What is it?
Blackboard is the University of Bristol's centrally supported online learning environment. The Blackboard online learning environment (OLE) has a range of tools for communication, collaboration, assessment and content management, as well as providing an online space for activities to support student learning and new in 2011-12 a space for social or non-teaching activities called organisations. Blackboard is one example of a virtual learning environment:
"...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." 
In 2009 we invested in two additional elements of Blackboard, the Content System and the Community System, which are now available for all staff and students to use.
Information on the Blackboard summer 2012 upgrade.
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..." 
Many of the examples of best practice in technology-enhanced learning on this web site use the suite of tools available in the Blackboard OLE, eg:
What support is available?
- The Help tab in Blackboard has a range of support materials, including FAQs, and text and video guides.
- Our blog contains a full 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 a range of Blackboard workshops, that can be modified or amended to align with discipline or practice requirements.
- Book a 2012 upgrade roadshow for your department, school or faculty - contact email@example.com.
- Join our Blackboard Help organisation.
- Email our helpdesk: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Follow us on Twitter: @UOB_BB_Help
Further information and useful links
 Styles, 2000, Effective Learning and the Virtual Learning Environment, http://www.staffs.ac.uk/cital/poznan.html, accessed 4/11/2010.
 Feedback from a University of Bristol Masters student, October 2010.