10 top tips for Blackboard

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					Blackboard staff how to guide
10 top tips for Blackboard

  1. Use staff information to manage student expectations
     A common complaint from online students
     is that teaching staff provide insufficient To add a staff profile:
     feedback, or take too long to respond to
     discussion posts, etc.                      • Click 'Control panel' in the side menu
     Student expectations can be managed by      • Click 'Staff Information' (in Course Tools)
     letting your students know what level of    • Add a 'Profile' (or a 'Folder' if required)
     interaction with the online environment     • Input the required details (NB: a valid
     they can expect from you (and when).           email address is mandatory)
     Use the staff profile to inform students of • Ensure 'Make the Profile available' is set
     your intended commitment to the online         to 'Yes'
     environment – in the same manner that       • Click 'Submit' to finalise
     you might post your student consultation
     hours on your office door.

  2. Use announcements (and email) to keep students up-to-date
     Announcements can be used to provide
     students with a wide range of course-      To add an announcement:
     related information: upcoming deadlines,
     class time/venue changes, updates to the   • Click 'Control panel' in the side menu
     Blackboard site, important discipline-     • Click 'Announcements' (under Course
     specific developments, new references,        Tools)
     etc.                                       • Click 'Add Announcement'
     The current version of Blackboard          • Enter the subject/message details
     provides the option of sending the
                                                • Select display options
     announcement to all users via email,
     ensuring that the information also reaches • Add a course link or email alert
     those students who may not have visited       (if required)
     the site.                                  • Click 'Submit' to finalise

Andrew Buntine - Academic Development Group (Business)                                      Page 1 of 5
                                                                         Blackboard staff how to guide
                                                                             10 top tips for Blackboard


  3. Format resources with the online student in mind
     Teaching resources that you may have developed for either in-class use or hard-copy distribution
     may have some limitations when provided to students via Blackboard.
     Many students (and staff!) access the internet from home using dial-up connections, so download
     times and other access issues should be considered.

       • Consider file size when uploading any content. Try to keep files smaller than 1 MB.
       • If uploading documents which contain images, use the ‘compress’ function to minimise file
          size. Converting colour images to greyscale may also be beneficial.
       • Consider the student's experience when uploading 'interactive' PowerPoint presentations.
          Remove any text animation and slide transitions.
       • Convert PowerPoint presentations to PDF files (using 'handout' view) for a smaller, more
          convenient file

  4. Use the menu and folders to structure resources clearly
     Content which has been randomly uploaded to Blackboard can frustrate students and waste their
     time. This can be avoided by using the side menu, course areas and folders in a clear and
     consistent manner.
     Folders should separate content into logical categories that will assist students in locating the
     content they require, eg: topics/modules, weeks/sessions, class type ('lectures', 'tutorials') or
     activity type ('lectures', 'assessment', 'case studies')
     Hiding or deleting unused areas will also remove clutter from the course menu, and avoid student

        To add a course area:                             To add a folder:
        • Click 'Control panel' in the side menu          • Select a Course area from the side
        • Click 'Manage Course Menu' (under                  menu
           Course Options)                                • Click 'EDIT VIEW' in the top right-hand
        • Add a 'Course Area' (or other items if             corner
           required)                                      • Add a 'Folder' (or other items if
        • Enter a name (or select one from the               required)
           drop-down menu)                                • Enter a name and other details
        • Click 'Submit' to finalise, and 'OK'            • Ensure 'Make the content available' is
        • Reorder the menu using the drop-down               set to 'Yes'
           numbers                                        • Click 'Submit' to finalise

Andrew Buntine - Academic Development Group (Business)                                          Page 2 of 5
                                                                        Blackboard staff how to guide
                                                                            10 top tips for Blackboard

  5. Enable statistics tracking in order to monitor Blackboard activity
     Most Blackboard elements can be tracked and analysed to investigate student usage. This is best
     done when adding a new item or folder, by ensuring that 'Track number of views' is set to 'Yes'.
     It is also recommended that tracking be enabled on all existing content at the beginning of the

         To enable tracking:                             To view statistics (from 'EDIT VIEW'):
         • Select the relevant Course area from          • Click 'Manage' for the relevant
            the side menu                                   item/folder
         • Click 'EDIT VIEW' in the top right-hand       • Click 'Statistics Tracking', and 'View
            corner                                          Statistics'
         • Click 'Manage' for the relevant               • Select filter options (if relevant), and
            item/folder                                     click 'Submit'
         • Click 'Statistics Tracking', and              • Data can be viewed, printed or
            Enable/Disable Tracking'                        exported to Excel
         • Ensure ' Statistics Tracking' is set to
         • Click 'Submit' to finalise

Andrew Buntine - Academic Development Group (Business)                                            Page 3 of 5
                                                                             Blackboard staff how to guide
                                                                                 10 top tips for Blackboard

  6. Use an introductory survey to identify student expectations
     An online survey can help to gauge the expectations of your students, and capture the collective
     results for personal or in-class analysis.
     Surveys can be created using a broad range of common question types, including multiple-choice,
     multiple-answer, opinion scale and short answer.
     (This is also a fairly simple way to familiarise yourself with the broad range of survey/test
     capabilities that Blackboard offers.)

