Getting Started with Blackboard Basics

Creating and teaching a course in Blackboard shouldn't be overwhelming, so we've divided up all you need to know into four simple sections.

Start with Getting Access to Blackboard, then browse the other areas to get information and tips you can use before, during, and after your course. In each section, you'll find links to written instructions, video tutorials, and QuickStart guides that will help you get ready to go in no time! For more in-depth training, follow up with one of our online BbU courses for instructors.

For a quick checklist to make sure your Blackboard course is ready for the beginning of the semester, download our Start of Semester Checklist, below.


This document is for instructors. If you are a student, please see our Student Information Guide.

  • Getting Access to Blackboard - getting an account, creating a course, logging in for the first time, and the Blackboard environment
  • Preparing Your Course - using the control panel, making the course available, enrolling users, configuring the course shell, and creating and uploading content
  • Teaching Your Course - making announcements, contacting students, using the discussion board, sending and receiving assignments, creating tests and quizzes, and using the grade book
  • Ending Your Course - uploading grades to SAP, archiving or reusing course content, and closing the course

Getting Access to Blackboard

Getting an Account

All members of the UK community, including all Instructors and students, receive Blackboard access automatically. No special request is needed to log into Blackboard.

Creating a Course

Course shells are automatically created for all regular semester and summer term courses listed in the Registrar's course schedule. These shells are linked to the account of the individual named as the instructor.

Requesting a shell for a course or use that does not appear in the Registrar's course schedule. Some examples are:

  • a course for a group, committee, or organization
  • a course for a training or development workshop
  • an academic course under development for a future semester
  • Enrolling non-UK individuals in a course
  • Other course shell-related questions
  • Logging In

    Go to and log in using your link blue username and password. If your password has expired, you will not be able to log in until you change it.

    You will see all courses you are teaching and courses in which you are enrolled in the My Courses section of the My Bb page. If you do not see a course that you are teaching or in which you are enrolled, please contact the UKIT Service Desk.

    Blackboard Environment

    To begin developing a course, click the link to that course in the Course List box on the My Bb page, then take a moment to familiarize yourself with the instructor view (edit mode on) and student view (edit mode off) of your course. These introductory tutorials will help you become familiar with Blackboard tools and terms that you will see throughout the Blackboard documentation.

    Preparing Your Course

    Using the Control Panel

    The Control Panel is an area that gives easy access to various course administrative settings that an Instructor, Teaching Assistant, Grader, Course Builder or System Administrator might need. The Control Panel is located underneath the Course Menu and is comprised of the following areas: Content, Course Tools, Evaluation, Grade Center, Users and Groups, Customization, Packages and Utilities, and Help.

    Making Your Course Shell Available

    By default, new courses are "unavailable" to students so that instructors have an opportunity to develop the course privately. This means that even if students are successfully enrolled, they will not be able to see or access the course when they log into Blackboard.

    In order for students to be able to access your Blackboard course, you must first make it available. This can be done immediately, or you can schedule a future "go live" date, such as the first day of classes, by entering Course Duration dates. The availability setting is located in the course Control Panel, under the Customization section on the Properties page.

    Enrolling Users - Automatic Enrollment

    Enrollment, like Course Creation, is an automated process for all courses listed in the SAP course catalog. Auto-enrollment begins one to three months before the semester starts, but it can take up to three days after a student is added to the SAP class roster before he or she is auto-enrolled in the associated Blackboard course.

    Enrolling Users - Manual Enrollment

    Enrollment of co-instructors and/or teaching assistants is by request, even for catalog listed courses, as are all requests to add UK and external users to non-catalog listed courses.

    Requests for special enrollments must come from the primary instructor or owner of the course and can be submitted via the Blackboard Service Request form or email sent to the UKIT Service Desk. Emailed requests should contain a brief description of the request and include the following information for the user(s) to be added:

    • User(s) Full Name: John T. Smith
    • User(s) User ID: jtsmit2
    • Blackboard Course ID: ENG101-001-201130 (this is found in the upper left corner of your Blackboard course page)
    • Role: Primary Instructor, Secondary Instructor, Grader, Course Builder, or Student

    If requesting Blackboard access for external (non-UK) users, the request must come from your department's business officer, security liaison, or Chair. The request should include the information above with user's birth date provided in place of the userID, and the name, email address, and phone number for your department's business officer, security liaison, or Chair.

