Friday, January 7, 2011

Supplementing your Course With Blackboard -- Day 2

So you are ready to populate your course. But wait a minute. You should spend at least 20% of your technology time DESIGNING what you are going to do BEFORE you do it.
Set a Schedule to Update Content
Create a schedule. What days of the week will you update/check the site? How many hours a week are you willing to devote to Blackboard? The answer to these questions should determine your ambition as you layout a design. 

Designing Content
In terms of design, draw a napkin outline [view Fast Company article on the concept]  of your site [see example]. You don't have to use an actual napkin, a blank piece of paper which shows folders and the content which will reside inside of them is sufficient.  

The idea is to create a skeleton of your course that can act as a guide before you begin to add content. Go through existing  materials for reusable content, perhaps ask to view a colleague's site to 'borrow' ideas.

Organizing Content
Important to your layout is where you place content -- see Principles for Document Preparation (courtesy of San Diego State University).   Effective use of folders (how to create folders) in Blackboard make it easier for students to access content.  

At a minimum, your sketch should show where content will be placed and how folders will be employed (I humbly suggest grouping content by week, so all content for a certain week can easily be accessed).  

Lastly, determine what assessments (quizzes, tests, papers -- see Blackboard tutorials on assessment) will be employed via Blackboard.  Assessments managed by Blackboard allow students to view grades and be aware of their progress in the course via the Grade Center.
Planning Communication
Also dedicate some space to communication, perhaps creating a discussion board to act as a Digital Cafe, where students can correspond with one another or ask questions to yourself and the class.  The tabs along the left side of your Blackboard site are the most effective way direct students to content.  You have the ability to modify the order of tabs, rename, hide or delete items.

File Management
Lastly, you may want to develop a file management strategy for your computer.  There's nothing worst than knowing you created the world's best powerpoint, but now can't find it on your computer.  While thumb drives or emailing it to yourself is one option, online file storage services (like, or Google Docs - 
) may be a more effective strategy for accessing your files from any computer (sometimes called cloud computing).

Dr. Dan Gutwein (a former colleague) of the Center for Professional and Organizational Development at Montgomery College  created a nifty Flash presentation for faculty which discusses file management strategies.  View the graphic below to see how to access the tutorial.

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