Online learning, or e-learning, is common at Imperial College London and much of your learning will take place via our Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). 

A VLE is accessible online to all students who are registered for relevant course modules. The VLE is typically used to complement lectures, laboratory practicals and other forms of teaching and learning.

Blackboard tips

Students, alumni and staff from the Department of Life Sciences give their advice on using Blackboard, Imperial's main Virtual Learning Environment.




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Although different departments may use different kinds of VLE, Blackboard is used by most departments at Imperial to host materials, discussions, and tests, and to allow submission of assignments.

Each course on Blackboard will vary depending on the department or lecturer. A course on Blackboard might contain:

  • Lecture notes, videos of lectures and PowerPoint presentations
  • Reading lists, often with direct links to online resources
  • Chat rooms and discussion forums for specific purposes, such as carrying out group project work
  • Quizzes or tests for assessment purposes and grades and feedback
  • An electronic noticeboard containing important course or module information

You may also be required to submit assignments via Blackboard’s Assignment tool or Turnitin.

Here are a few quick tips to help you the most out of Blackboard:

  • Use the discussion boards on Blackboard. These are a great way to ask questions and discuss content, especially if you can't talk to your peers in person after a lecture.
  • Subscribe to any discussion threads you want to follow, as this will mean you get a notification when new content is posted.
  • Familiarise yourself with the mark schemes for your work or assessment.
  • When submitting your work, make sure you look at the preview to check that it looks like you want it to.
  • Download the Blackboard Mobile Learn app. Not only will it give you quick access to many of the resources uploaded by the Faculty, but many of the forums are also designed for mobile use.

The Hub

The Business School uses a purpose-built virtual learning platform called The Hub. If you need to use The Hub, you should have an induction session to make sure you fully understand how to use it.

Other e-learning tools

In addition to these two Virtual Learning Environments, much of your interaction and learning will take place using any or all of the following tools:

  • Accessing learning materials using Blackboard or The Hub
  • Conducting research online using databases, search engines, and the library catalogue
  • Using software for particular tasks and applications, e.g. statistics, design or essay-writing
  • Using computer-aided equipment and machinery
  • Filling out electronic questionnaires and feedback forms and undertaking assessments
  • Using simulators or simulation software to enable you to carry out ‘virtual’ lab-based experiments or clinical procedures

You may also have access to a range of other useful technologies, from learning laboratories to ‘responsive mannequins’ in medicine, to 3D simulation in geosciences, to interactive whiteboards and ‘clickers’ (voting handsets). In addition, the Library provides access to a variety of online resources including databases, e-books, electronic journal libraries, and electronic learning guides.