Blackboard How To's
- Plan Your Blackboard Course
Before you start uploading content into your Blackboard course, take a few minutes and plan the overall structure and hierarchy. Decide whether to use folders to organize the content into units or weeks or chapters or learning modules. If you're using discussion boards, assessments, or other online tools, decide how and when students will use these tools. This will ensure that students can find course content and easy for you to maintain.
- Cross-List Courses Early
Multiple sections (such as ENGL-5030 and ENGL-6030) can be combined into one Blackboard course. However, we recommend asking that courses be cross-listed early to avoid loss of content. Whoever builds the courses in Banner (usually an administrative assistant or departmental secretary) can cross-list the courses in Banner. Once this happens, a new Blackboard course will appear using a name from one of the courses.
- Convert Word or PowerPoints into PDFs
PDFs are more user-friendly than Word or PowerPoint files in Blackboard. To view a Word or PowerPoint file, you must have the appropriate software installed on the computer. The Acrobat Reader is free to download, making PDFs accessable to everyone. And, PDFs open directly in the browser and will preserve formatting. Adobe Acrobat, needed for creating PDFs, is available at IMG.
- Reuse Course Content Each Semester
Creating a new Blackboard course takes more work than using a previously created Blackboard course with minor changes. Once the content is created and uploaded into Blackboard, you can copy the content into a new course in a future semester. Then, only dates have to be changed and new material added. Flash video help: Copy Content from One Course to Another and How To Save Course Content.
- Configure Your Browser (Especially Internet Explorer 7)
Blackboard uses many sophisticated technologies. To ensure all these technologies work properly, it is important for you (and your students) to properly configure your browser. Configuring the browser will keep issues such as a red X for uploading files or files not downloading from appearing. Flash video help: Configure Internet Explorer 7 an Configure Mozilla Firefox.
- Enroll Teaching Assistants or Designers to Help
Any section instructor may enroll other instructors to help maintain their Blackboard course. You can enroll a Section Designer to help add content, create Assessments, change icons, etc. Section Designers can add, edit, or delete content, but do not have access to grades. Teaching Assistants can grade Assessments, input grades in the Grade Book, or import grades from a spreadsheet (Teaching Assistants are more limited to Section Instructors, as Teaching Assisstants cannot export a grade book into a spreadsheet). Note: Undergraduates cannot be added as either Section Designer or Teaching Assistant. Flash video help: Add a Section Designer or Teaching Assistant.
- Use the Student View Tab
Have you ever had a student say he or she couldn't see a PDF you've uploaded or wanted to ensure a quiz is available during the times you set? You can test all of this through the Student View. When you click the Student View tab in Blackboard, you become Demo Student and can take Assessments, check grades, view files, or anything else a real student can do. However, if you post in a Discussion Board under Student View, the author will be Demo Student.
- Communicate Through Blackboard and Blackboard Toolkit
If you have a specific file you would like your students to see before class, using Blackboard in conjunction with Blackboard Toolkit will ensure the most exposure. If you only upload the file into Blackboard, some students may not see it unless they log into Blackboard before class. However, if you send an e-mail through Blackboard Toolkit, which goes to students' @auburn.edu e-mail accounts, asking students to check Blackboard before class, then more students will see the file. Note: The Blackboard Mail tool in Blackboard does not go to @auburn.edu e-mail accounts, but is internal to Blackboard.
- Download the Grade Book
We highly recommend every instructor download a copy of the Grade Book at the end of each semester for safe keeping. This comma/tab delimited filed can be burned to a CD/DVD, saved to a Flash drive, or even e-mailed to yourself. Since Blackboard courses are rotated off the course list after 6 months, having a personal backup of the Grade Book can save future headaches. Flash video help: Download the Grade Book to a Spreadsheet.
- Engage Through Tools
Blackboard offers a wide range of tools, assessment tools, communication tools, organizational tools, etc. Set aside a few minutes each semester to evaluate the tools and think how these can be incorporated into your teaching. You could even create a new development course through Blackboard Toolkit and turn on every available tool. Then go through each tool and think of ways to implement all or part of these tools into your Blackboard course. If you have questions about a tool or would like to discuss possible ways to expand your Blackboard course, please contact IMG at 844-5181 or stop by our lab at 144 Foy Hall.
If you or your students have any best practices to share, or if you have any questions on how to implement any of the best practices, please contact IMG at 844-5181.
Last Updated: Sept 10th, 2010