Designing Your Course
Here are some helpful hints to guide you when building your course in Blackboard:
- Plan the organization of your course in advance of building it in Blackboard. Knowing how you want to present your material to students ahead of time will save you the work of reorganizing files you have posted to Blackboard. Group your course materials into folders and group those folders into content areas.
- DO NOT compose lengthy course materials in Blackboard text boxes. You should compose your materials in another application such as Microsoft Word and attach the file. As a matter of good computer practice, it is wise to maintain a copy of material posted in Blackboard saved to your local computer or backed up on disk or flash drive.
- Your course is not visible to students by default. You will always be able to see your course materials, but you must take steps to make it available to students. If you have not yet made your course available to students you will see (unavailable) listed beside it in your course listings.
A well designed course in Blackboard includes:
- A structure that is easy to understand and navigate that uses folders and subfolders when appropriate;
- A syllabus, contact information for instructors and TAs, and clearly stated learning objectives, required skills and expectations;
- Instructional materials, assignments and assessments that reinforce mastery of the learning objectives;
- Materials that are accessible to students with visual impairments and other disabilities (for more information, please consult the Office of Disability Services, http://www.studentaffairs.pitt.edu/drsinstructor).
The Announcements Page
The Announcements page is what your students initially see when they enter your course. It’s a great place to tell your students when circumstances dictate changes to your course on short notice. Examples may include weather or event-related notices, changes in class location, changes to assignments, etc. Since many students do not use their pitt.edu email addresses with frequency, or at all, we recommend that important announcements such as these be made via Blackboard, and that this policy be made clear to students in the course syllabus or at the first class meeting.
Post Faculty Information
Faculty Information is a place where you can provide contact information for yourself and your teaching assistants. You can provide a photograph, web link and short biographical sketch, too.
- Fill out the Profile Information including the Contact Name, Email, Phone, Location, Office Hours and Notes.
- Under the Course Menu, click on Faculty Information.
- Click on the downward arrow icon next to the contact you wish to edit and choose Edit from the drop-down menu.
- Under Options, choose Yes to: “Make the Profile Available”. In addition, you may attach an image of yourself by pressing Browse to find the image on your computer or flash drive. A personal link to your webpage may also become available to your students by copying and pasting the link into the Personal Link field.
- Click the Submit button.
Include a Syllabus
The basic course template includes a syllabus checklist and syllabus template that you may use as a guide for creating your own syllabus. Most schools require you to submit your syllabus as an electronic document (Word or .pdf). Our recommendation is to create a syllabus document and attach it to your course under this menu item. The following items are already included in Blackboard with the sample syllabus:
- Academic integrity policy statement and resource link
- Disability services statement and resource link
- Copyright notice and resource links
- Accessibility standards statement
- Classroom recording statement
Your students will be able to see these items, unless you delete them. Your syllabus is often seen as a contract between you and your students. Students should be able to look at your course syllabus for answers to questions they may have throughout the term.
Your students should be able to preview the course structure, subject matter, skills and expectations just from the elements of the syllabus, itself. As the instructor you should be aware that your syllabus represents you and may say much more than you might think. Attention to detail is very important.
How to add your syllabus (or any other document) to your course:
- Click on the name of the content area into which you want to add files. (NOTE: There is already a Syllabus content area linked on your course menu.)
- Once inside the content area, notice the Action Bar along the top.
- Click on the downward arrow icon next to the Build Content button . This opens your options for adding content.
- Select Item from the drop-down menu.
- In Content Information on the Create Item screen, type a name for the item in the Name field and add any desired text.
- In Attachments, select Browse My Computer to locate your syllabus file on your local
computer or flash drive.
- Click on your file name and select open.
- Click the Submit button.
- Your document file will appear in the content area, below all preexisting items.