakers are showing. Audio is on for all attendees. Video shows for only the active speaker.There is no change in the audio. The connection can't handle multiple video downloads.

Experience changes for upload conditions

When your network connection can't handle uploads the video and application sharing experience changes.

Optimal bandwidth Reduced bandwidth Why it changes
A user is sharing high quality video. This can be their camera video or video content that is shared. The video switches to a lower quality video stream. The connection can't handle uploading high quality video.
A user is sharing high quality video. This can be their camera video or video content that is shared. The camera is disabled and video is no longer sent.Audio is still being sent.

Others will see this attendee's profile picture instead.

The connection can't handle uploading video.
A moderator with disabled video is sharing an application. Audio can still be sent. If there is enough bandwidth, application sharing shows in reduced quality. If there isn't enough bandwidth, you can no longer see application sharing. The connection can't handle application sharing uploads.

FAQs

What are the primary factors in bandwidth consumption when using Collaborate with the Ultra experience?

Collaborate adjusts bandwidth use dynamically. This allows us to actively monitor user network connection and adjust the download speeds before the user should experience issues.

The primary factors in bandwidth consumption for Collaborate Ultra are sharing webcam videos and sharing applications.

  • Webcam video bandwidth uses ranges from 360kbps down to 20kbps per camera, up to 4 cameras
  • Audio always uses 48kbps
  • Ability to receive application sharing and audio as low as 88kbps
  • Application sharing bandwidth uses ranges from 500kbps down to 70kbps
  • Can show 4 cameras with audio as low as 128kbps and with a max of 1488kbps.

A small amount of overhead is also required for chat, and so on.

If network conditions falter and can't sustain the minimum bandwidth needed, we'll turn off cameras and application sharing. For 1 camera and audio the trigger will be 68 kbps and for application sharing and audio 118 kbps.

When network conditions improve, the camera and application sharing turn back on automatically.

What should I do if bandwidth is a concern?

For sessions where bandwidth is a concern, we recommend that no attendees share their webcam video unless required for the instruction. We also recommend that the moderator or presenter use file sharing and whiteboard for content instead of application sharing. Use application sharing when it is required for the instruction. With no video and application sharing, a user with 128kbps connection will be able to participate fully in the session.

We recommend that you inform your instructors to disable video sharing for participants and rely more on file sharing than application sharing. Please also keep in mind that bandwidth is not only a concern regarding the network. Other factors, such as latency, jitter, and packet loss can all affect the quality of the session.

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