Course Setup for a New Semester

This tutorial provides step-by-step instructions for getting your Blackboard course ready for a new semester.
Hello USM Faculty! If you’re reading this page, it’s likely that a new semester is almost upon us, and you need to get your existing Blackboard course ready for it. This list walks you through all of the tasks you’ll typically need to complete. If all else fails, your faithful CTEL Learning Designers are ready to point you in the right direction.

Remember, this page is just an overview for instructors who’ve used Blackboard before. If this is your first time bringing a course online and you don’t have a lot of time, please see our First-Time Course Setup Guide. If you want specifics on how to set up assignments, discussions, etc, visit the FAQ page.

1. Get your course content ready.

For courses you’ve taught before, copy your content from the last time you taught this course. Click the plus signs (+) for step-by-step instructions.

Copying your course from one semester to another.
Generally, it’s easier to copy an entire course and delete any content that you don’t want after the copy is complete than it is to copy parts of a course. (See the note below for more information.)

  1. Go to the older course, i.e., the one that has material you want to copy into a new course.
  2. Click the Packages and Utilities link in the Course Management section of the left-hand menu to display its options. (If you don’t see the Packages and Utilities link, click the Control Panel link to make sure all of its menu options are visible.)
  3. Click the Course Copy link. The Copy Course page will open.
  4. Click the Browse button next to the “Destination Course ID” textbox to select the course you’ll be copying content into. A pop-up window that displays a list of your courses will open.
  5. Click the course to select it.
  6. Click the Submit button at the bottom-right side of the window. The pop-up window will close, and the code for the course into which you’re copying content will now appear in the “Destination Course ID” textbox.
  7. Select checkboxes for the specific types of content that you want to copy. We recommend that you click the Select All button, then deselect checkboxes for content that might be outdated, like announcements. IMPORTANT: Before continuing, see the note below if you’re copying discussions, assignments, and/or test and surveys.
  8. Select the Copy links and copies of content (include entire course home folder) option in the File Attachments section. This will ensure that you retain copies of the course’s files long term; if you only link to them, they’ll be deleted after two years.
  9. Click the Submit button on the bottom-right side of the page. You’ll see a confirmation message that your course copy has started.

The copy process might take several minutes; you’ll receive an email once it’s fully complete. New content that you’ve copied will be listed at the bottom of your course’s menu.

Screenshot showing the location of the Course Copy link in the Packages and Utilities menu's options
Steps 2 & 3: Locating the Course Copy link under the Packages and Utilities menu
Screenshot showing the locations of the Browse and Select All buttons on the Copy Course page
Step 4: Browsing for the course you want to copy content into; and Step 7: The Select All button, our recommended option for selecting content to copy
Screenshot showing the location of the correct option in the File Attachments section
Step 8: Selecting the “Copy links and copies of the content (include entire course home folder)” option in the File Attachments section
Copying certain types of content can be tricky. Here are some considerations:

  • Discussions: To remove threads and replies and include only the original forum when you copy discussions from one course to another, select the Include only the forums, with no starter posts option. Otherwise, students in your new course will see posts made by students in your old one.
  • Assignments: Be sure to select both Grade Center Columns & Settings and the Content Area an assignment is in. Otherwise, it won’t copy properly.
  • Tests or Surveys: Be sure to select 3 items: Grade Center Columns & Settings, Tests, Surveys, and Pools, and the Content Area the test or survey is in. Otherwise, it won’t copy properly.

If this is a brand new course you haven’t had on Blackboard before, you must be the type of person who thrives on the rush of doing things “just-in-time!” Fortunately, CTEL has you covered. Our Blackboard Course Setup Guide will walk you through the basics of getting your course up-and-running in Blackboard. It provides tips on making it easy for students to get to your material, which will ultimately save you tons of time. Also, you can also reach out to a CTEL Learning Designer to set up a consultation.

2. “Walk” through your course.

Start at the top of your course menu, and check all of your content for typos, broken links, outdated information, etc. In particular, be sure to

  • update the availability and due dates of assignments, exams, folders, etc.;
  • update your syllabus;
  • make sure your course e-reserves are set up;
  • check for broken links to outside content, such as YouTube; and
  • make sure links to third-party content services, such as e-reserves, textbook publishers, etc. are working.

