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Faculty of Humanities Teaching & Learning Office

Blackboard organisations to support students at programme, discipline and academic community level

Overview

Blackboard has capabilities to support students not just on individual course units but throughout their whole study pathway – at Programme, Discipline or Academic Community level – using Blackboard Organisations.

A Blackboard organisation has many of the same underpinning features as a Blackboard course unit, but while Blackboard course units have specific teaching and assessment requirements forming their basis, organisations have a separate, distinct (though complementary) purpose.

Throughout a student’s whole period of study, Blackboard organisations can be invaluable. They can help build and foster a sense of student identity; act as a main source for locating administrative documentation and processes; highlight and strengthen uptake of student support facilities; and act as a convenient ‘one-stop’ place for locating subject-specific resource links relevant to many course units or study levels.

A Blackboard organisation can also help develop and strengthen staff-student and/or peer-to-peer communication – this is particularly valuable for fostering academic community, for online distance learners, for those studying or working abroad, for students on joint honours or cross-discipline programmes, for students on research degrees, and many other situations. They could also be key in supporting students in their experience of online tasks: programme teams making use of them to ensure they have the required access, knowledge and underpinning  skills to take part in tasks that push learning into the higher taxonomies.

One of the key functional distinctions is that once set up, the organisation space remains ‘permanently on’ (whereas a specific course unit has a lifespan of a semester or single year only, and has to be ‘rolled over’ if content is to be used again for new students). Once students are enrolled into a Blackboard organisation, they remain enrolled until leaving study, and at the start of each new academic year, new students get enrolled to the organisation space.
This gives great options for continuity, but means that an organisation needs to be structured for a longer lifespan. So thought needs to be given to the structure and intended purpose, how often it is expected to be accessed, how often it is likely to be updated, who has responsibility for nurturing it and ensuring it is kept relevant and up to date, and other related factors.

The aim of these pages is to highlight:

Setting up a Blackboard organisation space is fairly straightforward – the mechanics of doing this are covered by the FAQ: Blackboard Organisations article on the Knowledge Base. The intention of this guidance is to cover the ‘whys and wherefores’: to help you decide whether to set one up by looking at functions and purposes, benefits and challenges, roles and responsibilities. And if you do decide to set one up, there will be tips and techniques to help you to organise it and get it running well.

Before submitting a request for an Organisation, we recommend that you discuss it with your school eLearning team (email contacts below). They will be able to advise you on whether your needs and requirements are best met with an Organisation, or if another course of action would be best.