School and Departmental Organisations: recommended structure and content

Update 2023/24: All Organisations are now in Learn Ultra.

For timeline and rationale details see the Ultra Project page.

For migration help see Ultra Organisations Quick Start guide.


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. Blackboard organisations (referred to in some Schools as ‘briefcases’) are an effective way to provide students with the key information that they need during their programme of study, and can 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.

Standard template for departmental organisations

When you submit a request for a departmental organisation, the organisation will be created from a standard template, to aid consistency across the university. You can then customise the organisation to meet your department’s needs.

The table below shows the standard layout for these organisations, and what content should be in each area.

Many of the content items are hidden by default. Make these ‘Visible to participants’ once you have edited the content.

Topic Essential, recommended,
or optional
Suggested content
Announcements Automatically appears on the top menu of all Ultra organisations Use for news items / updates
School information  Essential Contacts

Use this area to provide an easy-to-find list of key contact details for the School and Support Centre.

  • Academic – HoS, SDAT, SDTL, DTLs etc.
  • Support Centre contact details and opening hours

You could also link to the full staff list for your School / Department on the university website.


Key information

Pre-populated with links to Essentials and Term Dates on the university website.

Add links and information relevant to your School / Department.

For example

  • Information for Joint Honours students
  • Links to School / Department website
  • Links to professional bodies / websites
  • Booking forms for Art Studios, Labs etc.

Additional content could include feeds from departmental accounts on

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Instagram


Health & Safety

Health and Safety information as appropriate for the School / Department.

Programme information  Essential Programme Handbooks

Copies of Programme Handbooks for all current cohorts.


Module Selection

Information on

  • Module selection process
  • Modules available – module descriptions, module videos etc.
Assessment information Essential Pre-populated with links to key documents and pages on the university website, including

  • RISIS Ask a Question
  • Assessment Handbook
  • Exceptional Circumstances
  • Late penalties
  • Academic Integrity and Academic Misconduct
  • University marking criteria

Add information relevant to your School / Department e.g. marking criteria.



Pre-populated with links to

  • Exam guidance on the university website
  • Past papers archive
New and visiting students Optional Information for new students e.g.

  • information about Welcome Week
  • welcome from the Head of School.

Key information specifically for Visiting and/or International students.


These could be included within another section e.g. School Information.

Student Voice Essential Support and Representation

Include information as appropriate about

  • The tutorial system
  • Course Reps
  • Student Ambassadors
  • STaR mentors
  • Staff Student Partnership Group (including minutes of meetings)


Feedback and Evaluation

Include as appropriate

  • Links to any feedback forms in use in your School / Department
  • Information about programme-level evaluation
Library and Study Advice Essential Information specific to students in your School / Department from your 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.

Yuja Optional Use the links in this area If using YuJa on your organisation.


Before requesting an organisation

Before you request an Organisation coordinate with colleagues within your School, Department or Support Centre; 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 without checking you may not be aware of all that exist.

Contact your Senior Programme Administrator as they generally oversee organisations in a School / Department.

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

Request an organisation

Please note that DTS will be processing requests for Blackboard Learn Ultra organisations in batches. Please be prepared to wait up to 5 working days for your new organisation.

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

Page last updated on November 20, 2023 by taralehane

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