Top Tips for a Successful Start to the New Academic Year

Do you have access to your new academic year courses?

Access to Blackboard courses is controlled using information in the central “Banner” database maintained by Student Services.

Faculties list in Banner who is teaching a module.  Blackboard then uses that data to place instructors onto their modules in Blackboard.

If you believe you should have access to a Blackboard course but cannot see it in your My Courses list, it is likely that your faculty has not listed you as having a role on that module in the Banner student record system.

To remedy this, please complete this online form.

Find out what’s new and changed in Blackboard

NewBlackboard has a new look. It has a responsive interface that works better whatever the size of the screen you are using.

There are also new features like an Accessibility Toolbar.  Yellow Boxes provide help, tips, and assistance throughout Blackboard.

Find out more about the changes introduced in our most recent Blackboard upgrade.

Have you “rolled over” your course materials?

Each Blackboard course begins life with no content and a small number of default menu items.

If you wish you may copy over your course materials en masse from last year’s version of the course to this year’s.

We have made the rollover process simpler this year.

We have made the link to the rollover tool easier to find:

We have added an option to tick our recommended options.  You can now rollover your course in as few as nine clicks.

You can find out more by going to the Rollover section of our Blackboard web site:

Did you make your Blackboard course available to students?

The My Courses box shows whether a course is available or not

When courses are created on Blackboard they are set to be unavailable to students. This is so that you may prepare the course and then make it available when it is ready. You can easily tell if a course is unavailable to students, because the word “unavailable” appears beside it in your My Courses list. Remember to make your course available to students before you tell them to use it.

There are a variety of simple ways to make your course available and with the most recent upgrade we have added another.  While your course is unavailable a message will display within your course, it offers a button to click upon which will show you how to make your course available to students:


To find out how to make your Blackboard course available check this web page:

How to Make Your Blackboard Course Available To Students

Order your My Courses list by academic year

Set up your My Courses list to show your courses grouped by academic year for easier organisation. Watch this animation to find out how.

You can tidy it up and make it show only your relevant courses by following these instructions.

How to Tidy Up Your “My Courses” List

Are you looking for inspiration to develop your Blackboard course?

The University of Southampton Excellence in VLE Awards give students the opportunity to nominate exemplary Blackboard modules and highlight what it is that makes these courses stand out.

Find out more about the awards and explore examples of good practice from previous award winners.

Take advantage of the new interface’s responsive banners and make a new banner

With the new Blackboard interface course banners are now responsive.  They will resize according to the size of the window or device in which you are using Blackboard.  Our latest recommended banner size is 1618 x 300 with 72 DPI (dots/pixels per inch).  You can even use an animated gif as a Banner.

How to add a course banner or masthead to your Blackboard course.

View photographs of members of your Blackboard course

You can use the class photo roster to show photographs (where available) of users who have access to your course. This includes users with any role including students, instructors, and teaching assistants.

Where a photograph is not available a placeholder image is used.

Viewing photographs of members of your Blackboard course

Use the helpful “floating box”

When you log into Blackboard, a floating box on the Home and Course page is available with links to useful tools and other sites.

Let students know where to find help

Students can contact ServiceLine for help with Blackboard, but it’s worth letting your students know that there is a lot of online help available to them too. Our web pages answer all common student questions, in particular how to print and download information from Blackboard.

Blackboard “How To” Guides For Students

Blackboard Student FAQ

Remember that there are lots of helpful resources for staff too: Blackboard Support for Staff

Look out for our “Yellow Boxes” providing help where you need it most.

We have more than 400 step by step guides for using Blackboard on To help you to make the most of these we are adding “Yellow Boxes” that appear within Blackboard that direct you to our guides whilst you are using certain features.

Promote the faculty hubs to your students

Hosted on Blackboard, students can now access The Hub, our new online resource and one-stop-shop to help them make the most of their time studying with us.

The sites signpost undergraduate and postgraduate taught students to lots of helpful information including: student support, academic help, careers information, ‘how to’ guides (such as ‘How do I find out more about a module’), and much more.

The sites, championed by student representatives and last academic year’s Sabbatical Officers, have been developed alongside feedback from the Students’ Union, as well as a number of other departments across the University.

