Blackboard Best Practices

Tue, 9 Apr, 2013    adabest practicesblackboardcopy and pastenew coursetechnology

Below, Campbell University Online has compiled a list of best practices for traditional, blended, and online instructors using Blackboard. In General

  • Courses should be ready before the semester begins. Blended and online courses should be completely developed and released to students in Blackboard before the course begins. Most students that take blended and online courses do so because they are non-traditional students. Perhaps they already have a family or maybe full-time job; they may have both. Providing the full expectations of the course up front ensures that these students have the best chance at success. Fully developing your blended or online course also ensures that the design of your course is consistent through the entire semester and that sufficient planning for the entire curriculum is allowed.
  • Transparency is king. Transparency in a blended or online format is necessary to ensure that the students can find information in the course at anytime. Information that you would normally give out in the classroom should be included in your course shell in Blackboard. The most important place for this transparency is the syllabus. The transparency focuses on the course work, schedule, communication expectations, due dates, netiquette, help options, grading policies, student expectations, learning outcomes, participation, and more. Transparency also helps Distance Education to ensure that blended and online courses across all campuses are comparable. This transparency is part of the DECIDE Quality Certification process at Campbell University.

ADA Compliance:

  • Only underline text that includes a hyperlink. Ensuring the design of your text is constant and ADA compliant is essential in Blackboard. Screen readers for students with visual disabilities as well as students with color blindness rely on ADA compliant text for readability.
  • Use consistent fonts, font sizes, colors, and formatting. Using fonts that are too small, too large, or inconsistent (both font type and size) can cause eye strain. The default for Blackboard is set to Arial, size 3. Font color also plays a large role in design. Use font colors sparingly and ensure the contrast between the background color and the font color is high. Copying and pasting from outside of Blackboard can also cause issues with font presentation.

Content:

  • Technology for the sake of technology is poor design. If you start with the idea that you saw X technology demonstrated and want to incorporate it. STOP. If, however, you seek a technology for the specific purpose of creating content to align with the student learning outcomes and incremental outcomes of the course, then PROCEED. And while you are at it, give Distance Education a call; we can help.
  • Content does not have to be boring. PowerPoint, Discussions, Quiz. PowerPoint, Discussions, Quiz. PowerPoint...you get the point. Energize your course with some personalized content. Keep videos and recordings to 5-7 minutes. Engage the student. Active learning trumps passive learning any day. (Sorry, but this also means recording yourself in the classroom for 1.5 hours and posting it in Blackboard is not an acceptable course.)
  • Remember you are still the instructor! Sure the publisher of your textbook may offer excellent supplemental material, but that doesn't mean it replaces your instruction. According to Merriam-Webster, 'teach' is a verb. Do it.
  • Document formats matter. Not all students have access to MS Word. Posting documents in Blackboard in a universally viewable format such as PDF is recommended. Students access Blackboard from a variety of different devices including laptops, desktops, tablets, and smartphones. Requiring students to upload documents in .doc or .docx format is strong discouraged. Offer several acceptable document types to ensure students can successfully submit work.

Attendance and Participation:

  • Campbell University requires student attendance and documentation for all courses. Methods of documentation for blended and online courses can include: discussion board submissions, assignment attempt, test attempt, quiz attempt, self-assessment attempt, survey attempt, blog post, wiki contribution, journal entry, and more. Logging into Blackboard is not sufficient to demonstrate attendance.
  • Courses do not run themselves. This isn't the Ronco method of 'set it and forget it.' Remember you are still the instructor. Online and blended courses should include several types of participation and engagement including: student to student, student to instructor (and instructor to student), and student to content. Engagement and participation in blended and online courses is the key to retention.

Katherine Spradley
Director of Distance Education
Campbell University