A Learning Management System (Blackboard; Bb) can be a powerful tool when it comes to organizing your course content and communicating with your students. It can also make your work simpler, with less time spent preparing handouts and collecting papers, and more time spent teaching and interacting with students. Here are some ways you can leverage Bb to take advantage of its features.
- Make your course available (video & PDF) to your students in Blackboard. Note: course shells are created automatically, and students are enrolled into these courses upon registration. The courses are not made available to students automatically. You need to do so manually (takes about 30 seconds or so) for students to have access to the materials you post in Blackboard.
- Upload your syllabus to the course shell in Bb. If you make any changes to the syllabus during the semester you can easily repost your updated syllabus to the course shell and students will have immediate access to it.
- Create a “Schedule of Dates.” List important dates, course topics, study materials and assignments, and post it as a separate document. Students can refer to this document quickly for the most relevant information in order to be prepared for class.
- Post your course materials to Blackboard. Save all that time you spend at the photocopier by posting handouts, related course readings, references, and assignments in your course. If everything’s available to the students on Bb, you won’t need to worry about misplaced materials. Simply create Weekly Folders and post materials relevant for each week to help your students stay on track.
- Create a welcome announcement for your students and send it as an email. Welcome your students to your course virtually even before they come to class. You can send a welcome email either through Bb’s Announcements feature. Students who might have missed the first class will be able to see the annoucement once they register for the course. Include a link to the syllabus and ask the students to review it prior to the first class meeting. Then, on the first day of class highlight only the most important elements of the syllabus and start with your first unit. You can ask students to read the syllabus and take a Syllabus Quiz, which can be automatically graded in Bb.
- Create a “Virtual Office.” Set up a separate forum on the discussion board called “Instructor’s Office.” Use this forum as a location for students to post questions related to the course content or to an assignment. All students can see the responses, so you answer each question only once, and all students receive the same information. As with the course Announcements, students who miss a class will still be able to access the information.
- Use Blackboard’s Announcements tool to send reminders, notifications, and updates. This is probably one of the easiest ways to communicate with your students, and it has the added benefit that all messages are posted in the course shell on the Announcements page. You can easily see what you have shared with your class earlier in the semester. Students who don’t check their email, or who delete their email, can still find the information.
- Create a Discussion Board on a specific topic. It can take as little as 5 minutes to set it up and can really help your students learn and achieve learning goals by engaging them with course materials and each other. You can simply ask students to respond to a question on the discussion board related to course readings, share their experiences, come up with examples, and share resources. You can also assign students to lead a weekly discussion.
Each of these items can be implemented quickly and easily, and together they can have a significant impact on your course! For assistance, visit the staff of the Office of Online Education. We will be happy to work with you!
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