Faculty staff have access to the hubs too.

Get to know the accessibility toolbar (ATbar)

Location of the ATbar in Blackboard

This easy to use tool bar, created by the Accessibility team in the School of Electronics and Computer Science at the University of Southampton, gives you the option to change the look and feel of the Blackboard interface through text only enlargement, font style and colour changes plus increased line spacing. There are also features for text to speech, a dictionary, spell checking, word prediction and colour overlays.

Watch this video to find out more:

Be aware of The Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No. 2) Accessibility Regulations 2018

The Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No. 2) Accessibility Regulations 2018 apply to the websites and materials hosted on those websites of Public Sector Bodies.

Universities count as public sector bodies under the definition in the regulations. The reason for this is that the Directive, from which the regulations are generated, uses the same definition of public sector body as EU procurement law. As case law and recent scholarship has established, universities are public bodies under the definition used for EU procurement law.

The regulations set testable standards for web sites, documents, and software to meet to prove their accessibility, and a way for organisations to report on their compliance.

The regulations apply to a website or mobile application of a public sector body and the content found on these sites or applications, which must comply with the accessibility requirement defined in the regulations.  The accessibility requirement is that websites and mobile applications and the content therein are perceivable, operable, understandable and robust:

  • perceivability, meaning that information and user interface components must be presentable to users in ways they can perceive;
  • operability, meaning that user interface components and navigation must be operable;
  • understandability, meaning that information and the operation of the user interface must be understandable; and
  • robustness, meaning that content must be robust enough to be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies.

These criteria are broken down in testable form within Standard – EN 301 549 chapters 9, 10, and 11 that are broadly in line with WCAG 2.1 AA.

The application of the regulations is staggered over time:

Out of scope In scope  When
  Websites published on or after 23 September 2018. 22nd September 2019
  Websites published before 22 September 2018. 22nd September 2020
  Mobile apps 22nd June 2021
Office file formats published before 23rd September 2018, unless such content is needed for active administrative processes relating to the tasks performed by the public sector body. Office file formats published from 23 September 2018, and any published before that which are needed for active admin purposes… 22nd September 2019
Pre-recorded time-based media published before 23rd September 2020. Pre-recorded time-based media published after 23rd September 2020. 22nd September 2020
Live time-based media Recordings of live time-based media that are used after 23rd September 2020. 22nd September 2020
Maps An accessible alternative to maps should be provided. Depends on publishing date of host website (see above)
Reproductions of items in heritage collections that cannot be made fully accessible. Some accessibility requirements for websites or mobile applications should still be complied with as regards the metadata linked to the reproduction of items in heritage collections. Depends on publishing date of host website (see above)
Content of extranets and intranets published before 23rd September 2019, or until such time as the website undergoes a substantial revision, whichever is sooner. Content of extranets and intranets published after 23rd September 2019, and any content published prior to 23rd September 2019 that has been substantially revised. 22nd September 2019
Content of websites and mobile applications qualifying as archives, except those that are needed for active administrative processes or have been updated or edited since 23 September 2019. Content of websites and mobile applications qualifying as archives that are needed for active administrative processes or have been updated or edited since 23 September 2019. 22nd September 2020

The Blackboard team has:

✔ Raised these regulations within the Senior Leadership Team of iSolutions (April 2018)

✔ Produced briefing papers, presentations, and proposed plans for compliance for consideration by Senior Leadership Team of iSolutions (November 2018, January 2019, August 2019).

✔ Produced a draft accessibility statement for Blackboard (First drafted April 2019)

✔ Added the Accessibility Toolbar (ATbar), created by the Accessibility team in the School of Electronics and Computer Science, to Blackboard (June 2019)

Once the University strategy to responding to the regulations becomes clear we will provide further information, guidance, and support.

We know that many users of Blackboard have concerns about these regulations and wish to make their courses and course materials as accessible as possible.  For now we recommend:

  • Reviewing this Accessibility Checklist which makes suggestions for making your files as accessible as possible.
  • If you change your Blackboard course menu colours, follow our guidance which includes details of ensuring the colour combinations you choose are accessible and meet the necessary criteria.