What do I need to know about using Blackboard at SHU?

This article explains how Blackboard can be used at SHU, and contains useful information about who can access the system, how it can be used, and what support is available. If you want a simpler starting point, please see the 'Getting started with Blackboard article'.

Appropriate Use

Blackboard is intended to support teaching, learning and assessment for Sheffield Hallam University staff and students. Staff may use Blackboard for:

  • supporting the teaching and learning of Sheffield Hallam students
  • supporting academic administration processes
  • management of academic content
  • supporting research activities.

Some of the tools within Blackboard are also accessible to external users. Functionality which requires users to have an account is restricted as described in the Access to Blackboard section.

Access to Blackboard

Blackboard is normally available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Some periods of downtime are necessary to allow essential maintenance and system upgrades. Wherever possible these will be scheduled outside normal working hours, and publicised at least one week in advance.

All staff and enrolled students of Sheffield Hallam University have access to the Blackboard system using their normal SHU username and password. Staff and student accounts are created automatically as part of the process to create their IT accounts.

Staff who are not employed by SHU but who are employed by other organisations associated with the university and are directly involved in teaching students enrolled at SHU can be given access where necessary for their SHU teaching activities. External examiners have accounts created for them after their complete induction which they can use to access Blackboard if you decide to enrol them on your Blackboard site. It is not possible to give access to other users, for example workplace mentors, employers. Requests for access should be made via the tools within Blackboard. This will give access to Blackboard only; it is not possible to give access to other resources, for example electronic information resources such as journals.

All users are expected to adhere to the IT Usage Regulations and the university’s data protection policy. For non-SHU staff the person requesting access must ensure that the user is aware of all relevant SHU policies and guidelines.

Site Management

There are two types of sites available for use on Blackboard: module sites and organisation sites. Staff are responsible for requesting new sites as necessary. Requests can be made via the link under the Blackboard Tool section of the Blackboard home page.

Module sites are used to support teaching and learning activities for a specific instance of a validated module. Each instance of a module should have its own Blackboard site. Module sites on Blackboard are linked to the student management system, and map directly to a specific occurrence of a single module. Where there are multiple occurrences or versions of a module on the student management system, but students are taught together, modules can be linked to allow a single Blackboard site to support multiple instances of a module. It is not possible to do this in other circumstances, for example where two modules contain similar content, but are taught at different times, or to link a single instance of a module to multiple Blackboard sites.

Organisation Sites

Organisation sites are available to support other teaching and learning related activities, for example study skills, placements, general course support and guidance. Organisations should not be used for assessment. There are three models for organisations for student use:

  • Level specific
  • Cohort specific
  • All levels

Level specific
This type of organisation is typically used to provide course level support and guidance, and separate sites are set up for each level. New sites are required every year.

Cohort specific
A single organisation site which is used by a specific cohort of students throughout their time at the university. A new site is required for each new intake.

All levels
A single site which is accessed by students from different levels/programmes. Each instance of the site can last for one year only, after which a new site must be set up, and any students who still need access enrolled onto the new site. This type of site can also be set up for self enrolment if required.

Enrolment on Blackboard Sites

Student enrolment onto Blackboard sites is managed by Faculties, and is handled by an automatic data transfer from the student management system for module sites, and the submission of batch files for organisation sites. Students can only be enrolled on module sites for modules they are currently studying. In exceptional cases, access to additional modules can be allowed to facilitate research into teaching and learning. Requests for such access will be considered on a case by case basis by the TEL Operations group, and should be submitted via 'Contact IT Help' by clicking on the question mark icon in the bottom right of any Blackboard page. Students can only be enrolled as student or participant roles, other than research students who are supporting the teaching of a module.

Enrolling and removing staff is the responsibility of the staff managing the site. Any member of staff enrolled on the site as instructor, leader, teaching assistant or assistant can enrol or remove any other member of staff or external examiner via the Staff Enrolment Tool, which is located in the site Control Panel.  You can also unenrol yourself from a site using the same tool, as long as at least one other member of staff is enrolled in an instructor role. Staff enrolments will not be processed centrally except in cases where the instructor has left, or is on long term sick, and it is necessary for someone else to take responsibility for the Blackboard site.

Content of Blackboard Sites

The content of Blackboard sites is the responsibility of the staff enrolled on the Blackboard site. Any material used in a Blackboard site which is subject to copyright must have appropriate authorisation - see this Library guide for full copyright information for staff and students on using texts, images and video in Blackboard sites.

Grade Centre can be used to provide feedback and provisional marks to students, but is not the official record of student grades, and should not be used as such.

Copying and archiving of Blackboard sites

New versions of Blackboard sites are normally required for each academic year. Where possible, new sites will be set up centrally at the end of the second semester (May/June). Where sites are not created automatically, staff must request them via the tools in shuspace.

Module sites are available throughout a student's time on their course. Past module sites can be accessed via the All Sites tab in the Blackboard Sites channel. 30 days after the last student who was enrolled on the module completes that course (graduates, withdraws, etc.), the module site is removed from the live system and archived. Module sites are retained for 24 months after archive. 

Organisation sites for the past year are archived from the system in mid-September each year and retained for 3 months.


There is a range of support available to help you in using Blackboard. Support for staff is available within Blackboard via the Question Mark icon in the bottom right of the screen.  This section has a knowledge base with self-help information, and also gives details of how to access the other support available including email, phone and live chat contact details. .

New site requests and requests for other admin processes will be processed within two working days. 

Requests can be made via the link under the Blackboard Tool section of the Blackboard home page.

A student e-learning knowledge base is also available, and can be accessed at http://bb-help.shu.ac.uk. This link was added to all Blackboard sites by default under the item 'Blackboard Help'


Explore the following topics for related information: