Managing & Developing your courses in Blackboard

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There are 5 parts to this document:

    1. General Description of what to use and how to use it.
    2. Managing your courses on the main page.
    3. Understanding the processes used to update Bb.
    4. Checklist for setting up your course.
    5. Recommended practices for using Bb and any other tools.

General Description of what to use and how to use it
(influenced by Student Feedback)

  • Can a student, at any time during the semester, go to your course and know what needs to be done next.
  • Online materials for all courses should be accessible from one place.  For Oberlin College, this place is Blackboard.  Materials can live outside of Blackboard but students should be able to access the outside material through Blackboard. If you use something other than Blackboard, simply link to it from your Blackboard course.
  • Syllabi should be posted on Blackboard.
  • Plagarism or Citation checking is also available for ‘Assisgments’ through the SafeAssign tool.
  • Use Blackboard to increase engagement between students and for keeping track of what is required. Blogs, journals, delayed release of blog post content, moderated blogs, wikis, surveys, quizzes …
  • A built-in video conferencing/screen sharing tool is now available. It’s called COLLABORATE. Use it to reach out to advisees, for office hours, times when you can’t  physically be on campus, touching base with study away students, making tutors available, connecting with outside colleagues …
  • Use the due date feature in blogs, discussion boards, assignments, and quizzes/tests.  This allows students to know what is most relevant on the site at a given time.  It also helps them manage their time across all 4 or 5 courses.  Anything with a due date will appear in the Blackboard calendar.
  • Grades should be available and up to date.  Assignments may be given or collected outside of Blackboard, but grades and comments can still be entered into Blackboard so that the students can access them.

Setting your displays:

When you log in to Blackboard you will see links to each of your courses in the My Online Courses module. You should ‘hide’ courses from previous semesters. This can be done by using the gear icon in the top right corner of the My Courses module and deselecting the items you don’t want to see — they will not be deleted, only hidden (The My Organization module behaves similarly).  The hidden courses/orgs can always be made visible.  Module gear optionCourses can also be grouped by term. This can make it easier to view current courses while keeping the older courses accessible.

Understanding the processes used to update Bb:

  • New course sites are created as ‘unavailable.’ This means students that are enrolled in the course cannot see the site when they log in. When you are ready to make the course available to students go to Course Management>>Customization>>Properties and set the  ‘Course availability‘ to YES.  Alternatively, use the Qwickly module on the landing page (Hub).
  • Course rosters are updated 2 times a day (7:30am & 5pm).  Therefore, if a student registers for a course at 10am, they will not be enrolled in your site until after 6pm.  This is only a problem during add/drop. You will ONLY need to update the roster if there is a nonOberlin student registered OR someone is auditing.
  • Non-course sites (organizations): Our Blackboard environment also contains sites with information from the Deans Office, Committees, Departments and other entities around campus.  All faculty should see a link for accessing the College Dean or Conservatory Dean site, a Department site, advising site (if you have advisees), and the General Faculty site in their My Organizations module.  If you don’t see these, send an email to More information on organizations that are available and how to access them can be found here.

Checklist for setting up your course


If you’ve already taught the course, copy your content from the old course to the new one (Course Management section of old course>>Packages and Utilities>>Copy Course.  Don’t copy enrollments.

Upload or add a link to your syllabus in the Syllabus area of the main menu. Delete the old one if you copied the course from a previous year. You may need to add the ‘Content Area’ titled Syllabus to your navigation menu, if it does not already exist.

Re-evaluate the structure of your site.   Can students easily find materials, assignments, and due dates? Adjust the menu accordingly.

Use the Confidential photo roster found in the Control Panel>>Course Tools area of the left margin to see who is enrolled in your course, their major, and additional information.

Need library support? Give a librarian access to upload readings to your course by categorizing your course as an eRes course or by filling out the request form found via the ‘Need Help?’ tab in Blackboard.

Enroll TA(s) and/or additional instructors. While you can also enroll students we don’t recommend it. Getting students enrolled in a course needs to be done officially by having the student register at the registrar’s office and they need to be enrolled in your site by the automated process we’ve set up.

Set due dates for anything that has a due date including collaboration type assignments, papers that need to be turned in and & tests.  You can use the date management tool to change All due dates from a copied course, or change the due date in each individual assignment or test through the grade center.

Check for bad links, images, and videos.

Using collaborative tools?  Be sure there is an available link for students to access it. See what a student would see by clicking on the goofy icon in the top right corner of your course.

Screen Shot 2016-08-08 at 10.41.38 AM

Post an introductory welcome announcement.

Using the grade center?  Create and manage columns and adjust how grades are reported and calculated.  This is a powerful tool and can do many different calculations and accommodations.  We recommend you contact with exactly how you want grades and feedback to be displayed to students. We will then make sure that is what the students see.

Make your course ‘available.’ When you’re ready for students to see the course, click on the ‘Set Course Availability’ link in the Qwickly tool module to toggle courses on and off.  FYI: Emails can be sent through the course even when the course is ‘unavailable.’  Do not make your course available if students do not need to access the site. Doing so is simply confusing to the students.

More information from Blackboard on specific tools/goals.
If you can’t figure something out in 10 minutes, email or call the OCTET office at 775-8345.

Best Practices (based on literature and student feedback):

  • Follow Universal Design principles in setting up your course: Very useful description can be found here:  A description of how these principles can be applied in our environment can be found here:
  • Communicate with students: To communicate with ALL your students, use the ‘Announcement‘ feature in the course itself or the ‘Post announcement/email’ tool in the ‘Communication and Availability’ module on the main page.  The tool in the Tool Module will allow you to post Announcements to multiple sites at once.  Emailing will work but using the announcement feature will send an email to everyone AND post the announcement on their main page and in your course site. Be sure to select the “Send a copy of this announcement immediately’ option when creating the announcement. This option is the one that emails as well as posts the announcement.Screen Shot 2015-07-28 at 9.33.11 AM
  • Out of class collaboration: Use collaboration tools (discussion boards, blogs, journals, wiki’s) sparingly, clearly explain their purpose and, as much as possible, mention the postings during your in-class time. Add due dates when creating these types of assignments. Blackboard provides a comprehensive overview of what these tools do, how they can be used, how to assess/grade these interactions and how to set them up.
  • Assignments: Turning in written assignments in Blackboard can be done easily with the Assignment feature. Using this tool allows for quick and easy grading using the built in Blackboard markup tool. SafeAssign can also be used to assist students in properly citing referenced material in their documents.
  • Assessments: Quizzes and test have many options for creating, deploying and providing feedback. Blackboard does a good job of explaining the options and best practices.

Apply due dates to collaboration and quizzes/tests. Setting a due date will automatically create a column in the grade center, an event in the Blackboard calendar and notify them when an assignment is due.

  • Grade Center: Use the grade center whenever possible. Students enjoy being able to check their grades and access feedback from papers, blogs, journals, discussion board posts all in one place.  However, be forewarned that the grade center, as with the quizzes, has many features and options. Be sure to check what students see by viewing your course as a student would. In student view mode, you can take a test, post to a discussion board etc. Going back to instructor mode without deleting the fake student’s data will allow you to grade their submissions. Then going back to student mode will allow you to view how the student views the feedback.   We highly recommend that if you are going to be a big grade center user, you set up an appointment with an OCTET staff person to go over the options.
  • Request the merging of two sections or courses: All officially cross-listed courses automatically have their enrollments combined into 1 Blackboard site under the professor of record’s department.  Courses that are not officially cross-listed or courses where you teach multiple sections can be combined by filling out a short form. The link to this form and others can be found under the Need Help? tab in Blackboard.

Note that enrollments in courses are updated 2 times day, every day, automatically. You should not need to add officially enrolled students to your course.
Our Blackboard system is also used for non-course activities.  It is setup as a portal to facilitate targeted communication between students and students/faculty in courses, members of committees, faculty and deans, students and their residential assistants, … For more info, see the Blackboard at Oberlin 17-18 page.

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