Communication and Collaboration Tools

Blackboard can be a powerful ally in the quest for greater student engagement, both in and outside of the classroom. Collaborate is Blackboard’s flagship communication and collaboration product, and it has just recently been launched here at Pitt. For more information, please see this getting started post. There are multiple other Blackboard tools available to create collaborative spaces for students within your course, or open lines of communication between students, among groups of students, or between student and instructor. This roadmap contains a brief description of the four main collaboration tools in Blackboard: Blogs, Wikis, Journals, and Discussion Boards. It goes on to present information on how to set up, configure, and assess these tools and resources. Finally it wraps up with some considerations for effectively implementing any of these tools within your Blackboard Course. If you are interested in communication and collaboration tools in the context of group work, please visit the Groups page for more information.


The Blog Tool in Blackboard can be configured in two different ways: individual Blogs and course Blogs.

Individual Blogs give each student their own Blog. Blogs can be read and commented on by other students, but no other student may post to an Individual Blog. For example, an Instructor may have students write weekly reading reflections in their Blogs, and ask that other students read and leave a comment on their peers’ entries. Individual Blogs can be graded or ungraded. If graded, the Blog is taken as a whole and assigned a single grade, which appears in the Grade Center. Instructors can leave comments on any Individual Blog post, and may also maintain their own individual Blog, which students can comment on.

A Course Blog is a Blog that all students and instructors in the course can contribute to. Each contribution is part of the entire Blog, and both other students and instructors can comment on each Blog entry. Course Blogs can be either grader or ungraded. If a Course Blog is graded, each student receives an individual grade for their post(s) to the Blog (one grade per Blog, so if a student makes multiple posts, these posts would be considered a single assignment, for grading purposes).

For more information on using this tool, please visit this post to get started with Blogs.


A Wiki is a free-form repository of information that anyone can add to, edit, or change. In Blackboard, Wikis can be created for the whole class, or for groups, and can either be ungraded or graded. Instructors can also contribute to Wikis, or it can be left entirely up to students, once the initial Wiki topic is opened by an instructor.

When any change is made to a Wiki page, a record is kept of that change, who made it, exactly what was changed, and when. If necessary, the instructor can roll back a change. It is also easy to see which students have been active in editing and contributing to the page, and which have not.

An example of Wiki use in a class setting is for students to maintain lists of resources they can use as they work on developing and carrying out research. All students in the course can make changes to this list as they explore, evaluate and use these resources.

For more information on using this tool, please visit this post to get started with Wikis.


If you need a tool that keeps student work private between the student and the instructor(s), you should use the Journals tool. Journals provide each student with a space to write multiple reflections or responses that can be kept private between each student and the course instructors. Instructors may comment on Journal entries, and may also choose to grade the Journal as a whole from within the Grade Center.

Journals can also be used with group projects, allowing all members of a group to contribute to the group Journal, which is not visible to any students from outside the group.

For more information on using this tool, please visit this post to get started with Journals.

Discussion Boards

If you would like your students to engage (either amongst themselves or with the participation of the instructors) in back-and-forth discussion or debate about a topic, you should use the Discussion Board tool.

In Blackboard, Discussion Boards allow for threaded conversations, meaning that students can reply to either the first post that starts the discussion thread, or any comment made by any other discussion participant. Students can continue to converse by replying to one another’s comments. Instructors can also participate in these discussions.

Discussion Boards can be graded or ungraded. Graded discussions allow for a single grade to be assigned to each student per Discussion Board, and there can be multiple Discussion Boards in a course. You can also open up Group Discussion Boards so that all members of a group can discuss among themselves without members of other groups having access.

For more information on using this tool, please visit this post to get started with Discussion Boards.

Considerations for Using Any Communication or Collaboration Tool

No matter which tools you select for use in your course, the following steps can help you deploy that tool in a way that will be most user-friendly for your students.

  1. Create a Course or Tool Link in your Course Menu so that your students can easily locate the tool.
  2. Create a link to a specific Wiki, Blog, Discussion Board or Journal in a Content Area to help students find just the right link at just the right time.
  3. Use Student Preview to see how your students will view and interact with your course.

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