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Cheat Sheet

Blackboard For Dummies

From Blackboard For Dummies by Howie Southworth, Kemal Cakici, Yianna Vovides, Susan Zvacek

The Blackboard Learning System provides you, the instructor, with the tools to present class materials on the web, communicate online with the entire class, and track your lessons. But you're a teacher, not a psychic, so you'll want some help navigating the Blackboard Course Control Panel and uploading your course syllabus to Blackboard. Setting up your Gradebook early will save you hours at the end of your course, when it's time to assign your students a final grade.

Finding Your Way around the Blackboard Course Control Panel

In your Blackboard course, you have access to the Control Panel — your learners don't. You therefore have the power to add, modify, copy, and remove content; turn course tools on and off; decide how to display the Course Menu; add and remove students (users); and document exams, grades, and other means of evaluating your students.

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  • Upload your course materials and files by clicking a link in the Content Areas box. This box is most useful for getting the right stuff in front of your learners — and doing it fast.

  • Use the features in the Course Tools box to keep in touch with your learners and to allow them to keep in touch with you. Use this area also to manage the various tools available in Blackboard.

    Your institution may have some Blackboard features turned off or customized, so the preceding figure may differ slightly from your own Control Panel. It should be close, though.

  • Administer your course before it begins by changing the course menu, and after it ends by using the links in the Course Options box to copy content to another course.

  • Allow learners to access to your course, remove them, put them in groups, and perform other useful tasks from the User Management box.

  • Behold the power of the Assessment box. From there, you test learners, survey them, grade them, and track their overall progress.

  • Get help quickly by using the links inside the Help box.

Post Your Syllabus to Blackboard

The first thing you have to do to get your course started using Blackboard is to post your course syllabus. How else can your audience know that you give 10 bonus points just for showing up? Follow these simple steps to post your syllabus in Blackboard:

  1. Save a digital (electronic) copy of the syllabus on your computer.

    Save this file somewhere that you can find later, like on your desktop or your My Documents folder (in Windows). This file is most often created with a word processor application, like Word or WordPerfect. You might have gone that extra mile already and created a .pdf file from the original.

  2. Go to your Blackboard Control Panel.

  3. In the Content Areas box, select the area in which you want to upload the syllabus.

    You can simply select the Course Information area in which to place your syllabus. If your institution has customized the default menu so that it doesn’t include a Course Information link, choose the most appropriate Content Area for your syllabus. Hey, it might even be a Syllabus link!

  4. Click the Item button on the Add bar near the top of the page.

    Although the Add Item page has many sections, for quick-start purposes, you need to do only two things: Name the item and upload the file.

    Add an item to post your syllabus.
    Add an item to post your syllabus.
  5. Enter the name of your syllabus in the Name text field.

  6. Scroll down to Section 2 (see the figure) and click the Browse button to find the saved document. Select (highlight) it and click the Open button.

    Remember where you saved the digital document that’s your syllabus? Navigate to it here.

  7. Enter an instruction in the Name of Link to File box.

    Type whatever you want learners to see as a link to the document, such as Click here to see the syllabus.

  8. Scroll toward the bottom of the page to Section 4.

    You can skip past Section 3 for now, or try out the Section 3 options later.

  9. Click the Submit button.

    That’s it. Easy, isn’t it? Congratulations — you posted, or uploaded, your syllabus into your Blackboard course! You know that you’re successful when you see the receipt page.

Not tired yet? If you really want to do more, click OK to return to the Control Panel so that you can start posting some assignments.

You can also stay in this Content Area and post more items for learners, or even go back to the Control Panel and choose a different Content Area in which to do the same.

Give Online Assignments in Blackboard

As an instructor using Blackboard, you'll probably want to post an assignment for learners to turn in (and for you to collect and grade) online. Here’s how:

  1. From the Control Panel, select the Content Area link where you want to post the assignment.

    You can simply select the Assignments area in which to place your assignment. If your institution has customized the default menu so that it doesn’t have an Assignments link, choose the most appropriate Content Area for your assignment.

