Thursday, September 8, 2011

Ten tips for Onboarding Students to Blackboard

1. Prepare a trial week – A trial week is like a prequel to the real thing. Have students submit a faux assignment, take a mock quiz, use the journals or participate in a discussion board. You may elect to give a grade (pass/fail) for the assignment.  If you elect to use a quiz, the quiz will usually just have a couple of multiple choice questions.  The goal is for students to feel comfortable with Blackboard before the grades REALLY count.

2. Scaffold the usage of tools: Scaffolding is an educational term that refers to the purposeful sequencing of content and instruction.  Therefore, before using wiki's in the classroom, you might want to first discuss how to write for the Internet (individual writing). Then perhaps move to discussion boards to practice how to comment and critique the ideas and words of others.  Finally, introduce the wiki, which employs the aforementioned skills and adds another level of collaboration.

3. Use Screencasts to model Blackboard functionality: Screencasts are short videos which record you computer screen, mouse movements and voice.  Screencasts are an effective way to model Blackboard functionality to students.  You may also use them to review q quiz or explain an assignment. To learn more about Screencasts, check out Jing as a tool to product screencasts

4. Discuss pedagogy and learning/course objectives: If the students don't know WHY they are doing something, it's likely they won't do it well/correctly. Take the time to explain how the activities align to the expected learning objectives and how you will assess their learning. Make sure you provide adequate descriptions of activities to be performed on Blackboard.

5. Write concise instructions and descriptions: Never post an item without a description.  Cite due dates, cite connections to the course and learning objectives, share what they should try to extract from the activity/reading/movie/PPT.  Oftentimes, students JUMP right into Blackboard, the couple of sentences they spend reading your description before they open a file may be the only academic orientation they experience.  Make it concise and to the point!

6. Use appropriate tools to drive learning:  Use Blackboard tools in the class.  Use podcasts, blogs, screencasts, or voice memos to share information with the class.  The more you use various tools, the greater your personal comfort level and more engaged the student will feel.  The literature tells us that instructor’s who use technology tools as part of their instruction see greater learning outcomes than instructor’s who ask students to interact individually with web-based technology or applications.

7. Share your experiences with technology: Converse about Blackboard before complaining starts.  Be open and honest with the students.  The shared experience will build community.  Also consider creating a discussion board that acts as a town hall or digital cafe.  Allow students to post their comments, concerns, ideas, or simply vent.  Be sure to participate in this discussion; the students will appreciate your presence and engagement.

8. Discuss academic integrity:  It's so easy and tempting for students to plagiarize.  Have an honest discussion about your expectations with the class.  Also introduce SafeAssign, the Blackboard submission tool that checks for plagiarism.

9. Set ground rules for academic versus non-academic writing:  Students should not treat Blackboard like it is Facebook or Instant Messaging.  Be sure to set ground rules for what type of writing is acceptable for your class.  

10. Mention all sources of support: Did you know that all University of the District of Columbia students have access to FREE Online Tutoring through SMARTHINKING?

To access FREE tutoring:

1. Log into your Blackboard account

2. Select a course

3. Select "tools" on the left

4. Scroll down to click “Smarthinking login

If your students have difficulties accessing their course or its content, have them call the Bb helpdesk - 202-274-5665 or toll free- 877-736-2585, or visit the Bb knowledge base for self-help and tutorials

The helpdesk is available 24/7/365

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