- Rapidly preparing an online course using Blackboard close to the beginning of a semester.
- Fluent in the course design process, but need a refresher on the first few practical operations to perform in Blackboard.
- Teaching a face-to-face course, but want to use Blackboard to store and distribute course materials and assignments.
Before you Begin
- Click the Edit Mode button at the top-right corner of any page in your course. Options for adding content will now appear.
- Click the Edit Mode button again when you’re done making changes. This will allow you to see a less cluttered interface and focus on other tasks like grading, participating in discussions, etc.
1. Change the Entry Point for your course to the Announcements page or your Syllabus
The Entry Point is the first page your students see upon entering your course. The default Entry Point, Home Page, is cluttered and confusing. Changing it to Announcements or your Syllabus (See Step 3) will put the most important information about your course front and center. Click the plus sign (+) below for specific instructions on how to change your course entry point.
2. Clean up the Course Menu
The Course Menu is the primary way your students will navigate your course, so it’s important that there are no extraneous links and things are named appropriately. Here are some general instructions for setting up your course menu.
- Hovering the mouse over links in the course menu will make a small, grey, circular Option Menu button to appear next to each one. Clicking these buttons allow you to rename and delete links.
- At minimum, you should:
- Rename Information to “Syllabus – Start Here.”
- Rename Content to “Weekly Materials.”
- Since you previously set the course’s Entry Point to Announcements, you can delete the Home Page link.
If you’d like more information on adding, reordering, and removing items from the course menu, click the plus signs (+) below.
3. Add your Syllabus
Your syllabus is the first and most important document in your course, therefore it deserves to have its own link right in the course menu. Having your syllabus in Blackboard is particularly handy for face-to-face courses, as it gives student easy access to it even if they have misplaced their original paper copy. We recommend that you create your syllabus as a Google Doc; then, you can link to it directly from your course menu. (Click the plus sign (+) below for instructions.)
Also, if you have yet to write your course syllabus, take a look at our CTEL Syllabus Template. It sets up all of your syllabus’s formatting for you, provides prompts for what to include, and contains all of the policy sections required by the Provost’s office.
4. Add the My Grades tool to your Course Menu
It is important that students are easily able to check their progress in their course. By adding the “My Grades” tool to your course menu, they will be able to find their scores for their work and read any feedback you’ve left them.
5. Structure Your Weekly Content
Students have an easier time finding things in Blackboard if everything they have to do for the week is located in one place. That’s what the “Weekly Materials” folder is for.
- Click the Weekly Materials content area we renamed earlier.
- Select Content Folder in the Build Content menu.
- Name the folder “Week 01” or something similar.
- Repeat for the number of weeks your course will run.
- Click the title text for “Week 01”. This will display an empty content area.
- Use the Build Content and Assessments menus to add information, resources, and assignments for that week. (Click the plus sign (+) below for instructions on adding files to a content area.)
- Repeat for subsequent weeks in your course.
6. Preview Your Course as a Student
Blackboard has a Student Preview mode that lets you browse your course as if you were a student. Essentially, it lets you “bug test” your course before making it available to your students. You can even enter Student Preview mode an submit your own assignments, take your own tests, etc. It’s a crucial tool for locating problems in your course, allowing you to fix them before students encounter them. Do a walkthrough of your course in this mode before making it available. Click the plus sign (+) below for details on using Student Preview.
7. Make Your Course Available to Students One Week Before Classes Start
All Blackboard courses start out as Unavailable with no students in them. Once you make your course available, MaineStreet will add your students to the course roughly 24 hours later. Once that has happened, they’ll see your course in the My Courses list in Blackboard.
We strongly urge instructors to make their courses available to students one week before the start of classes for the following reasons:
- To allow enough time for MaineStreet to populate students into the course and to identify any issues with enrollments before the class starts.
- To mitigate panic. Many students check Blackboard well in advance to make sure they can get into a course or read its syllabus. If you haven’t made your course available, it doesn’t show up in their My Courses list. When this happens, students sometimes panic and call IT, student registration, etc. thinking something is wrong.
Click the plus sign (+) below to learn how to make your course available to students.
Building a course in Blackboard can be tedious. Fortunately, you only have to do it once for brand-new courses. Blackboard’s Course Copy feature allows you to copy the work you’ve done into the next semester’s course “shell.”