Using Blackboard and MS Teams together

Teams is a supported part of our online learning environment - adding key functionality to support communication, collaboration and synchronous interaction. Teams complements, not replaces, Blackboard. To ensure your use is supported and considers student concern around the consistency of their digital learning, please continue to use Blackboard for course materials, assessment and lecture recordings. Where appropriate you may also want to update programme / faculty leads before using Teams for your unit.

Which tool to use for what

To sum up, Blackboard works best for online learning activities that are sequential and asynchronous. Teams works best for online learning activities that are continuous and synchronous. The section below summarises what should go where.


Blackboard provides a consistent and organised repository of learning activities and materials.

Blackboard allows you to structure and sequence learning (particularly asynchronous learning) and provides tools for formative and summative assessments.

Blackboard should be used for:

  • Teaching materials
  • Reading lists
  • Learning activities
  • Assessment activities
  • Assessment-related information
  • Summative assignments and submissions
  • Grades and feedback
  • Quizzes and tests
  • Re/Play videos
  • Links to Teams spaces


Teams facilitates more immediate communication and collaboration, with continuous and synchronous interaction.

Teams affords live teaching, community building and staff and student-led groupwork.

Teams can be used for:

  • Whole class or group meetings (synchronous teaching sessions)
  • Groupwork and group projects (can be facilitated through public or private channels in a unit level Teams)
  • Socialisation and community-building through continuous discussion
  • Group activities such as journal clubs
  • Student presentations, for example to peers
  • Co-creation of Office 365 documents
  • Discussion or communication around a video or other artefact
  • Mentoring, tutoring and supervision, office hours, one to ones
  • Student events and conference activity
  • Online labs, problem/case based classes or fieldwork

Tool strengths

Blackboard is a well-established tool for learning and teaching. It connects to other systems providing library reading lists, lecture recordings and plagiarism detection tools. Schools have worked with the DEO to develop course templates which deliver a more consistent student experience. It’s important that any use of Teams supports the work underway to improve the student experience of the digital environment.

Microsoft originally designed Teams as a business tool, with a focus on continuous and immediate communication and collaboration. At the University, we have come to rely on Teams for remote/distributed organisation and teamwork. Several schools in the University are already using Teams for teaching and learning. 

Blackboard strengths

Blackboard remains the University-supported virtual learning environment. Blackboard offers structure for teaching and learning, and powerful tools for assessment. Through templates and folders, schools can organise and curate activities and materials to reflect the structure, learning requirements and outcomes of the course.

Blackboard has strengths for asynchronous (often individual) learning. A well-structured course makes it easy for students to find learning activities, lecture recordings, materials for revision as well as assessment information, practice or graded tests, assignment submissions, marks and feedback and important announcements.

Blackboard allows you to create linear sequences of learning. For example, you can design a task in which students read an article and watch a video before taking a quiz, submitting an assignment or contributing to a discussion. See, for example, the DEO page on the ABC model of learning design.

Teams strengths

As a collaborative tool, Teams offers immediacy of communication. It excels for synchronous or continuous collaboration and group work. You can use Teams as an alternative to Blackboard Collaborate or Zoom, with breakout groups up to 300 users and a max attendance of 1,000.

Teams offers powerful tools for student group projects, collaboration and group assignments. Students can co-create Office 365 documents, discuss their work in the chat or in live meetings and use tools like Microsoft planner and to-do tools to organise themselves.

Teachers can provide continual feedback to students as they work on projects. Channels (public or private) allow multiple projects or discussions to exist in the same Teams space.

The text Chat feature of Teams, through immediate and continuous communication, can help close the psychological or communicative distance between staff and students (what Moore terms the transactional distance [1]). Students and staff can develop a community of learners through more informal discussion, for example through welcome activities, peer support and Q&A activities.

[1] Moore, M. G., Diehl, W. C. and Diehl, W. C. (2018) Handbook of Distance Education. Routledge. doi: 10.4324/9781315296135.