    Manual enrollment requests may take up to seven business days to process.

    Enrolling Users - Self-Enrollment

    Non-catalog courses can also support student self-enrollment. Courses with this feature enabled can be made freely available or, if desired, the self-enrollment function can be configured to require an instructor-selected password. This latter option allows instructors or course owners to allow easy self-enrollment, but still restrict membership in the course.

    If requesting that a password be added to a course to enable restricted self-enrollment, please contact the UKIT Service Desk and provide the Course ID and the desired password that you will be giving to users eligible to add themselves to the course. Do not send your personal link blue password!

    Self-enrollment password requests may take up to seven business days to process.

    Configuring Course Shell

    The Customization section of the Control Panel provides instructors with several options for customizing the look and feel of their courses.

    From the Properties page, instructors can control the functional settings of the course by modifying the Course Name, Description, Availability, Duration, and primary Language Pack.

    From the Style page, instructors can control the colors and styles of page elements by modifying the Menu Style and Display, Content View, Course Entry Point (the course homepage), and upload a new course Banner image.

    From the Tool Availability page, instructors can control which course tools are available to their students by selecting from a wide variety of tools and building blocks that have been installed by the Blackboard system administrators.

    Editing the Course Menu

    The Course Menu is located in the left column of the course shell and provides students a way to navigate through course pages. This menu can be customized depending on the organizational needs for the course and personal preferences of the instructor building the course, however, we suggest that you retain the default menu names as much as possible to provide a consistent interface experience for students taking multiple Blackboard courses.

    Organizing Content

    To maintain consistency for students across multiple Blackboard courses, we suggest that you organize your course content into the default Content Areas linked to the course menu as follows:

    Course Information - Use for material that describes the course itself, such as a syllabus, course outline, or assignment schedule. May also be used for information about the instructor, such as a profile or office hours and location, or for general information that may be helpful for your students to know, such as tips about relevant academic resources, guidelines for participating in a distance learning course, or links to Blackboard support options.

    Course Content - Use for educational materials. Items can be organized by week, module, topic, or other appropriate arrangement. Some instructors choose to place assignments and exams in this area as well, either as stand-alone content, or in-line with other materials from the same topic or time period.

    Assignments - Use for distributing and receiving assignments if you would like to present them to students in an area separate from the rest of your course materials.

    Class Capture - This menu item will only appear in courses that are linked to the Echo360 lecture capture system. Whenever the Echo server has finished processing a piece of course content, links to the lecture media will automatically appear in the Echo Captures folder in this area of the course.

    Creating Course Areas for Content

    Course areas are simply containers for your course materials. Course areas that appear on the Course Menu are called Content Areas. These primary sections can be subdivided into smaller course areas such as folders, enabling course materials to be organized by week, module, topic, or other appropriate arrangement. Thoughtful organization of course content benefits instructors and students both by making materials easier to find. Folders can remain visible for the duration of the course, or can appear or disappear (to the student) at predetermined times. Folders will always remain visible to instructors (when viewed in edit mode).

    Instructors may also create additional content areas and blank pages from the Course Menu or remove links to unused content areas or pages as needed.

    Building Course Content

    Instructors can create basic course content directly in Blackboard, or upload pre-created files, including text and HTML documents, spreadsheets, slide presentations, audio/video clips, and graphic images, from a personal computer.

    Instructors can also add hyperlinks (URLs) to direct students to specific online resources outside of Blackboard, or create a Mashup inside Blackboard using multimedia content from external sites like Flickr, SlideShare, or YouTube.

    More advanced users may want to combine course materials into learning modules or lesson plans, but these features are not required for good content organization within a course.

