Blackboard Policies and Processes


  1. Students and staff can only gain access to Blackboard through the nightly data feed from ISIS (the University’s student record system). A student or staff member attached to an ISIS module run or student group today will appear in Blackboard tomorrow.
  2. All students who are currently registered and all staff with a current employment contract will have access to Blackboard and the University-wide library provision available under the Library tab.
  3. Four types of organisational entity in ISIS are fed to Blackboard. These are:
    1. module run
    2. programme (either primary award, or primary target(s);
    3. student group of Blackboard course type;
    4. student group of non-credit bearing (NCB) course type.
    Guidelines for the use of all four are provided below.
  4. Students in ISIS with an income status code of FF are registered for administrative purposes only and are excluded from Blackboard because they are not covered by the terms of our licence. Examples are students on some types of franchised course who are recorded in ISIS to maintain a record of the course, but formally are not our students; others are students who have been registered for administrative reasons, say to facilitate the production of a car park permit. Faculties can obtain lists of these students from the Academic Registry.
  5. Blackboard is a learning system not, primarily, a communications device, although clearly it can be used perfectly legitimately to communicate with students about learning supported by a Blackboard course.
  6. While the number of module runs and programmes in the University is finite, there could theoretically be a very large number of student groups. To ensure that Blackboard does not become overwhelmed by uncontrolled growth in the number of such groups passed to the system, a management process operates for the inclusion in Blackboard of ISIS student groups of all Blackboard types. This takes the form of a student groups approval process, and is described below.
  7. Newly-created courses are not immediately available to students (they are classified 'unavailable to students'). This allows staff to assemble course materials and other resources before students gain access. Staff with instructor rights have complete control over when a course becomes available to students. See our Making Your Course Available guide.
  8. Research shows that users of VLEs, particularly students, are alienated from the system when they encounter courses that are devoid of content and so staff should not make a Blackboard course available without content. Within the course, staff with instructor rights can hide unused content areas to ensure students are clear where to find resources. Where Learning & Research Systems is time sensitive and only required for specific phases of a course, staff with instructor rights can toggle a Blackboard course between the two states of available and unavailable so that it will only be visible to students when required. See our Making Your Course Available guide.

Use of module runs, programmes, and student groups

Module run

  1. From the beginning of the 2008-2009 academic year it is University policy, agreed at Learning, Teaching and Assessment Committee, that there is an expectation that all MAR module runs enjoy some level of learning support provided through Blackboard.
  2. Module runs do not require prior approval to appear as courses in Blackboard. All module runs and attached students and staff are fed nightly from ISIS to Blackboard, providing they meet the feed criteria.
  3. The University’s Modular Assessment Regulations (MAR) are predicated on equitable treatment of students at the module level. In order to ensure this equitable treatment, cohorts of students are presented at Field Boards by module run. The module run is the structure that groups students, with a common academic experience, for consideration at the Field Board and guarantees that any circumstance, adverse or not, that affects the entire cohort can be addressed by the Board fairly: all students affected will be treated in the same way.
  4. This principle applies to Blackboard-supported courses no less than it does to face-to-face traditional teaching. Students with the same Blackboard experience must be enrolled on the same module run and therefore presented to the Field Board as a discrete group.
  5. Module runs should not be created in ISIS artificially for Blackboard purposes. For example if there are several versions of a module running concurrently or overlapping and they exist in ISIS as separate module runs then they must not be aggregated in any way for Blackboard purposes. If module runs were aggregated and some problem affects the Blackboard experience on the aggregated module run which is later disaggregated for Field Board purposes the danger is that this problem might be treated differently by the different Field Boards. Students with the same academic experience could be treated in different ways; this is unacceptable.
  6. Non-MAR learning that is part of a formal validated programme should also use the module run mechanism.


  1. Programmes do not require prior approval to appear as courses in Blackboard. The decision to make use of programme-based courses is at the discretion of the Programme Leader. Manual intervention by School ISIS administrators is required to include a programme in Blackboard. See: ISIS instructions for programme support in Blackboard. Programmes must comply with the feed criteria in order to be included.

Student Groups of Blackboard Course type

  1. Sometimes there is a requirement to support learning that is not part of a formally validated award. An example comes from the (former) Faculty of Health and Social Care. Nurses must pass a national numeracy test in order to qualify. This is not part of their UWE award, neither is it credit-rated, but the Faculty quite appropriately wishes to support numeracy skills learning. This is a good example of a Student Group of Blackboard Course type. All nursing students at the appropriate time can be enrolled on the student group where they will find module-like support. Some students will take advantage of this support, students with, say, ‘A’ level maths presumably will not. The entity can’t exist in ISIS as a module run because it’s not an instance of one of our modules but it is module-like, so use a Student Group of type Blackboard Course.
  2. Student Groups of Blackboard Course type can be created in ISIS. Subject to an approvals process (below) they will be passed to Blackboard with their student and staff attachments.
  3. Any Student Group of Blackboard Course type which receives approval will have a course created in Blackboard. In all respects this will appear and act the same as a Blackboard course based on a module run.

Student Groups of Blackboard Non-Credit Bearing (NCB) course type

  1. Where Blackboard presence is required for a Non-Credit Bearing (NCB) course, the Student Group Approvals Form should be used, but in this case approval is automatic so long as a legitimate NCB cost code is entered. The cost code is required only to confirm that the Student Group is an established NCB course. Cost codes are issued by your Faculty Finance Controller.
  2. Any Student Group of Blackboard Non-Credit Bearing (NCB) Course type will have a course created in Blackboard. In all respects this will appear and act the same as a Blackboard course based on a module run.

Approval of module runs and student groups

  1. No approval is required to establish a Blackboard course from a module run. All current module runs are fed to Blackboard.
  2. Approval is required to set up a Blackboard presence for new Student Groups. Student Groups are only fed to Blackboard if included in a list of approved groups. This list is maintained by Learning & Research Systems in IT Services.
  3. Colleagues are invited to request Student Groups of Blackboard Course or Blackboard Non-Credit Bearing (NCB) course type using the Student Group Approvals Form. In the case of Student Groups of Blackboard Course type, applicants are asked to indicate the approximate size of each one and describe its intended use. Academic Services will review applications as soon as possible after submission of the Approvals Form. Each request will be considered in light of the criteria above and resourcing considerations (in particular whether the Faculty administration can facilitate the proposed Student Group). In some cases, Learning & Research Systems or Academic Services may suggest alternative approaches in Blackboard which follow best practice. For courses of Non-Credit Bearing course type an NCB cost code obtained from your Faculty Finance Controller is required.

Duration of groups

  1. Learning & Research Systems for Student Groups will generally be approved for a maximum of 12 months. A subsequent run of the Student Group will require re-approval after that time, and will be a new group in ISIS. Re-approval will generally be straightforward if there is no significant change in the intended use.
  2. In exceptional circumstances, it may be possible to extend a group’s duration beyond the default maximum (one year). This is granted on a discretionary basis, where a case is made for exception. A fixed duration must still be established: it would be inappropriate to create groups with an indefinite duration.
  3. Where a group is required with a duration of more than a year, please supply the case for an extension at the time of application. Please include the argument for an extension when describing the ‘purpose’ of the group, and please indicate a proposed end date for the group.
  4. Please note that we cannot grant extensions to the default duration to support inappropriate ISIS administration practices (e.g. to afford the rolling over of groups within ISIS).
  5. Please note that Blackboard offers services to support the transfer of content from one group to another, where new groups require resources from an earlier group. However, this does not support the transfer of discussion board and collaboration information.

Content Management System and Fields

  1. Some Blackboard users have identified a content management issue with Blackboard. This affects a minority of users in a very significant way whilst to the majority of users it does not surface at all.
  2. The issue arises where, for example, users are maintaining multiple concurrent runs of a module in Blackboard and they wish to use the same resources on all runs. By default Blackboard requires users to upload each resource independently to each module run and if a change is made to the resource the change must again be uploaded to each of the module runs. The process is time consuming and, as it is a manual process, there is a risk of discrepancies occurring between the resources in the different module runs.
  3. In recognition of this limitation, UWE has adopted the Blackboard Content Collection which addresses the above. The Content Collection is available to all staff./li>
  4. In addition to individual staff content collection folders, each Field in ISIS that has a current module associated with it has a corresponding content collection folder created for it. Every member of staff who is attached to a module associated with the Field can access the Field content collection folder and add content to it, which can then be linked to from any Blackboard course.

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