Getting started with Blackboard

This article provides a very basic introduction to Blackboard. If you want more detail, go straight to the article: What do I need to know about using Blackboard at SHU?

Getting started with Blackboard
This guide will explain what Blackboard is, and introduce you to the basics. There are references to related TEL Help articles throughout. At the end of this guide is an overview of the support and guidance available to you.

What is Blackboard?
Blackboard is the virtual learning environment (VLE) at Sheffield Hallam University.

What is a Blackboard site?
Blackboard sites are individual online sites that are managed by teaching staff to support learning, teaching and assessment (LTA) activities. This might include information, resources, instructions and tools. Access to each site is restricted to the staff and students enrolled on it, making Blackboard a secure environment.

There are two different types of Blackboard site: module sites and organisation sites. They are identical in functionality, however they are used differently:

Module sites are used for validated modules. Module-specific learning materials should be put into these. When students are assigned to a module in SI (the Student Information system), they are automatically enrolled on the relevant module site. Each unique module should have its own module site for each cohort(there are rare exceptions to this). Module leaders are responsible for setting up, managing content and enrolling other module staff onto the site.

Organisation sites are used to support courses, programmes, student placements and other purposes. Organisation sites are for communication and support outside of a module context, not for storing module learning materials, meaning they should not contain any information specific to one particular module, as they will be available to all students in the organisation. Organisation site enrolments are done manually by local staff, normally course administrators.

How do I access my Blackboard Sites?
Staff and students reach their Blackboard sites via MyHallam, the personalised student portal ( MyHallam provides access to all of the generic online systems and resources students use while studying here. There is a link to MyHallam at the top of the Staff Intranet pages ( Staff log-in using their SHU network username and password. See the Introduction to MyHallam article in TEL Help.

On the lefthand side of Blackboard, you will see channels titled "Modules" and "Organisations". Within these channels you will find the sites that you are enrolled on, along with the site code. When you first enter these channels you will be shown your Current Sites, these are all your active sites from the current academic year. If you wish to see sites from previous or upcoming academic years, you can either select a year from the drop-down menu at the center of the header, or you can use the arrows on the left and right of the header to cycle through academic years. See the How to access sites from previous years article in TEL Help.

To access a site, click on its name. If the Blackboard site name has ‘(unavailable)’ after it, this means that enrolled staff can access the site, but it is hidden from students. This is useful while you are developing your site, but once you are ready to start using it with students, you will need to make the site available. See the How do I make my site available? article in TEL Help.

As a new member of staff, you may be inheriting or teaching on somebody else's Blackboard site. If you cannot see or access a site that think you should be able to, check with the module leader and ask them to enrol you.

If you are the module leader, and cannot see the Blackboard site, you might need to request a brand new site for your module. On the Blackboard Home Page, click the Blackboard Tools link in the Staff Tools channel. Next, click New site/copy existing site to start the process of requesting a new site. You will need the SI module code (you can get this from your course administrator). See the How to request a new site article in TEL Help.

What am I seeing in my site?
When you first enter your Blackboard site, you will see a menu on the left-hand side. Clicking on a menu item will bring up content on the right-hand side. Your students will see this same interface when viewing your site. The 'Edit Mode' button in the top right hand corner allows you to switch between viewing the site mostly as your students see it, and being able to Edit aspects of your site. See the What is Edit Mode? article in TEL Help.

If you have a new Blackboard site, the menu you will see is the University standard site design. We recommend that staff do not change the names of the default menu items, in order to preserve consistency across the University. However please hide menu items you are not using and add new menu items as necessary for teaching on your module. See the Customising the Site Menu article in TEL Help.

Making changes to a site is straightforward. With the 'Edit Mode' on, you can click on a menu area to edit it. You will also be able to see the control panel which only staff have access to and that contains useful links to specific tools such as Grade Centre, groups, and customisation settings. In the Control Panel, you will see links to the different menu areas, tools, and settings for your site. Clicking on an item will provide you with options to edit that part of your site.

Sheffield Hallam has a set of minimum expectations for use of Blackboard for e-learning. If you are just starting out, these can act as a prompt and guide to get you started. See the Minimum expectations for e-learning at SHU article in TEL Help.

For more detailed information about how Blackboard works at Sheffield Hallam, who can access it, how sites are managed, content of sites and how they are archived and managed centrally see the What do I need to know about using Blackboard at SHU? article in TEL Help.

How do I get help with Blackboard?
There is a range of support available to help you in using Blackboard. A link to TEL Help can be found under TEL Applications on the Blackboard Home Page. Clicking the 'question mark' button at the bottom right of every page in Blackboard will pop-up a help window with suggested help articles related to activities on that page or allow you to search for the help that you need.

A student digital skills page about Blackboard is also available, and can be accessed at This link was added to all Blackboard sites by default under the item 'Blackboard Help'.


SH 09/11/22

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