Blackboard’s Student Preview tool is invaluable for finding and fixing issues in your course before it goes live. Below are some instructions on how to use it.

Using Student Preview
Blackboard’s Student Preview mode lets you see your course exactly as it appears to your students.

  1. Go to the course you want to preview as a student.
  2. Click the Student Preview icon on the top-right corner of the page. (It’s a circle with two arrows around it.) Student Preview mode will turn on, and you can view your course exactly as a student sees it.
  3. Click the Exit Preview button on the top-right corner of the page when you’re ready to close Student Preview mode.

3. Make your course available to students

By default, all courses in Blackboard are invisible to students until you have explicitly changed the Course Availability setting. You should make your course available at least one week before the first day of classes.

Making your course available to students
By default, your Blackboard course starts as “unavailable” to students. There will also be no students in the enrollment list. This allows you time to set up your course before they can access it. MaineStreet will add students to your course automatically the day after it has been made available.

Try to make your course available at least one week before the start of the semester to allow enough time for the system to add your students to your course and to accommodate anxious/ambitious students who like to check in early.

View Video
Blackboard’s YouTube video, How to Make your Course Available to Students, covers these steps.
Once you’re ready to open your course for students, you’ll need to manually change its availability setting before they can access it. Here’s how:

  1. Go to the course you want to make available.
  2. Click the Customization link in the “Course Management” section of the left-hand menu to display its options. (If you don’t see the Customization link, click the Control Panel link to make sure all of its menu options are visible.)
  3. Click the Properties link. A page with your course’s properties options will be displayed; scroll down to find the “Set Availability” section.
  4. Select Yes for the option next to “Make Course Available.”
  5. Click the Submit button at the bottom-right corner of the page. Your course is now available, and students will be automatically enrolled in it from MaineStreet within 24 hours.
If students officially drop your course in MaineStreet, they’ll be automatically dropped from your Blackboard course as well. Students who have dropped your course will still appear in its Grade Center, and any work they submitted will be saved in Blackboard, but they’ll no longer have access to the course site.
Screenshot showing where a link to a course's properties is located in Blackboard
Steps 2 & 3: Navigating to your course’s properties options in Blackboard
Screenshot showing the location of a course's availability settings on its properties page
Step 4: Changing a course’s availability settings on its properties page

4. Wait for students to be added to your course.

Making your course available tells the system that you are ready to have students added to it, so enrollments are automatically transferred from Mainestreet to Blackboard. It takes up to one business day for this to happen, so don’t panic if there are no students in your course the morning after you’ve made it available. Students who register late for your course will also be added on a one-business-day cycle.

You can check if students have been added to your course in Blackboard by clicking these links in your course menu: Control Panel >> Users and Groups >> Users.

5. Send your first course announcement.

Once you’ve confirmed that your students have been added to your course, it’s time to send your first announcement to your students. If you haven’t used the announcements tool before, follow the steps in this tutorial.

Sending an announcement

Announcements are an ideal tool for communicating time-sensitive material to students, such as reminders about upcoming due dates or changes to your syllabus. They appear in the Announcements section of your course menu and can be optionally emailed to all of your students.

View Video
Blackboard’s YouTube video, How to Create Announcements in your Course, covers these steps.
  1. Click Announcements in the course menu (if it isn’t already set to be the first page that opens in your course).
  2. Click the Create Announcement button. A page with settings for your new announcement will open.
  3. Type a title for your announcement in the Subject textbox.
  4. Type the body of your announcement in the Message textbox.
  5. Select whether the announcement is date restricted, i.e., it’s only viewable after and/or until a specific date. If it is, click Date Restricted, then enter dates in the textboxes that appear.
  6. Select the Send a copy of this announcement immediately next to the Email Announcement option if you want students to receive a copy of your announcement via email.
  7. Click the Browse button if you want to create a link to an area in your course.
  8. Click the Submit button on the bottom-right corner of the page.
If your course does not have an Announcements link in its course menu, please see Blackboard’s How to Add a Tool Link to your Course video for a step-by-step demonstration on adding one.