Taking Your First Look at Blackboard - dummies

Taking Your First Look at Blackboard

By Howie Southworth, Kemal Cakici, Yianna Vovides, Susan Zvacek

What you will love about Blackboard may also be the source of some frustration, much like in other Web-based applications you may be using. Remember that you’re working on the Web, and keep in mind the four concepts in the following list:

  • Access — get connected: To access Blackboard, you need to have Internet access. That’s the beauty of Web-based applications such as Blackboard: After you get connected to the Internet, you can access your Blackboard account from any Internet-connected computer anywhere.
  • Knowledge — know your browser: Get comfortable with the options in your browser, such as enlarging or reducing text size, locating or setting your default folder for downloading files, and enabling or disabling your pop-up blocker. Allowing pop-ups is important because Blackboard utilizes pop-ups for some of its functions.
  • Address — remember your Blackboard URL: You probably know many ways to access your Blackboard login page and have already bookmarked all of them, right? Just in case your memory fails you, write down your Blackboard Web address and keep it in your back pocket so that you can access it from any Internet-connected computer anywhere. Also keep your institution’s IT help desk number handy, just in case you have no idea what the address is.
  • Be aware and beware. Make yourself aware of the instructional tools that Blackboard offers, and keep in mind that you should test your course environment thoroughly before releasing it to your learners.

Logging in to Blackboard

Blackboard is a secure Web-based application that requires all its users to enter their unique login information (username and password) in order to access the courses they are either teaching or are enrolled in. To be able to log in to Blackboard at your institution, find out what that login information is. Your Blackboard administrator or your institution’s IT help desk should be able to provide you with this information. While you’re at it, find out what the URL is for the Blackboard login page at your institution. You need to have these two key pieces of information at hand to get your first look at Blackboard.

The Visual Text Box Editor (WYSIWYG) editor in Blackboard works only with Internet Explorer. Although Blackboard supports all major browsers for all other functionalities, the Visual Text Box Editor doesn’t display all available functions if you use another browser to access Blackboard.

Navigating your way around Blackboard

In every Blackboard course, you, the instructor, can customize the course menu to your liking and in effect allow or disallow navigation options for your learners. In other words, Blackboard allows you to include a Course Map as part of the menu. Because the Course Map is a navigational map, a user can jump to any item in the course. In addition, you can display the Course Menu in either Quick view or Detail view. When both views are enabled, therefore, a user can either expand the menu in Detail view (thus making it more like the Course Map) or use Quick view to click the menu items (buttons or text) to navigate to a desired area of the course.

As you’re building your Blackboard course, you should keep track of your bread crumb trail. This refers to the trail of links at the top of the page in any Blackboard course. You may have noticed this type of link in other Web environments. The deeper you get into a course, the more the trail expands and the more easily you can navigate back to where you came from by using the bread crumb links.

Get in the habit of using the bread crumbs as an orienting tool in the course while adding or modifying content items. After you develop this habit, which, by the way, is a good habit to have for any Web-based application, you don’t make mistakes when you’re adding folders and items and end up wasting your time. You can simply look up, check your bread crumb trail, and know whether you’re in the correct location in the course before you start adding content.

Clicking the course title always takes you to the entry page of the course — basically, the learner’s view.