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. Blackboard is an example of a virtual learning environment, or VLE.

In recent years, the University has invested in additional elements of Blackboard, including the Mobile Learn app, the Content System, the Community System and assignment receipts for online submissions. Additional tools integrate with Blackboard including Re/Play (lecture capture), Turnitin (text comparison and marking) and the library reading list tool (TALIS). The Community system allows spaces for social or non-teaching activities, which are called organisations.

The vast majority of taught units use automatically created sites in Blackboard, on which registered students are automatically enrolled. There are a small number of exceptions, for example where teaching resources are organised  by year rather than unit. In these cases manually created sites are used.

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

You can use Blackboard 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.
  • Enhance opportunities for student-to-student and student-to-faculty communication.
  • Enable student-centred teaching approaches, eg by allowing the provision of learning materials in a range of media that support different learning preferences.
  • 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..." [1]


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


  • The Help tab in Blackboard has a range of support materials, including FAQs and guides.
  • Contextual help within Blackboard - just click the blue Support questionmark on the right of any Blackboard page.
  • Request a Blackboard test course (email: and then use it to practice editing, following the instructions in our Blackboard Course Design guide.
  • Our blog contains useful information for both students and staff, including 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:
  • Follow us on Twitter: @BristolDigiEd


  • [1] Feedback from a University of Bristol Masters student, October 2010.