Blackboard Social Profiles

Social Profiles provide you a way to select a photo and provide some details about yourself that are visible to other users of duo (and possibly beyond). Read on to find out how to set one up and where they are used.

One of the most requested features in duo is greater use of photographs. For example ‘Why can’t they be shown next to postings in a discussion board?‘ This is a sensible request – photographs can be particularly useful in large classes or where the course is being taught at a distance. Photos are also something that raises issues relating to personal privacy – some people may not want their photos to appear on the course and have good reasons for this. In duo, photos are linked to your Social Profile.

If you would like to create a profile, please read the information at the foot of this post before doing so.
Note you do not need to create a profile to use duo. The profile data are stored in the cloud and so, depending on the options you choose, may be visible to people outside Durham University.

Social Profiles

cardBlackboard’s profile system allows you to set up a profile with a photo (you can upload one, or pull it from facebook) and add links to your facebook and twitter accounts (though it does not pull in posts, or post to these services). You can also add a short biography and choose who else can see this information. The ‘card’ view of my profile is shown to the right:

The larger view of the Profile - ready for editing
The larger view of the Profile – ready for editing

If you click the link ‘View My Profile‘ at the bottom of the card, then the user’s profile page is displayed full screen, along with details of any discussions they have shared with you (not shown here).

Social Profiles displayed in the detail view showing a single post.
Social Profiles displayed in the detail view showing a single post.
The smallest icon is displayed next to this blog post
The smallest icon is displayed next to this blog post

This image also appears in discussion board postings, on Blackboard’s blog and wiki tools and in lists of users displayed to lecturers.In some areas large versions are used, in others a smaller version of the photo is more appropriate. In both cases if you click the photo, the profile card is displayed.

Accessing It

The My Blackboard menu - accessible at the top right of duo
The ‘My Blackboard’ menu – accessible at the top right of duo

You can access this page at any time, by clicking on the My Blackboard link that appears at the right at the very top of every page. It uses the ‘badges‘ model (brightly coloured red circles containing numbers – as used on mobile phones and tablets) to alert you to any new items. To edit your Blackboard profile – click the top icon. If you’ve already set a photo it will be your face, if not it will be an anonymous grey head!

Creating your own profile

When you log into duo for the first time then you will see a splash screen encouraging you to create a profile. Please note you do not need to do this to use the system – profile creation is entirely voluntary. Before happily filling in all the boxes and sharing it with the world, please read the suggestions below, completing a profile on duo is entirely voluntary.

The opening splash screen displayed immediately after you log in for the first time
The opening splash screen displayed immediately after you log in for the first time

As you can see in step 2 it is prompting you to complete your profile. Note that the profile information is stored in the cloud on Blackboard’s servers, not on duo. That means that potentially anything in your profile can be accessed by others (this is by design, as it allows you to create networks of followers at other universities and colleges that also use Blackboard). Data entered from duo will be linked to Blackboard’s production cloud and so will contain data from other live Blackboard servers around the world.

Guides from Blackboard

Setting Up Your Profile

Here’s what we suggest you do:
1. First read and accept the Terms of Service
– notice there is a link to Durham-specific terms at the foot of the page too.


2. Then you need to enter your email address. If you want to keep your Blackboard Social profile after you leave Durham, you might want to enter an address other than your University one. Otherwise it doesn’t matter.


You will then be sent an email to that address, to confirm it is really you. After replying to that message you can complete your profile.


You don’t need to upload a picture, but it does brighten things up! You can set it by associating your profile with Twitter or Facebook, or just uploading a photograph. Personally I prefer to upload a photo, especially as in some areas it can be rendered quite large – a small Twitter icon image can look blocky. Remember too that the photo will be seen by everyone – it should be a good likeness of you and not offensive. People have the opportunity to report inappropriate images and the University could take action, requiring you to replace it – see the terms and conditions of using duo for more information. Lecturers will see students’ pictures next to their name in the list of students enrolled in the course. Please avoid pictures of your pets or celebrities.

Linking Accounts

If you want people at the University (and beyond) to see your facebook and or twitter profiles, then feel free to link your profile to them. If you don’t use these services, or want to keep them separate from your work at the University that is fine – you don’t need to link these services for the My Blackboard profile to work. As stated before the link doesn’t pull in posts, or send them out, it just adds the appropriate icons to your profile card that other people can use to see what you’ve posted using these services. Think whether the photo on your facebook or twitter profile is the one you want to appear to others in your courses.

After that you are prompted for three bits of textual information:

Your Name

Please enter the name that you are known by at University as you would like it to appear. Again, the University reserves the right to require you to change this if it is inappropriate or misleading. Lecturers and students will be able to see and check your name next to discussion board posts, lists of users, etc. and should report misleading names. This isn’t Facebook or YikYak.

What you are Studying

You can leave this blank, but if you enter something here it might encourage other like-minded individuals to get in touch.

Sharing Information about yourself

What you put here is up to you, but consider internet security and try to minimise the risk of being stalked or providing rich pickings for identity thieves. Don’t post anything too personal or information that would allow someone else to establish exactly where you live, where you work or how to contact you.

Contact Information (Email)

The social profile uses the email address you enter here as a unique identifier. You will need to be able to access the email to verify the account. This profile email address is used to link together any profiles on other Blackboard servers. That’s why they recommend using a personal email address (e.g. gmail). Note this does not change the address that gets email from duo, it is only used to identify this profile in the cloud and occasionally to send emails to verify your account (e.g. if you try and link social profiles on different Blackboard servers).

We recommend that you do not display your email address on your profile card/page. Staff and students at the University will be able to contact you via your Durham email address should they need to.

Privacy Options

Blackboard offers 4 different privacy options that determine who else can see (or find) your profile:

  1. All Blackboard Users (i.e. anyone using Blackboard across the Globe)
  2. My Institution – really just people on the same Blackboard server.
  3. Private – you appear in spaces you have joined*, and in courses and organisations to other people enrolled, but other than that you are invisible.
  4. Hidden – pretty much what it says, only you can see your profile and you effectively rule yourself out of the social tools.
    We recommend choosing either My Institution or Private. Hidden is also a valid option, but will mean you can’t use some of the social features. You can change this later if you want to. Note that you will be able to see the profiles of other people enrolled on your courses, if they have provided profile data.

*We are thinking of turning off the Spaces feature as it is very rarely used and rightly so – there are better tools for this purpose elsewhere.

Further Questions

If you have any questions about this, please contact a member of the Learning Technologies Team via the IT Service Desk.

Featured image by Yoel Ben-Avraham shared under a CC BY-SA license via flicker