Blackboard Collaborate Ultra - Securing Meetings

University of Wisconsin System users setting up online meetings with Blackboard Collaborate Ultra can take steps to prevent uninvited participants from joining their webconference sessions.

The recommendations in this guide must be used during meeting setup. For tips on how to deal with disruptive participants during an active online session, see the Blackboard Collaborate Ultra - Dealing with Disruptive Participants guide.

Guest Links

The most common way that uninvited participants get into a Blackboard Collaborate Ultra session is through a generic Guest Link. Guest links are convenient for meeting owners, because they don't have to track meeting registrants or set up meetings through a password-protected system such as Canvas. Anyone who has the Guest link can access the meeting anonymously. Unfortunately, this means that the users you give a guest link to could enter your meeting anonymously and cause disruptions or share the Guest link with others who will do so. 

The following are more secure ways to invite users to Blackboard Collaborate Ultra online meetings:

1) Use Password-Protected Landing Page

One of the simplest ways of reducing the chances of uninvited participants joining a Collaborate Ultra webinar is to not send invited participants a direct link to the meeting. Instead, you can send them a link to a password-protected landing page (such as a Canvas course or Sharepoint site) which contains the Guest link to the meeting.

Sample Canvas course page with a link to a Blackboard Collaborate meeting.

Hiding the Guest link behind a password prevents outside users who accidentally stumble onto a meeting invitation from accessing the meeting (since they would have to log in to a restricted site to see the Guest link). It also makes it slightly harder for one of your invited participants to intentionally share the Guest link, since the invitation doesn't directly contain it. 

Unfortunately, this method will not prevent an invitee who is determined to share your Guest link with other people from doing so, because they can can log in, extract the guest link, and share it with other people.

Meeting owners who want a greater level of meeting security should use one of the other options below.

2) Disable Guest Access

A meeting owner can avoid the security challenges of guest links entirely by turning them off  and more actively managing the invited participants. 

To turn off guest links for a meeting you've created, open up Collaborate Ultra session editing screen and uncheck the Guest Access box.

Collaborate Ultra editing screen featuring the Guest Access check box.

If you turn off guest access after sharing the guest link with participants, make sure to give them another way to access your online meeting (usually through Canvas or individual invitations, below).

3) Canvas "Collaborate Ultra" Feature

If you and your participants are enrolled in a Canvas course with the Collaborate Ultra feature enabled in the course navigation, you can create Blackboard Collaborate Ultra sessions within your course and then disable Guest Access (above). Any student enrolled in the course will have access to your webinar through the Collaborate Ultra link in the course navigation:

Canvas course navigation menu with Collaborate Ultra highlighted.

With Guest Access disabled, anonymous access is disabled too. Enrolled users will appear in the Collaborate Ultra meeting under the same name they have in Canvas's People tool. 

4) Canvas Course Room

An even more secure way of limiting participant access to Collaborate Ultra meetings within a Canvas course is to use the Course Room option. 

Blackboard Collaborate Ultra meeting screen within Canvas with Course Room highlighted.

The Course Room is a default feature of all Collaborate Ultra-enabled Canvas courses. It has all of the advantages of any Canvas-created Collaborate Ultra meeting (above) and in addition, individual sessions can be locked.

Once the instructor has started a Collaborate Ultra session in the Course Room and all of the participants they want have entered, the instructor can return to the tab with the Collaborate Ultra Sessions page and Lock course room.

Blackboard Collaborate Ultra session menu in Canvas with Course Room's menu opened and the "Lock Course Room" option selected.

This prevents other participants from entering the room until the instructor unlocks the Course Room again. This can be used to keep office hours or group meetings confidential or to prevent unwanted users from re-entering after they've been removed.

5) Individual Meeting Invitations

For Collaborate Ultra meetings created through the My Wisconsin portal, the meeting owner can send individual invitations to each user (this is not an option with the Canvas integration). 

An individual invitation creates a unique link for each user which is named (non-anonymous), and can only be used by one person at a time. This allows the meeting owner to disable guest access (above) but still give invited participants a way to access the meeting.

See Blackboard's Invite Attendees to Your Sessions guide for more information about meeting invitations.