Teaching Online Title Beginner's Guide Heading with Picture of Ignition  

Tips & Hints

Bb logo The two best ways to learn how to use Blackboard is to go to some of the Professional Development workshops or view Rhonda Bauerlein's excellent tutorials (see Bb Tutorial ). You can also use Bb's own tutorials (see Bb Tutorials) or the excellent manual in the Bb Control Panel. There is even a "Blackboard for Dummies" book (ISBN-10: 0471798320, ISBN-13: 978-0471798323). The purpose of this page is to highlight some helpful advice.

Creation/Design:

  • Containers for all sections of your courses are now automatically created before the start of the semester (and appear in your Bb account home page at the start of registration); you will still have to customize them for your courses or copy a previous semester course into the new container (see Server for details on the process); students will be automatically added into your section containers through Colleague (A&R) throughout the semester and updated daily (see Server for details)
  • To display/hide courses, announcements, or calendar events on main opening Bb welcome page, click the "pencil icon" in the upper right corner of the "My Courses" box
  • Create a graphic banner for your opening page (Tutorial)
  • Modify your first and middle name in Bb (these will not be overwritten by Snapshot)
  • The Bb calendar is clumsy. Make your own calendar in Word (or another program) with assignments and due dates, save as html, then copy/paste into the text area of a new item page
  • To get a good overall view of your course, use the Bb "Course Map" feature (on Course Menu and in Performance Dashboard) and see a collapsible tree display
  • Always go to the Bb Control Panel to make changes, add assignments, etc.)
  • Eliminate any tools you do not use (see "Manage Tools" in the Bb control panel) - for example, if you are not going to use Messaging, make it unavailable
  • Redesign the menu bar by adding, removing, and renaming buttons to better reflect the structure of your course (see Bb's "Manage Course Menu") - choose "Add Content Area" to add a new button for whatever you want
  • Any tests or assignments created automatically appear as a "My Grades" column; Discussion posts are added to "My Grades" if chosen in the Db "modify settings"
  • Nest content or assignments (by topic or by date) by using Folders or Learning Units as a content choice in the Content Menu Bar (see "Content Menu" on sidebar)
  • Folders or Learning Units can include assignments and tests and these can be set to be available and unavailable at specific dates (all within the folder will be included or excluded)
  • Use the Content Menu Bar to create assignments and group into chunks
  • To avoid incessant clicking on the the constant "OK" message boxes, use the path/directory listing at the top of each screen to jump to other Bb areas by passing the OK screens
  • Use SafeAssign to check for plagiarism in written work (see Bb Tutorials)

Teaching:

  • Use frequent Bb announcements to update students on due dates, new information, news items, summaries of past work, etc. - add links and files to your announcements
  • Use the Bb's Performance Dashboard and Course Statistics to track student attendance - try using the Bb Early Warning System
  • Modify the Grade Center's grading schemas to better reflect your own expectations
  • For testing, experiment with the many different exam question types available in Bb (see Bb Question Types)
  • Do not used "Forced Completion" for tests as it causes crashing difficulties. Time your tests instead - it satisfies the same security concerns.
  • And advise students of the following reasons for timed test crashes: 1) clicking the wrong buttons or keys - e.g., a "back button" when that is prohibited, 2) clicking too fast and not waiting for the screen to refresh (they need to click and wait), 3) having many programs active simultaneously on their computer and switching between them - clicking outside a timed test window can cause problems, and 4) bad or lost ISP connection which crashes the timer
  • Note about timed tests: the time limit you set does not prevent students from going past that deadline - they can take as long as they want and there score will register. BUT, the instructor will see these scores as an "!" (exclamation point) warning and it is up to you to view the test and time taken and then apply appropriate penalties
  • To avoid disputes about deadlines, set up assignments, tests, folders to become unavailable after the deadline. Students tend to understand this as more permanent and learn time management immediately

Email/Messaging:

  • Bb's "email" system links to students' home email addresses, "messaging" is internal
  • Default email addresses given to Bb by the district are frequently wrong or outdated. Make sure that students check these immediately upon entering your class. Explain how to change their default email by going to "Personal Information" within Bb Personal Information link on the Blackboard welcome screen or in the Tools section)
  • Students may not check messages sent by you since there is no Bb announcement of new activity (this is to be changed in the next version). So never initiate correspondence by messaging. Always initiate with email. Tell students you will answer back in the same system you received their correspondence (email:email, message:message). You can make either tool within Bb so that you are only running messaging or email simplifying communication

Security:

  • Change your password from your birthdate (easily obtained) to a more secure one (use the Personal Information link on the Blackboard welcome screen or in the Tools section)
  • When using SafeAssign, remember that it registers all student text as copied even if the student puts quotation marks around a copied sentence. So, check the SafeAssign results closely

Backup:

  • You can backup your Bb course regularly (see the Control Panel - use Export or Archive), now most courses are saved for an extended period of time on the Bb server
  • Export Grade Center grades to Excel
Top of Page up arrow