Blackboard is a learning Management System (LMS) used by many colleges to teach courses online. Other LMS used by colleges include WebCT, Angel, eCollege, Canvas and Moodle. All of those except Moodle and Canvas are proprietary systems the college pay to use. Moodle is an open system that is free to use. I have taught with Angel, Ready2Learn and eCollege in the past and teach with Canvas and Backboard now and have taken classes using WebCT and Moodle.
With Blackboard and the other LMS, instructors can setup their classes so students can access the materials online. Tests and readings are the most often items included. Instructors can also post copies of their lectures in Blackboard so students can listen to them or watch them.
Discussion boards are often used as a way for teacher and students to discuss various things about the course. It will work like discussions in class with either a student or the teacher posting (typing) a question or comment and then others posting their reactions back.
The instructor can set the class in a structured way and only have materials available on certain days or weeks and gradually open and close automatically like man classes work in the traditional classroom. They can also just open everything up at the beginning and let everyone do on their own pace. I used to teach individualized approach in te classroom and it worked similar except in a classroom setting.
There are three types of online instruction. They are web-enabled, hybrid or blended and online. Web enabled classes still occur in the classroom with some resources such as the syllabus and readings made available online. Hybrid or blended classes are classes that have part of the class occur in the classroom and part is done online at the studentís schedule. Usually tests and labs are done online in this format and lectures are done in the classroom, although some instructors reverse that. Online classes are classes that just meet thru the LMS. They do not have regular in the classroom classes. However, in online classes they may still have to come to campus to do certain tests or labs with the instructor or an approved proctor. However most of it is done online. There are still deadlines and certain times t do different items.