School and Departmental Organisations: recommended structure and content

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While teaching and learning in Blackboard is mostly delivered through courses which represent one or more RISIS modules, students need access to a range of information which sits at University, School or Department level. A Blackboard organisation is an effective way of providing that information.

From the 2021/22 academic year, with the move to Blackboard Ultra Navigation, School portal pages will no longer be available in the university Blackboard system. Blackboard organisations (referred to in some Schools as ‘briefcases’) will be the best way to provide students with the key information that they need during their programme of study and support cohort identity.

See Using Blackboard for Programme delivery for details of the options for providing programme-level information in Blackboard.

An Organisation has the same features and tools as a Blackboard course. Unlike modules and programmes, which have a new Blackboard course set up each academic year, organisations continue from one year to the next.

Students can be enrolled automatically to an organisation based on a number of criteria e.g. enrolment on specific programmes, all UG or PG students in a School or Department. Their enrolments are disabled when they leave the university, or no longer meet the Organisation enrolment criteria.

What Organisations should be set up for a School?

Aim for the smallest number of separate Organisations that will meet your needs, but sufficient to allow you to target information at the specific students who need it.

In some cases a single organisation will suffice for an entire School, but Departmental organisations are likely to be most appropriate, often separated out into UG and PGT. For instance, the School of Humanities has separate organisations for:

  • UG History
  • PG History
  • UG Classics
  • PG Classics
  • UG Philosophy
  • PG Philosophy

It is also possible to set up organisations by Part, for instance:

  • Chemistry Part 1
  • Chemistry Part 2
  • Chemistry Part 3

However, this can take more work to maintain, and does not facilitate collaboration or communication between students at different levels.

Separate Organisations for specific discrete activities within a School or Organisation may be set up where it is useful to have a distinct space, extensive information is needed, or communications would benefit from being separated – for example, Health & Safety in practical disciplines. The use of discrete Organisations should be carefully considered.

Topic Essential,recommended,
or optional
Suggested content
Announcements Essential News items / updates
Key contacts Essential
  • Academic – HoS, SDAT, SDTL, DTLs etc.
  • Support Centre contacts and opening hours

NB This works best as a content area, not using the Blackboard ‘Contacts’ tool.

Programme Handbooks Essential Programme Handbooks for all current cohorts.
Module Selection Recommended Information on

  • Module selection process
  • Modules available – module descriptions, module videos etc.
Key Information University information – for example links to

  • Essentials
  • Term dates

Information for Joint Hons students

Academic Integrity

Links as appropriate to

  • departmental website
  • professional bodies/ websites

Forms e.g.

  • Health & Safety
  • Booking forms for Art Studios, Labs etc.


Additional optional content could include feeds from departmental accounts in

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Instagram
Assessment Essential Links to Assessment Regs, ECF policy etc.

School / Departmental assessment information e.g. marking criteria

Information on what to do when problems occur e.g. RISIS Ask a Question


New students Optional Information for new students / Welcome Week.

This could be included within another section e.g. Key Information.

Visiting students Optional Key information specifically for Visiting and/or International students.

This could be included within another section e.g. Key Information.

Health & Safety Essential for some Departments Health and Safety information as appropriate for the School / Department
Student Voice Essential Information here could include

  • Tutorial system
  • Course Reps
  • Student Ambassadors
  • STaR mentors
  • Staff Student Partnership Group minutes
  • Feedback forms
  • Programme-level evaluation
Library and Study Advice Essential Subject-specific library resources.

Contact details for Academic Liaison Librarian.

Enrol your Academic Liaison Librarian onto your organisation so they can update this content as necessary.

Careers & Placements Optional These may be covered in separate organisation(s).

Enrol your Careers Consultant onto your organisation so they can update content as necessary.

Student Support Optional Links to

  • Student Services
  • Wellness, Life Tools etc.
  • Disability / Accessibility information

Suggested menu structure and design

The menu could be structured as shown in this screenshot.

Suggested Organisation menu

Design good practice

  • Avoid over-long menus – students should not have to scroll down to see the bottom of the menu.
  • Avoid creating folders within folders.
    Recommendation: When setting up organisations it is worth anticipating changes that will be introduced (possibly for 2022/23) by the move to Ultra courses and organisations: all content will appear in an area titled Content, with a maximum 3 folder levels.
  • Shared content between Organisations
    • Files which need to be placed into several organisations can be set as visible to all system users, and a link placed in each organisation – so that when the document is updated, it is updated everywhere.
    • Reusable Objects can be used as an efficient way to update content that appears directly in Blackboard which is used on multiple organisations and/or courses.


We recommend that you don’t add the general  ‘Tools’ link to the menu; if you do, you should disable any tools not in use.

Tools you can use to promote student engagement in an organisation include:

  • Discussion boards (for example, SPCLS use discussion boards to answer FAQs around exams and module options.)
  • Blackboard Collaborate (for live online sessions)
  • MS Forms

For more suggestions please see the Online Teaching Toolkit: Engaging your students.


How do I request an Organisation?

Before you request an Organisation coordinate within your School or Department, and where appropriate make use of existing Organisations to avoid any duplication and proliferation. Not all staff in a School are necessarily enrolled on all Organisations, so you may not be aware of them without checking.

Contact your Senior Programme Administrator as they tend to oversee the Organisations in a School / Dept.

Avoid setting up separate Organisations just for one-off activities; these are usually best incorporated into existing Organisations or done using something else.

See How to request an organisation.

But please get in touch via the Service Desk if you need advice from the TEL team before submitting a formal request.


Support with moving content from portal tabs to organisations

TEL Support will work one-to-one with colleagues in Schools and Support Centres to help with the changes.

We can help with advice on structuring your menu, deciding how many Organisations you need to set up and how to do this. Just log a Service Desk ticket and we’ll get in touch.