Course Instructor, Designer, Teaching Assistant, Student, Auditor…you may be aware of the terminology but how much do you know about roles in Blackboard and what they mean? This article explains what the various roles are and provides you with enough information to allow you to ensure that the right people have the right level of access to your Blackboard course area.
After reading this article you should know:
- What different types of access to Blackboard course areas are and aren’t possible
- Which role(s) to use to enrol people onto your course area
- How to go about giving people access
A quick word about accounts and roles
Before starting, it may be worth pointing out that what is being discussed here are not Blackboard “accounts”. Having an account on Blackboard means that you have a username and password that allows you to log in to the system. You cannot access anything on Blackboard unless you log in. There is no notion of “guest” or “anonymous” access. Anyone who wants access Blackboard must have their own account. The vast majority of staff and students have Blackboard accounts set up automatically without any action required on their part. The process is linked to the creation of their central College Computing account . However, having an account does not mean that you will be able to see anything when you do log in to Blackboard. For this, you need to have been given access to course areas and this is where the notion of a role comes in.
Definition of a role
A role in Blackboard essentially defines the level of access that a person has to a course area and therefore defines what they can do in that course area. The following table provides a summary of the different role types.
|Category||Role||Gives access to||Which allows them to|
|Teaching||Instructor||Teach tab||View and manage student grades in the Grade Book, view student submissions for assignments and assessments, set up student groups and generate various reports on student activity in the course area. Instructors can also give other people access to the course area. These roles cannot upload or delete files.|
|Building||Designer||Build Tab||Upload and delete files, create assignments and assessments (but they cannot view the student submissions), generally design the look of the course area.|
|Learning||Student||No tabs||Participate in the course, view content, submit assignments, take quizzes etc.|
For the Teaching and Building categories, the roles are linked to the tabs that you can see in a course area. It is important to note that there is no role in Blackboard which gives access to both the Build and the Teach tabs. If a person requires access to both then they will have to be enrolled as an Instructor or a Teaching Assistant and as a Designer. The Student View tab is available to both Instructors and Designers.
While you can mix the roles in the Teaching and Building categories, you cannot mix the roles in the Learning category, e.g. it is not possible to be enrolled as a Student and a Designer. This is considered to be a conflict in roles.
Also, a role in Blackboard does not necessarily link to a role in College. A first year student can be an Instructor on a course in Blackboard and a Professor can be enrolled as a Student. In reality, the former situation is rare, but Blackboard will not prevent a student being enrolled on a course with one of the teaching or design roles. Also, if you are a member of staff and find you have Student access to a course area, this does not mean that Blackboard has made a mistake about who you are. The Blackboard role is used to provide a particular level of access to a course area. You will most likely find that you are enrolled with a variety of different roles e.g. on some course areas as an Instructor, some as an Instructor and a Designer and still others as an Auditor.
The Instructor and Teaching Assistant roles both give access to the Teach tab in a Blackboard course area. This gives access to the Instructor Tools menu which by default appears under the Course Tools menu.
Instructor and Teaching Assistant level access also affect what you can do with the standard course tools in the Course Tools menu. For instance, an Instructor or Teaching Assistant can modify the settings on an existing Assignment but they cannot create a new Assignment. This isn’t necessarily very intuitive and indeed can be confusing. It might be best to remember the fact that if you are likely to need to create a new instance of something in your course area, you are most likely going to need Designer access.
So, what’s the difference between Instructor and Teaching Assistant access? By default they are pretty much identical apart from the fact that an Instructor has the ability to give other people access to the course area. This is done through the “Enrol Members” button which can be found in the Grade Book tool. Teaching Assistants do not have access to this functionality.
Instructors also have the ability to further restrict what Teaching Assistants can do in the course area by using the “Settings” item in the “Manage Course” tool in the Instructor Tools menu. Through this tool an Instructor can do things like deny the Teaching Assistant access to the Grade Book or prevent them from viewing student tracking data.
One final point to make about Instructor access, is that a person must be enrolled as an Instructor to be able to have their name appear on the course listing on the Blackboard homepage.
Not all Instructors are listed, only those who have been designated “Primary Instructors”. So, if someone’s name isn’t listed, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t have Instructor access to the course area. They just aren’t identified as being a “Primary Instructor”
The Designer role gives access to the Build tab in a course area. The most important feature that this provides access to is the ability to upload files to the course area and to delete existing files. The Build tab also gives access to buttons on your course pages which allow you to add items such as files, folders and links to tools.
The tools in the Course Tools menu, also look different on the Build tab than they do on the Teach tab, with a wider variety of features available to the Designer.
Designers do not have access to student data such as the Grade Book, assignment or assessment submissions. They do, however have access to discussion forum postings.
People enrolled as Students or Auditors effectively have the same level of access to a Blackboard course area. They can view course materials, take quizzes, submit assignments, participate in discussion forums etc. So, if both roles effectively give the same level of access why would you use one of them rather than the other?
There are essentially two reasons for giving Auditor access instead of Student:
- Resit students on automatically enrolled courses
- To aid with course administration
For course areas on Blackboard which are on automatic enrolment (that is, access to the course area is dependent upon the student’s registration details on the central student record system), students who are re-sitting the course will not be given access to the course on Blackboard by default. Access to course areas for these students is granted at the discretion of the course instructor and these students should be enrolled manually through the Grade Book as Auditors. If they are enrolled as a Student they will be automatically unenrolled the next evening when Blackboard refreshes its enrolment data. Anyone enrolled as an Auditor will be ignored by the automatic enrolment process.
If someone wants to be able to see your course area e.g. a colleague wants to see how you do things or a postgraduate student wants to follow your course, you could enrol them manually onto your course area as Students. This would allow them to see the course materials without being able to make changes to the course area or to see student data. However, having people enrolled like this can make it difficult to distinguish between those people who are on your course because they are “real” students and those who are there for other reasons. So, instead of enrolling people as Students in this situation, you can enrol them as Auditors. Now you can easily identify who the Auditors on the course are. You can also use features like the Selective Release functionality to make course content visible only to those enrolled as Auditors or indeed to hide content from them.
The image above shows the Grade Book for a course area (click to see a larger image). The view has been sorted on the Role column and it is easy to distinguish between the different types of people enrolled.
So, when considering what level of access to give someone to your course area, the questions you need to ask are:
- Do they need to be able to see student data such as grades, assignment and assessment submissions? – If so, they’ll need to be enrolled on the course as either an Instructor or a Teaching Assistant which gives them access to the Teach tab.
- Do they need the power to be able to enrol other people on the course? – If so, they’ll need Instructor access
- Do they need to be able to upload files to the course area? – If so, they’ll need to be enrolled on the course are as a Designer which gives them access to the Build tab (remember you can be an Instructor or a Teaching Assistant and a Designer)
- Do they just need to be able to see the course materials? – Give them Auditor access
Once you know what level of access is required, if you are a course instructor yourself, you can enrol others as Teaching Assistants, Designers, Auditors or Students through the Grade Book tool in your course area. If you require someone to be enrolled with Instructor level access, you will have to request this through email@example.com. We generally do not give access to course areas without the permission of one of the primary designers.
Further information is available on our online support site on http://www.learninginstitute.qmul.ac.uk/elearning/support/vle/