    Teaching Your Course

    Making Announcements

    Announcements is a Course Tool within Blackboard that allows Instructors to compose and share important information with other instructors and students. Unlike the Send Email tool, these communications are displayed on the Announcements page within the course, although students may choose to receive announcement posts via email as well.

    Sending Email

    Send Email is a Course Tool within Blackboard that allows enrolled course members to easily send emails to each other without needing to know the recipient's preferred email address. Messages can be sent directly to one or more enrolled users and will be routed to the recipient's preferred external email account (the address the recipient provided to the Blackboard system).

    Sending Messages

    Messages is a Course Tool within Blackboard that allows private, internal messaging between course participants. Messages can be sent directly to one or more enrolled users and will appear in the recipient's Blackboard Message center rather than their external email account. Use of this tool is not recommended at UK, since students may not understand that it functions differently than Send Email. This tool is turned off by default, but can be turned back on by navigating to the Customization section of the Control Panel and selecting Tool Availability.

    Using the Discussion Board

    The Discussion Board is a Course Tool within Blackboard used to promote interaction and sharing of ideas within a course. Forums can be used for formal course-related discussion or casual conversation. Discussion board forums may be graded or ungraded and each forum may contain one or more topics, each of which is called a thread.

    Creating and Receiving Assignments

    Assignments is a Course Tool within Blackboard that allows Instructors to distribute assignments and receive and grade students' completed work via an online dropbox. Assignments can have associated files, possible points, and availability and due dates.

    Creating and Using Tests and Surveys

    To assess students' progress, instructors can create graded tests and anonymous surveys featuring a variety of question types. Because this feature has so many options, we've created a separate information section focused exclusively on creating assessments.

    Our Tests and Surveys page also includes information about using Respondus, a third-party tool that allows instructors to quickly build tests and surveys offline and then upload them directly into Blackboard.

    Using the Grade Center

    The Grade Center allows instructors to record grade data, track student progress, and share private comments and assessment feedback with students. Because the Grade Center has so many features, we've created a separate information section focused exclusively on working with grades.

    Ending Your Course

    Uploading Grades to SAP

    The University of Kentucky has integrated the SAP Campus Management and Blackboard Learn systems to make entering grades for midterms and finals much more seamless for Faculty. This feature can be accessed through myUK by selecting Faculty Services and then Grading. Before an Instructor can use this feature for a Blackboard course, he/she must make certain that he/she is both an Instructor for the Blackboard course and the "Instructor of Record" within the SAP Course Catalog.

    Downloading the Grade Center

    One of the features of the Grade Center that many instructors use is the Work Offline function, which allows instructors to download their course grades and eliminates the need to keep grade entries in multiple locations. Instructors with external projects, assignments, or examination scores can easily download their course's entire Grade Center as a text file or spreadsheet, enter their external grades, and then import the information back into the Grade Center. This function can also be used to create an easily accessible archival record of all grades assigned in a course when the course is complete.

    Archiving the Course

    Instructors should Archive their course material at regular intervals during the semester and again when the course is complete. Archiving creates a complete copy (all cumulative grade columns, student grades and associated settings) of a Course in a zipped file format. This package can be used to keep an offline copy of the course on an Instructor's personal computer and/or to recover any data lost during or after the course.

    Closing the Course

    At the end of regular semesters, if an Instructor does not have any students who need to make up an Incomplete, the course can be made unavailable (no longer visible or accessible) to the Students. This is an optional choice - there are several justifications for leaving a course open past the last day of class (one justification is that students may need the course as a resource to study for major tests, such as comprehensive exams for a degree).

    Students automatically become unavailable in completed courses after two regular course semesters have passed. For example, Students within a spring course will become unavailable during the next spring semester.

    Reusing Course Material

    Course Copy is a Utility within Blackboard that allows instructors to copy selected items of course content from one course to another. This is different than Archiving material because no student enrollment or grade data is transferred. Instructors can only copy material between existing courses in which they have Instructor rights. Using Course Copy will not remove or delete content from the original course, nor will it override existing files in the destination course.