  2. From the drop-down menu on the right side of the Add bar atop the page, select Assignment and click the Go button.

    Although the Add Assignment screen has several sections, for our purposes in this quick-start guide, we focus on only three specific actions: Name the assignment, give it a point value, and add instructions

    Name your assignment, give it a point value, and fill in instructions.
    Name your assignment, give it a point value, and fill in instructions.
  3. Type the title of the assignment in the Name text box.

  4. In the Points Possible text box, type — you guessed it! — the maximum number of points a learner can earn on this assignment.

  5. In the Instructions text box, type (or copy and paste, if the instructions are in another document) the instructions you want learners to see.

    If the directions for learners are already beautifully displayed in a document (a word processing document or a .pdf file, for example) saved to your computer, continue to Steps 6 and 7. Otherwise, skip to Step 8.

  6. Click the Browse button to find the saved assignment document on your computer, select the document, and click Open.

  7. In the Name of Link to File text field, enter whatever you want the link to the assignment instructions to say.

    Type whatever you want learners to see as a link to the document; for example, Click here to see the homework assignment.

  8. Click the Submit button.

    Good job! You gave an online assignment that you can now collect through Blackboard. You know that you’re all-powerful when you see the receipt page.

Now that you’re on a roll, click OK to return to the Control Panel so that you can set up your Gradebook.

The assignment you just posted now appears as a column title in your Gradebook. Yes, it’s that easy.

Set Up Your Gradebook in Blackboard

To save time later in your course, set up Item columns in your Gradebook as soon as you create your course so that you have to worry only about entering earned points for each learner. Here’s what to do:

  1. On the Control Panel, click the Gradebook link in the Assessment pane.

    You should see your Gradebook in Spreadsheet view (see the following figure). It differs a bit from the View By Student and View By Item options. The Spreadsheet view displays all your graded items for all learners. Spreadsheet view is a great starting place: It’s one-stop shopping for most (if not all) of your grading needs.

    A student grade sheet, Blackboard style.
    A student grade sheet, Blackboard style.
  2. Click the Add Item link.

    If you have already added an assignment, it was entered automatically as a Gradebook item. Neat, huh? Now, you can add some other graded items, such as Class Participation or Quiz 1.

  3. Choose the item name, category, and number of possible points.

    Enter the name of the graded item (Quiz 1 or Homework 2, for example), select the appropriate item type (Exam or Project, for example) from the category drop-down menu, and enter a value (10, 100, or 1000, for example) in the Points Possible field.

  4. Click the Submit button in the lower-right corner of the form.

  5. Click OK on the receipt page to return to your Gradebook spreadsheet.

    After you return to the Gradebook spreadsheet, you can add more items, modify item information, or assign grades to learners.

You might want to start communicating with your learners at this point, even before the course begins.

Start Discussion Topics in Blackboard

Communicating with learners in Blackboard takes several forms. A discussion works like an office bulletin board. For this task, you establish a discussion forum and start the conversation as shown in these steps:

  1. On the Blackboard Control Panel, click the Discussion Board link.

  2. Click the Add Forum button.

    When you click Add Forum, you see the page shown in the following figure. It sets up a space for you and your learners to trade notes for the rest of the class to view.

    Create a bulletin board, also known as a Discussion Forum.
    Create a bulletin board, also known as a Discussion Forum.
  3. Enter a name for the forum in the Title text field.

  4. In the Description text box, type a brief explanation of the topic to be discussed in this forum.

    This text appears below the link (the forum title) for learners to read before proceeding to the messages within this forum.

  5. Enable or disable the check boxes in the Forum Settings field.

    After you scroll down the page to the next section, you can turn options on or off specifically for this forum.

  6. Click the Submit button to create the forum.

  7. Click OK on the receipt page that appears.

    This action returns you to the Discussion Forums page. After you create the forum, your next task is to post the first note to which you want learners to reply.

  8. Click the forum name you just created to enter this topic area.

  9. Click the Add New Thread button.

    Now that you’re inside the forum you created, the conversation can begin.

  10. Enter the subject in the Subject text field, and the message in the Message text box.

    This is your first message to the class of learners who will read this Discussion Forum.

  11. Click the Submit button.

    Look — signs of life in your course!

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