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Library Subject Guides

Learning Technology - Practical Guide

Getting started with the VLE

Available resources to assist with students during their time at University.

Getting started with the VLE

For most students, the VLE is the online home of your studies. You might also hear the platform name, ‘Blackboard’.

Each module has its own site run by the lecturer which contains things like:

  • course materials like lecture slides, videos, reading lists, quizzes etc.
  • links to video conferencing tools for real-time online seminars and lectures.
  • interactive tools for discussion and collaborative work.
  • places to submit assignments.

This page will help you find your way around the key aspects of using the VLE.

VLE tips

Favourite your modules, search your sites, download the app

We surveyed nearly 2000 students and found that many of you didn't know these useful tips:

Access the VLE

Getting started

Use the right browser

We recommend using either Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome browsers on a Windows or Mac computer to access Blackboard Learn. You can also use the Blackboard app (but we don't recommend using the app for assessment-related tasks).


Find your way around Blackboard Learn: 

Blackboard Learn - Navigation (Students) [YouTube]

You can also view this as a written guide:

Other tips to get started:

Finding your sites

The Courses page contains module sites full of teaching resources, and other support sites such as the Academic Integrity Tutorial and Turnitin Tutorial.

You can customise this page in a number of ways:

  1. Filter courses by academic year

  2. View courses in a list or grid layout

  3. Search courses to quickly find the one you need

  4. Adjust how many courses are shown per page

5. Click the star next to a site to Favourite it, which pins it to the top of the list

Courses page. Row 1: back to 2023/24 courses. Current courses drop down. Upcoming courses. Row 2: List or grid view. Search courses. Filter for different types of courses. Show number of items per page-. Row 3: Course detail and star to favourite a course for easy access.

Why can't I see/access my module sites?

VLE sites/modules that aren’t quite ready yet will either not show at all in the Courses area of the VLE, or will show but be listed as Private.

A course link in the tile format showing a padlock and 'Private' overlaid on the image.A course link in the banner format showing a padlock and 'Private' below the site name.

Each module leader can choose when to make their sites available. This usually happens by the start of the first week of the term it’s being taught in, but it can vary.

If you need to find out specifically when a site will be available, or the site isn't available after the start of term, please contact the module leader. You can find their details on the relevant module catalogue entry.

Announcements & the Activity Stream

Lecturers often send course updates and other important information through Blackboard Learn Announcements.

Within an individual module site, Announcements is often a module's homepage. You can also open the Announcements from the module's left hand menu.

You can also access Announcements from all your sites in one place in the Activity Stream.

Notification list including upcoming assignment submission date, today's notification about reading list, and recent announcement and marks posting.

The Activity Stream also has other notifications from sites, such as:

  • new materials or sites
  • due dates in the next seven days
  • marks posted for assessments within Blackboard

Find out more about Activity Stream and adapting your notification settings:

Navigating Module Sites

Selecting a module will make it open in a layer over the Home Page of the VLE. (Your modules are called 'courses' on Blackboard). To return to the Home Page, click the X in the top left corner of the screen. 

close button indicated by an x in the top left of the screen.

Across the top of your module site, you'll see Content, Calendar, Announcements, Discussions, Gradebook, Messages and Groups. Just click where you want to go!

The left hand pane shows your Course Staff and Details & Actions pane.

Course Content

The Course Content area is where you will want to focus and spend most of your time. In this area you will find

  • Module introduction
  • Course materials or links to each week's materials
  • Replay Content: lecture recordings and other video resources
  • Reading Lists: the important books, chapters and articles you'll need for the module
  • Assessments: instructions and assignment submission points

Some items will be held within Learning Modules (LM) or Folders. Click the title and it may expand to show a list of further items. Click the first item to open it. Look for an arrow in the top left to navigate to the next item in the LM or folder.

Learning Module expanded to show first item.


Click on a file to preview it in Blackboard. (Works for PDF and Microsoft Office files).

The next available option allows you to download alternative formats.

Finally the last option is where you can download the original file.

Along the top of the Course Content is a search icon. It looks like a magnifying glass. Clicking the search icon will allow you to search for items.

Blackboard Ultra Module page showing the search icon to the right of the page.

Blackboard App

You can also use the Blackboard app on a mobile device:

(see the guide below for instructions on setting up the app)

The app is useful for quickly checking course content, announcements and participating in Discussion Forums.

Don't use the Blackboard app for any assessment activity!

Navigating the Blackboard App

  • The first time you open the app you'll need to log in - see the guide below for instructions.
  • Click a module from the Courses list to open its Course Materials page, containing Announcements, Course Content and other items.
  • The Course Content page is the equivalent of the left hand menu on the browser site (items might appear in a different order) - choose the area you want to look at.
  • To go back, use the back arrow at the top left of the screen or the usual back function on your mobile.

Find out more:

Reading Lists

 Reading Lists FAQs

For each module you take, you will find at least one reading list on the Yorkshare VLE. These lists link directly through to YorSearch, helping you to locate print copies, and giving you quick access to any electronic texts. Scanned extracts from library books are also linked where copyright permits. View the Reading List Practical Guide.

VLE troubleshooting

Help with common issues

Many issues encountered with the VLE can be resolved by these steps:

  • Make sure you're using Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox browser.
  • Clear your cookies and cache.
  • Adjust your cookie settings (for Google Chrome)
  • Disable any ad-blockers

More details on how to do this:

Problems logging in

Module visibility issues

If you can't see a module site, or an area within a particular site that you expect to, it's likely that the staff member hasn't made the site or content visible to students yet. Sites should be made visible in the first week of term at the latest.

If you want to know for certain when a site will be available, you should contact the module tutor. To find their details, visit your department's webpage and select the Staff or People section in the navigation.

Dealing with other issues

You may be able to find advice on Blackboard's Help pages: