Getting Started in Blackboard, Essentials Part 1

Getting Started in Blackboard, Essentials Part 1

Blackboard Learn is the LMS tool used by University of Alaska to host online course environments. All faculty who are officially assigned any course to teach at UA will find a blank course template created for you in your UA Learn account to populate and activate for student use during the semester. .


There are many ways to use this space for face-to-face, hybrid and online courses, this blog will address design for a fully online course, but any of the design choices and tools can be used to guide students through content and assessment in all courses.

Think of the Blackboard shell as your online course environment. This space can hold text, video and audio content, course materials like syllabi, assignment instructions, discussion boards, wiki spaces, learning outcomes, assignments and tests, anything that you would like to share with students toward successful completion of your course. The Blackboard course environment can be updated at anytime during the semester. For those just beginning the course design process follow the instructions below for first steps and ongoing course design ideas.


The first things to post into your Blackboard course should be:

  • Syllabus
  • Course Schedule
  • Contact Information

Once these items are posted you will want to open the course for students to access and write and send a "welcome, getting started in this course" announcement. 

  • Log In to Blackboard

    You will need an active UAA Username and Password to log in at

      • If you are a new hire this information is mailed to you from Human Resources 
      • If you have forgotten or need to reset your password go to 
      • For further log in & password assistance contact UAA IT Services 907-786-4646
  • Post a Syllabus

    There are several ways to add a syllabus to your course.

    • Add a File 
        • Navigate to the Syllabus content area
        • Select Build Content, File
        • Follow the instructions to browse computer and attach your completed syllabus document
        • Note it is advised to save Word documents as PDF versions to post online for accessibility purposes.
    • Create a Learning Module
        • Navigate to the Syllabus Content area
        • Select Build Content, Learning Module
        • This tool allows you to create "pages" or sections in an online booklet format. Type or copy and paste each section as an Item to create a Syllabus that is read onscreen, instead of downloading the document.
    • Add an Item
        • Navigate to the Syllabus content area
        • Select Build Content, Item
        • Copy and paste or type in Syllabus content to be read onscreen instead of downloading the document.

    These are not the only options for sharing a syllabus, and you may, as you learn more about course design, choose an alternate way to post your syllabus in future courses. 

  • Create Contact Instructor Card

    This template button allows you to add instructor contact information and notes for students enrolled in the course. 

    • Log in to your UA Learn account
    • Select the course (each course contact is created individually)
    • Navigate to Contact Instructor
    • Select "Create Contact" making sure to select "Make the Profile Available" under Options,
    • Submit


  • Make Course Available to Students

    It is up to each instructor to activate each Blackboard course content area making them "available" for student access. Please make your courses available on the first day of the semester. To make your courses available follow the instructions below:

    • Log in to your UA Learn account
    • Select the course (each course must be activated individually)
    • Go to Customization in Course Management 
    • Select Properties
    • Scroll to item #3 Select Availability
    • Select YES
    • Click SUBMIT
    • Note the (not currently available) tag will no longer show on your course list
  • Send a Welcome Message (Announcement)

    In this age of email and online communication students, especially in fully online courses, may benefit from an instuctor Welcome and Getting Started message from their faculty. There are many ways to post and create a Getting Started content area in your course. This information should include an explanation on how your course is designed and where the students will find information as the course proceeds. A welcome message can include a short biography and expectations. 

    • Log in to your UA Learn account
    • Select the course (each course accouncement is sent individually)
    • Select the Annoucements course area
    • Ensure you are in "Edit Mode" (toggle button at top right of frame)
    • Select Create Announcement
    • Type and format your message
    • Under Web Announcement Options choose from:
        • Not Date Restricted, this will leave message up for students 
        • Date Restricted, choose a Display After/Display Until day and time
        • Email Announcement, if "Send a copy of this announcement immediately" is selected the body of the message will go to each student and user enrolled in the course in an email. If not selected each user gets an email notice that an announcement has been posted.

I have heard the term "accessibility in online environments" what does this mean to me?

This is a good question right out of the gate, as University of Alaska, as a part of federally funded financial aid programs, is required to make sure all students regardless of disability or other challenges have equitable access to course materials ensuring they can accomplish their academic goals. In online environments faculty must make sure any original content created is saved and posted in an accessible format. To assist you in this goal visit Accessible & Inclusive Design Resources. 

Now that I have this started, what are my next steps?

UAA offers many opportunities for faculty development through the Center for Advancing Faculty Excellence (CAFE) and Academic Innovations & eLearning (AI&e). Both groups guide faculty through teaching & learning techniques and how to implement these in the classroom. AI&e offers additional assistance in online course design through consulation, conferences and online resources. Visit for more information.

Bibliography & Resources

Blackboard Instructor Help: Where Do I Start? (n.d.). Retrieved





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