Differences between Vista and Bb Learn

If you are already familiar with Vista, you will find that many things work the same way in Bb Learn. The following document highlights some of the important differences between Vista and Bb Learn.

Helpful Documents

Getting There

The address for Vista was http://vista.nau.edu. The address for Bb Learn is http://bblearn.nau.edu. You can also find a link to Bb Learn in the QuickLinks on the new NAU home page.

Browser Friendlier

vista browser check

In Vista, there were often major problems depending on which web browser you used. There was a "check browser" link to test for compatibility. Bb Learn is more consistent across browsers, and you no longer need to check for compatibility. While Bb Learn works well with all common browsers, we have found that, at present, Firefox works slightly better than the rest on both Mac and Windows.

The Back Button Works!

browser back button

In Vista, it often caused problems if you used the back button in the browser. In Bb Learn, the forward and back navigation buttons in the browser are safe to use. This is much more intuitive for a web-based tool. One warning though: if you use the forward or back button to navigate away from a page that you were editing and you have not hit the "Submit" button, all unsaved work will be lost.

The HTML Editor is Good

html editor

In Vista the HTML editor didn't work very well, especially on a Mac, and it opened in a tiny box no matter how big you made your browser window. For this reason, most people used DreamWeaver or created their content outside Vista in some other manner. The HTML editor in Bb Learn is much improved and we recommend you use it for the majority of content creation.

The Assignment Dropbox is Gone

In Vista, assignments were visible to students as icons in the content area of the course. That part is the same in Bb Learn. However, instructors used to access the submitted assignments through the Assignment Dropbox. In Blackboard Learn, when you create an Assignment (by clicking the Create Assessment button in the Content area), a column is automatically added in the Grade Center, and you will access uploaded assignments there.

Navigation is Similar

my courses

When you logged into Vista, you could select a course from the Course List. Bb Learn is much the same, but the list is now called My Courses. In Vista, you would click on the My Vista link to return to the course list from within a course. In Bb Learn, you click on the My Bb Learn tab to return to the list of courses. In Vista, you could hide courses from your list using the pencil icon in the upper right. The pencil is now a cog, but is located in the same place and works the same way.

breadcrumb trail

The "breadcrumb trail," which shows you the path to your current location in the course, is much the same as it was in Vista. You can click on any listed item in the breadcrumb trail to go to that location.

Modes are Simpler

Vista had three tabs called Build, Teach, and Student View.

tabs in vista

In Bb Learn, Build and Teach modes are combined. When the Edit Mode switch is in the On position, you can build and teach. When the Edit Mode switch is in the Off position, you are in Student View.

edit on/off

More Options for File Management and Content Creation

file manager content collection

In Vista, most people built their course content outside the system using DreamWeaver or Microsoft Word, and then loaded the content into Vista's File Manager. This is still possible, and this is the way we migrated content from Vista to Bb Learn. In Bb Learn, the Content Collection is the place where externally created content resides. However, Bb Learn's internal editor is much better than Vista's so creating and editing content inside Bb Learn is a much better option than it was in Vista. There are distinctions between these two methods of content creation. If you build content outside Bb Learn, you can only edit it outside Bb Learn and then load it into the "Content Collection." If you build it inside Bb Learn, you can only edit it inside Bb Learn and these documents appear in the Content area (accessible from the Course Menu), not the Content Collection (accessible from the Control Panel). Despite similar names, these two "content things" in Bb Learn are very different. You can copy/paste from Word or DreamWeaver into the internal editor, and from that point forward edit internally. (Blackboard promises that in a coming upgrade at the end of 2011, the internal editor will be able to edit externally created HTML files.) See our Creating Course Content tutorial and the DreamWeaver tutorial for more information.

Limitations of the Student View

As in Vista, there are some limitations of the Student View, and there are times when you will want to log into your course as a student rather than use the student view so that you can check the adaptive release or take a test, for example. You can create a single "test student" account (for yourself only) by following these instructions. Note: One limitation of the Test Student account is that, as for all students, the test student can only access the course after the course start date.

Create the "Test Student" account from the Course Tools area of the Control Panel on the left, by clicking Add Test Student.

add test student to course

Be sure to write down the password you select because this password is not the same as your regular NAU password. If you forget this password, you will need to contact elc-help@nau.edu or call 928-523-5554 for a reset.

enroll student

To login as the test student, use the special Guest Login link at the bottom of the Bb Learn login page:

Guest login

Your student account will have the following username and password:

Username: abc12-student (replace abc12 with your own NAU user id)
Password: you will decide on the password; be sure to write it down! This password is not synchronized with your regular NAU password. You will need to contact elc-help@nau.edu if you have a problem with this password.

