Why can’t my student(s) see my course in Blackboard?

All units and programmes are automatically created as courses in Blackboard, and all students automatically enrolled, based on the registration data held in SITS. If some students can’t see a particular course in Blackboard:

• First, check the course is available. If under “My courses” on your Blackboard Home page you see “unavailable” after the course, this means the course is unavailable to students.  To make it available, follow the instructions in ‘What does course “unavailable” mean and how can I make a course available?’

• Second, if the course IS available, check the student is enrolled on it. Go into the course, and in the Control Panel, click Users and Groups, then Users. Change the middle search box to “Not blank” and click on Go. Search for their name in the list. If the student is not enrolled, they should check if they are registered for it in My Students.  If  you need to manually enrol a student see  ‘How do I enrol a student on my course?’

Why can’t I see a Blackboard course for a unit I am teaching?

All units and programmes are automatically created as courses in Blackboard, and all students automatically enrolled, based on the registration data held in SITS. However, staff are not automatically enrolled, since staffing data is not centrally available.

Any Instructor on a course can enrol another Instructor onto that course, and local Blackboard System Administrators can do the same – so please check if a colleague can enrol you. Instructions on how to enrol an Instructor are in this FAQ.

If another Instructor or a local Blackboard System Administrator cannot enrol you, please email tel-help@bristol.ac.uk and ask to be enrolled as an Instructor, giving the unit ID.

Controlling display of course listings in “My Courses”

Since 2012 previous year’s versions of SITS unit courses have been automatically retained on Blackboard, so staff and students can have easy access to these where appropriate.

Following the annual course roll-over at the start of August, you will be able to see previous as well as current versions of unit courses, clearly identified by a year suffix in the course ID and name, eg:

Course ID                           Course name
BIOL11000                          Biology 1A Diversity of Life 11_12
BIOL11000_2012_13          Biology 1A: Diversity of Life 12_13
BIOL11000_2013                Biology 1A: Diversity of Life 2013
BIOL11000_2014                Biology 1A: Diversity of Life 2014

BIOL11000_2015                Biology 1A: Diversity of Life 2015


This year all 2014 courses will by default remain available to students – in previous years staff could make the courses available to students if they wished. 

Staff can easily make multiple courses unavailable to students, if required, using the Qwickly tool on their Blackboard home page.

Staff and students can choose to group each year’s courses under separate headings in the “My Courses” box on your Blackboard Home tab. To do this, please follow the instructions below:

  1. Move your mouse to the top right of the My Courses box on your Blackboard home page and click on the small cog wheel icon.
  2. On the page that opens, under “1. Terms”, tick “Group by Term”
  3. Note that you can also choose which courses and terms you want displayed, and whether you want to see course names, course IDs, or both.
  4. When you have finished click “Submit”
  5. Here is a 25-second video on how to use group courses using terms.

What does course “not currently available” mean and how can I make a course available?

As an Instructor, if under “My courses” on your Blackboard home page  you see “not currently available” or “unavailable” after the course, this means the course is unavailable to students. Instructors can still access and edit the course.

Once your course is ready for students to use, ensure that it is made available as follows:

  • Click on the course
  • Under Control Panel click on Customisation
  • Click on Properties
  • In section 3 Set availability select Yes
  • Click Submit

Your course is now available to students.

Or use the Qwickly tool on your home page

Click Course Availability and turn the On/Off button next to the course to the required state.


How can I add a test student to my course?

Instructors can view courses as a student by simply turning editing off or using Student Preview. However, in order to thoroughly test an activity, such as online submission, it is necessary to use a test student account. Instructors can create a test student as follows:

  • In the Control panel of your course click on Course tools
  • Click on Add test student
  • The student username will be your username_s
  • Enter a password, and confirm this.
  • Click Create Test Student

You will need to use the Guest login option when logging in as this student.

Please note: You must keep these details confidential in line with IT Services’s Code of Conduct for the use of computing facilities. You are responsible for any Blackboard use undertaken using this username and password. All test student accounts will be deleted at the end of each academic year.

Ensuring Bibilographic material is excluded in submissions to Turnitin

To ensure that Bibliographic material is excluded when this option is selected in Turnitin the students will need to add one of the following headings above their references:

  • Bibliography
  • References
  • Referenced Works

This heading must be by itself on a new line in the document. The heading must not be followed by an item of punctuation, for example  ‘Bibliography:-‘  will stop Turnitin from being able to recognise the heading correctly and therefore the matches in the reference materials will be included in the originality report score.

Instructors – tracking student activity

There are some known issues with the accuracy of Blackboard statistics from course and item tracking tools. Information about this is available on our blog.

There are 2 other options for tracking student access to files which you may find useful.

1. The first option allows students themselves to indicate that they have accessed an item, e.g. a file

The Performance Dashboard (in the Control Panel under Evaluation)  provides an overview of user activity. This can be used in conjunction with the Review Status function to track student access to items, e.g. files (Review status and the Performance Dashboard can also be used to track other activity).

To set this up, firstly  switch on review status for the item you wish to track, as follows:

  • find the item you wish to track
  • click on the double drop down menu to the right of the item name
  • click on Set review status, then Enable, and Submit

If you then turn edit mode off  it shows a tick box next to an item. Students can tick it to indicate that they have opened/read a document.  This has the potential advantage that it requires  a conscious action on the part of the student.  If you want to encourage students to engage with an item, then asking them to make a judgement that they have read and understood it might be more meaningful than a report which simply says that they have clicked on it.

Reporting on this is either through  the Performance Dashboard, or by clicking on User progress in the dropdown menu next to the item.

2. The second option automatically tracks user access to files through the Blackboard Content system.

You can switch this on as follows:

  1. Click on Control panel, then Content
  2. Click on the relevant content area e.g. the course ID
  3. Find the file
  4. Click on the dropdown options menu (double dropdown menu to the right of the filename)
  5. Click on Edit
  6. Under options tick Enable tracking then click Submit

To see tracking reports  follow the instructions 1 – 4 above but then choose 360 degree view and scroll down to Tracking data.

Setting up Forum subscription so users can choose to receive email notifications

You can allow subscription to a discussion forum or thread. This means that users can choose to subscribe. If they subscribe they will receive emails when new posts are added.

To allow subscription in an existing forum:
1. Go into the relevant Blackboard course
2. Click on Course tools in the Control Panel, then click on Discussion Board
3. Click on the link to the Discussion Board and find the relevant forum
4. Next to the forum name click on the dropdown arrow, and choose Edit
5. In section 3 “Forum settings” select either Allow members to subscribe to threads or Allow members to subscribe to forum, as appropriate, then click Submit.
6. Users will then see a subscribe button in the forum or in each thread, which they should click on if they wish to receive emails.

You will have the same option to allow subscription if setting up a new forum.