There are several ways instructors may set up online discussions with students in Blackboard. Most of them are asynchronous, while virtual office hours are live. All of them, other than virtual office hours, can be used with specific user groups.
These are threaded conversations organized by topic. Contributions to Blackboard discussion forums may be graded assignments and assigned to groups. See how to create one: Create a Forum
Blogs are short blurbs, essays, or articles arranged chronologically with comments (responses) below. Blogs in Blackboard may be graded assignments and assigned to groups of students. See how to create one: Create a Blog (Note. Some features may no longer be available on Bb Ultra).
Wikis are editable web pages. They may be used for free-form conversations and brainstorming, as well as collaborative composition and revision. This feature automatically records version history to track who has made each change and when. Wikis in Blackboard may be graded assignments and assigned to groups. See how to create one: Create a Wiki (Note. Some features may no longer be available on Bb Ultra).
Office Hours in Blackboard is a chat room that all students in the course may join. This cannot be automatically added to the Grade Center or assigned to individual groups. It is a good tool for answering questions and discussing in realtime. You will have to communicate at what time(s) you will be available. (What are your virtual office hours?)
With Collaborate Ultra, you can create a course area for your virtual office hours that students can enter to communicate at set times. To activate Collaborate Ultra on your course, see our Blackboard for Instructors section on enabling Collaborate Ultra. To learn how to set up Virtual Office Hours using Collaborate Ultra, see this tutorial: How to Create Virtual Office Hours using Collaborate Ultra.