You can change your student account password. Click on the My Bb Learn tab and select the Personal Information link in the Tools box. Then click on the Change Password link. Note that this only works for the "test student" password. Your regular NAU password can be changed here on ITS's website.


Hint: The best way to view your course as both a student and as an instructor at the same time is to open two separate browsers, such as Internet Explorer and Firefox for example, and use one for the Instructor view and the other for the Student view. If you've been looking for an excuse to buy a bigger or second monitor, this is it! Most modern web browsers, such as IE, Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Opera will work fine.

Selective Release is now Adaptive Release

The name has changed to "Adaptive Release." You can hide documents (they are still visible to you, but not to the students) from view or use the Display After and/or Display Until options to make documents appear and/or disappear on a schedule. If you don't mind the students seeing a document all the time, don't enter anything in those date and time boxes.

Action menu

permit view


The internal e-mail tool is very similar to the one in Vista. As in Vista, the benefit of an internal only messaging tool is that all correspondence with students is contained within the course. With external e-mail, there is always a question of identity verification (students often send us messages from non-NAU e-mail addresses) and the possibility that an important message gets missed or caught in the junk mail filter and goes unread. One important difference was that in Vista, a green asterisk appeared to notify you when there were new unread messages. In Bb Learn, the only way to see if there are new messages is to access the Messages tool. We have submitted a "feature request" to Blackboard to restore the Vista functionality because it was helpful.

Update: In early November, 2011, we added the My Messages Module to your My Bb Learn page. This module tells you when there are new unread messages in any of your courses. You can also add this module to the Home Page of each active course, if you wish. Please remember that you can rearrange these modules for your convenience by turning Edit Mode On and dragging a module's title to the desired location on the page.

My Messages

Group Management is Very Different

Group management and discussions are structured very differently in Bb Learn. If you are using groups, please spend time learning the new features by referring to the Learn On Demand tutorials. If you are using group discussions in Bb Vista, you will need to set these up as group discussion forums in Bb Learn, as the migration process placed ALL discussion topics to the general discussion board and none in the group discussion boards. Please read through the documentation, tutorials and online help; and feel free to schedule a session with an e-Learning Center Instructional Technologist to learn how best to set up group discussion activity for your class needs.

Weblinks are now URLs

If you were using Weblinks (icons that point to external web pages) in Bb Vista, we have placed those in a folder on your Content page called Weblinks. In Bb Learn, you can perform the same function from the Content page, by choosing Build Content: URL. One important tip: We recommend that you use the "Open Link in New Window" option whenever pointing to a web page outside the Bb Learn environment.

Learning Modules Not Recommended

Due to inconsistencies in the way Learning Modules behave in Bb Learn, we have converted any Learning Modules in your course on Bb Vista to Content Folders on Bb Learn. Although this was a popular feature in Vista, we don't currently recommend that you use Learning Modules in Bb Learn. Instead just create content folders and pages of content within them.

Course Entry Point is the Home Page

In Vista, the course entry point was the Content area. In Bb Learn, the "Home Page" module, which contains a collection of notification tools, is the standard Course Entry Point. You are free to change that to the Content area (or other things) from Control Panel: Customization: Style if you want to make Bb Learn look more like Vista did.


course entry point

Grading Forms

If you were using Grading Forms in Bb Vista to grade assignments or discussions, we have re-created the Grading Form as a Rubric in Bb Learn, and have attached it to the appropriate column(s) in your Grading Center. Be aware that the Rubric tool in Bb Learn does not work in the same way that the Grading Forms did in Bb Vista. Please review this tool.

Content Creation

bb learn content collection

Course content that was migrated from Vista has been placed into the Bb Learn Content Collection. It can be edited externally with DreamWeaver, but not with the internal HTML editor. See the "File Management and Content Creation" section above for more details.

Known Issues and Recommended Workarounds

Questions and Follow-up Support

If you have any basic questions about Bb Learn, please review our tutorials and videos and/or contact the e-Learning Center's Faculty Support Desk at elc-help@nau.edu. For more in-depth assistance, you can also schedule an appointment with an Instructional Technologist.