What is it?

Blackboard is the University of Bristol's centrally supported online learning environment. It has a range of tools for communication, collaboration, assessment, feedback, reflection and content management, as well as providing an online space for activities to support student learning. In 2011-12 spaces for social or non-teaching activities were introduced called organisations.  Blackboard is an example of a virtual learning environment or VLE:

"...a 'Virtual Learning Environment' (VLE) [is] designed to act as a focus for students' learning activities and their management and facilitation, along with the provision of content and resources required to help make the activities successful." [1]

In 2009 we invested in two additional elements of Blackboard, the Content System and the Community System

Each Summer Blackboard is upgraded in order to add new features, enhance existing functionality and fix bugs and issues.

Why use it?

  • To provide students with improved access to course activities and materials – Blackboard courses, organisations and materials can be accessed at any time of the day, from any location that is web-enabled.
  • To enhance opportunities for student-to-student and student-to-faculty communication.
  • To enable student-centred teaching approaches, e.g. by allowing the provision of learning materials in a range of media that support different learning preferences.
  • To reduce time spent on administrative support for learning, for example through re-use of key administrative materials like forms or handbooks.

"The benefits [of using Blackboard ] are independence of location, one point of access, peer and tutor communication, self-paced learning, and informed learning..." [2]


Many of the examples of best practice in technology-enhanced learning on this web site use the suite of tools available in Blackboard, eg:

What support is available?

  • The  Help tab in Blackboard has a range of support materials, including FAQs, and guides.
  • Join our Blackboard Help organisation which contains examples of the use of Blackboard. To do this, log in to Blackboard, and click on the Courses tab at the top. In the Organisations search box type "help" and click Go. You should then see an Organisation with the ID "help_Blackboard".  Hover your mouse over this ID until you see an arrow appear, then click on this arrow and select ‘Enrol’, followed by ‘Submit’ and ‘OK’
  • Request a Blackboard test course (email ) and then use it to practice editing, following the instructions in our staff guide.
  • Our blog contains a list of FAQs for both students and staff, plus service announcements. The blog allows you to sign up to receive email summaries of new posts.
  • We offer Blackboard workshops, that can be modified or amended to align with discipline or practice requirements. If there is not a workshop scheduled please contact us and we will try to arrange something for you.
  • Email our helpdesk:

Further information and useful links


  • [1] Styles, 2000, Effective Learning and the Virtual Learning Environment,, accessed 4/11/2010.
  • [2] Feedback from a University of Bristol Masters student, October 2010.

Note: some of the documents on this page are in PDF format. In order to view a PDF you will need Adobe Acrobat Reader

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Getting help

Further information: Blackboard Blog - help, advice and the latest news from our Blackboard team including known issues and service announcements.

There are further videos and staff guides available within Blackboard on the "Help" tab.