We set out to overhaul our Blackboard Collaborate product about a year ago, and we’ve made huge strides. Our redesign focused on three core ideas. First, we completely dropped our existing technology platform in favor of a new technology called WebRTC. This allowed us to create a seamless set of interactions that didn’t require teachers and students to download clunky plugins; the product just works.

Next, we brought our video and audio conferencing into our core teaching and learning environments. Students and teachers in Blackboard Learn can dive into a Collaborate session directly from the course shell, and students using Bb Student can engage in a session through their mobile device

And finally, we focused on design. Like the technology platform, we scrapped all of the existing product design and started again. We’re leveraging our New School design language that’s common across all of our emergent products. This drives consistency in visual language (icons, fonts, typography) and also consistency in interactions. This means that the product is super simple to learn, because that platform language knowledge transfers from one product to another.

Since we announced our new product strategy at BbWorld last year, we’ve continually added improvements, refined existing capabilities, and added a host of new capabilities. In the last year, we’ve added Bb Student integration, breakout groups, visible indicators for who is speaking, session downloads, slide content sharing, video recording, multi-language support, improved accessibility support, LTI integration, and more. Since we’re in the home stretch towards BbWorld 2016, I wanted to share some of the new material we’re about to launch.

First, we’re pushing live a completely responsive design that works with integration in both our classic Learn style as well as Learn with the Ultra experience. This means that you can minimize the product to save screenspace when you are on your laptop, or you can access Collaborate on your mobile device outside of the Bb Student native app.

Next, we’ve re-arranged the navigation to better group capabilities around common tasks. We’ve removed extraneous screen elements, so that there’s more room for content and it’s easier to focus on teaching and learning. And we’ve created a better framework for growth, so we can continue to add new capabilities to better help students succeed in their educational journey.

Collaborate

I talked to Justin Boyce, the lead designer on Collaborate, and he explained the thinking behind the new design changes.

We approached this navigation redesign in order to create a structure that would be both recognizable to our current user base and be flexible enough to facilitate the growth of the product.

Imagine walking into a room that was perfectly outfitted for collaboration. The amount of tools to engage and capture are potentially endless, so like any good classroom or studio space we must be organized. We started this organization process by listing out everything Collaborate could do and then grouped until we identified three main spaces: Media, Session, and Collaborate.

The media space in collaborate is where the content of the session is displayed. One of our main goals with the new UI was to maximize the size of this space creating an inherent fullscreen experience at any screen size. Tools that appear in the media space relate directly to the content being shared. This connection through proximity helps set the user’s expectation of what the tool will effect in the session.

The session space is a collection of high level session actions and information that can be accessed using the session menu button at the top left of the screen. Users can now find details about the session as well as help and support type features in a single space.

The collaborate space is where a participant can take their session experience to the next level. Users will now have a single space to go to engage other participants with all the great collaborate tools.

I’m really proud of how far the design, product, and development teams have pushed to produce a world-class product. I hope you find the product powerful in your classroom and supportive of your teaching and learning needs.

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