Normally Blackboard Collaborate wouldn’t have made it into our ranking. The vendor fails to deliver one element we see as crucial: making pricing information openly and easily accessible. Even searching the Blackboard website for quite some time left us none the wiser in that regard. Now there are two reasons we decided to test and rank Blackboard Collaborate after all:
- We were curious to see how the successor of Ellumiate vRoom would do, a tool previously ranked 18 in our comparison of online meeting tools.
- The renowned IT-research organization Gartner Inc. lists Blackboard as one of only 12 other vendors among the illustrious gang of Adobe, Microsoft, IBM and AT&T. So the tool must be good, right?
Wrong! After our extensive tests we were surprised to see a phenomenon that usually occurs the other way around. Web conferencing tools tend to get better with every version upgrade and usually climb up a bit in our overview – if only temporarily. Blackboard Collaborate disproved this trend and crashed all the way to 33. The only tool ranked lower is Microsoft NetMeeting, which we really only keep in our ranking for comparison and for which development and upgrading has stopped years back.
So did the programmers do a bad job after Blackboard acquired Elluminate and tried to integrate the vRoom-platform with the Wimba-technology? Well no, we wouldn’t go that far. For basic ‘learning management’ scenarios in which there are clearly defined roles for the participants Blackboard Collaborate works just fine. You can see that the platform has developed from the very specialized field of Learning Management Systems (LMS). If you are looking for a tool that allows you to be flexible in your diverse collaboration scenarios, Blackboard’s tool fails to deliver in areas that are crucial. Just to give you some examples:
- There is no invitation functionality integrated into Outlook.
- Switching control of keyboard and mouse was not possible in our tests – even though this feature is mentioned on the vendor’s website.
- When setting up a meeting the tool does not create a meeting specific ID which means that participants from former meetings can join any time.
Blackboard Collaborate disproves the phrase of “the name says it all”. The product name “Collaborate” promises a set of functionality and a user experience the tool fails to deliver. Blackboard should consider sticking to its strengths and concentrate on the LMS-market in which we would say it has a good standing, and rightfully so. And the IT-researchers from Gartner should perhaps reconsider their selection of vendors for their “Magic Quadrant for Web Conferencing” since for Blackboard it seems quite arbitrary.