         To create a survey:
         • From the relevant area/folder, click 'EDIT VIEW'
         • Select 'Survey' from the drop-down menu, and click 'Go'
         • Click 'Create' (or select an existing survey from the list)
         • Provide a name, description and instructions for your survey as required, and click
         • Select a question type to add, and click 'Go'
         • Enter question/response data, and click 'Submit'
         • Select a question type again, and click 'Add Question Here'
         • Continue as required, and click 'OK'
         • Highlight survey in list, and click 'Submit'
         • Click 'Modify the survey options', ensure 'Make the link available' is set to Yes, and click

       To view/download survey results:
       • Click 'Control panel' in the side menu
       • Click 'Gradebook' (under Assessment)
       • Click the column title of your survey, and click:
             −     'Assessment Attempt Details' to view attempts
             −     'Download Results' to save as CSV or XLS file

  7. Use an online discussion as an introductory ice-breaker
     A problem commonly encountered by
     online teachers is finding a way of          To create a discussion forum:
     encouraging students to contribute to a
                                                  • Click 'Communication' in the side menu,
     discussion board.
                                                     and select 'Discussion Board'
     A tried-and-trusted solution is to borrow a
                                                  • Add a 'Forum', provide a name/description
     staple ingredient from face-to-face
     classes: the 'icebreaker'. Set up a             and click 'Submit'
     discussion forum, requiring nothing more     • Select the forum and create a new thread
     from students than that they 'introduce      • Title the thread 'Introduce yourself', and
     themselves'.                                    provide an introductory message eliciting
     (A related alternative is to provide an         students to reply
     un-moderated forum for general chat.)        • Click 'Submit' to finalise

Andrew Buntine - Academic Development Group (Business)                                                Page 4 of 5
                                                                          Blackboard staff how to guide
                                                                              10 top tips for Blackboard

  8. Use discussion forums to continue key topics from lectures/tutorials
     An area commonly mentioned in student
     surveys is the lack of opportunities for    Tips:
     feedback and interactivity within large,
                                                 • Use forum and threads to structure the
     content-focussed lectures.
                                                     discussion clearly:
     Online discussions can be used to meet
     these needs, and allow themes and topics        − by week/topic
     to be explored in more detail immediately       − moderated vs. un-moderated
     following a lecture.                            − course discussion vs. general chat
     A discussion might be based around a set    • Alert students in-class that a discussion
     question and invite students to comment.        will be available
     Alternatively, a lecturer could prepare a   • Remember to manage students'
     'frequently asked questions' forum,             expectations of your involvement
     thereby reducing consultation time.

   NB: before working through the following tips, you will need to enable blogs/wikis:
   • Click 'Control panel' in the side menu
   • Click 'Manage Tools' (under Course Options)
   • Click 'Content Type Availability'
   • Select 'Blog' and 'Wiki', and click 'Submit'

  9. Use a wiki to enable online group                   10. Use a blog to enable online reflection
     projects                                                At their most basic, blogs can be used as
     A wiki is a 'live' webpage which can be                 an alternative to forums and threads for
     edited by multiple people (not at once!)                moderating nested communication.
     working collaboratively.                                However, a more powerful application of
     This provides an ideal forum for student                the blog tool now available in Blackboard is
     group-work, replacing the linear, 'round-               as a space for private student journals.
     robin' method of working on a shared                    A particular benefit of this application is
     document with a more organic workspace.                 that lecturers see contributions from all
     A wiki saves a history of all edits and                 students in one blog, and can comment to
     changes, allowing the teacher to a) see all             specific posts as required; while students
     individual contributions and b) revert to an            see only their own contributions and the
     earlier version if necessary.                           related comments from the lecturer.

      To create a wiki:                                    To create a private journal blog:
      • From the relevant area/folder, click               • From the relevant area/folder, click
         'EDIT VIEW'                                          'EDIT VIEW'
      • Select 'Wiki' from the drop-down                   • Select 'Blog' from the drop-down
         menu, and click 'Go'                                 menu, and click 'Go'
      • Enter a name and description, select               • Enter a name and description, select
         groups or members who require                        'Private Journal', set other options as
         access, set other options as required,               required, and click 'OK'
         and click 'OK'

   For more information on editing blogs/wikis in Blackboard, see:

Andrew Buntine - Academic Development Group (Business)                                             Page 5 of 5

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