bb_roboto2Each month our Blackboard service is used by more than 24,000 members of the University.  Less than 1% of those customers contact ServiceLine with a query about the Blackboard Virtual Learning Environment.  Most of these queries can be answered by referring to our web pages.  Those who do raise a ticket will usually find they have received a resolution very quickly.  With this in mind here are some quick tips based on queries we have been receiving lately.

  1. “Widescreen” mode – for students and staff
  2. (Un)Available courses – for students and staff
  3. Guest Access– for staff but benefits students
  4. Tidying up your course list and enabling “terms” – for students and staff
  5. Course Banners – for staff but benefits students

“Widescreen” mode – for students and staff

Have you ever entered a course and found that you can only view the announcements page?  Maybe you have enabled Widescreen mode?  It can easily be toggled on and off, as shown in this animation.


Toggling “wide screen mode”

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(Un)Available courses – for students and staff

As a member of staff do you wonder what this means at the top left of your course.

Course is unavailable to students

Course is unavailable to students

As a student do you wonder why in your My Courses box something like this appears?

Course is unavailable

Course is unavailable

When courses are created on Blackboard they are set to be unavailable to students. This is so that the course instructor may prepare the course and then make it available when they are ready.

So the important thing to remember is this: if you are a member of staff using Blackboard to support your course, your Blackboard course must be available to students in order for them to access it.  Doing so takes about five clicks, and instructions are on our web site.

Students who find their course is unavailable should contact their course instructor.

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Guest Access– for staff but benefits students

Guest Access

Guest Access

There may be occasions where you wish to allow people from outside the University to access your course.  Or you may wish to allow students to preview a course before they decide they would like to take it.  It’s very easy to make your course available to “guests” and you can give this access only to certain areas of your course as you see fit.

Instructions for staff on how to enable Guest access are here:

Instructions for Guests and students on how to access courses that have Guest Access enabled are here:

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Tidying up your course list and enabling “terms” – for students and staff

Is your course list too long and disorganised?  Has it become a source of frustration?  With three clicks you can take back control of your My Courses box by enabling “terms”.  This feature will group your courses by academic year.

My Courses

My Courses box with “terms” enabled.

Follow our guide to enable terms, and hide away any courses you no longer wish to see.

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Course Banners – for staff but benefits students

A course banner can help to differentiate your course, give immediate signposting to students, and make all involved feel more positive about their course.  We have seen some instances where course banners have been designed around a key image or detail that is referred to often in the course itself and helps to anchor this detail in people’s minds.

Course Banners can be created using software such as GIMP, Paint, Photoshop, Paint.NET, and Paintshop Pro or any other graphic creation software.  There are many online Banner generators too, such as:

Tips for Banner design

Recommended Dimensions

Recommended Dimensions

We recommend using the dimensions of about 7 to 800 pixels wide and 150 to 200 pixels high.  This is based on our tracking of the most popular monitor resolutions used by our customers.

Resolution Number of visitors (Oct 2013)
1366×768 22,156
1280×1024 21,815
1920×1080 17,642
1680×1050 17,092

Using these dimensions should suit almost all mainstream monitor sizes.

As you can see in these two screenshots, such a Banner looks ok on both large and small screens.



Whereas in the two screenshots below a Banner that does not use the grey colour stands out and looks a little awkward.



Once you have created a Banner it is very simple to add it to your course. Just follow our guide.

How to add a Course Banner to your Blackboard course.

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More help

More than 65% of the entire iSolutions web site is dedicated to guiding you through the usage of Blackboard’s features.

E-learning and Teaching Support in the iSolutions web site

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For technical support go over to the iSolutions web site to find out phone number, email address, or to use IT help online.