Designing a Course in Blackboard 9: an Online Tutorial<br />Kathryn E. Patrick<br />Emporia State University<br />Designing a Course in Blackboard 9: an Online Tutorial<br />Introduction<br />As a Graduate Teaching Assistant for Emporia State University’s School of Library and Information Management, I work with instructors to set up their online courses in Blackboard. This can sometimes be a frustrating process for both parties, as it is hard to tell where the knowledge gaps lie, and for me to tell whether or not they have been filled by the information I have related. I do a lot more work fixing problems that have occurred than I do preventing problems by providing the necessary knowledge base for working in Blackboard and teaching classes online. As such, I intend to create online lessons about creating and managing courses in Blackboard, focusing on our current version, Blackboard 9. The first of these lessons would be an Introduction to Course Design in Blackboard. <br />Outcomes<br />
Basic understanding of course design in Blackboard version 9, including relevant vocabulary and best practices
The ability to create and manipulate the needed content areas, tools, and elements to create a course in Blackboard
Since this lesson is intended to be the first introduction for new instructors, but should also still be useful to returning instructors who simply wish to improve their skills in blackboard, I would need to balance basic “how-to” information with more value added “why-to” and “when-to” information. I would do this largely by focusing on the theoretical framework and structure of Blackboard, explaining how the different areas and tools can work together to form a well-designed online course. “How-to” information could be relayed within this framework, giving it context—working under a constructivist viewpoint, I would expect this context to allow instructors to better understand and retain the procedural information. <br />I could not expect to impart a full working knowledge of Blackboard in one lesson—even one designed to be worked through at the individual’s own pace over a period of several days. However, I have planned this lesson to provide all of the information that he or she would need to know in the initial phase of course creation, and to give them the vocabulary and theoretical framework needed to ask follow-up questions and to understand the other, more in-depth Blackboard lessons.<br />Curriculum<br />Though an online format limits options for content delivery, I believe that I can use my knowledge of technology and design to meet the needs of individuals with a variety of learning styles and approaches. Though it is an online lesson to be carried out at the learner’s pace, the facilitator (either myself or another Graduate Teaching Assistant) should respond quickly to questions, comments, or requests for more information, so that no learners are lost by the material, or feel that the lesson is completely impersonal.<br />The lesson will be constructed and presented as a Wordpress website. It may seem strange that I am not using Blackboard for this lesson. On the one hand, actually using a fully-built blackboard course is perhaps the best way to understand many of the concepts I want the instructors I teach to understand. On the other hand, many new instructors are intimidated by Blackboard, and I do not want that to interfere with their learning experience—Wordpress pages should require no prior knowledge or understanding to use and interact with effectively. Also, as Blackboard is intended for a very different kind of class (namely, semester-long classes, with required assignments, a syllabus, deadlines, and grades) many features which are very important to the classes that they will teach, would be difficult to incorporate usefully and naturally into this lesson. That may give them the wrong impression on some features. On the other hand, Wordpress (primarily intended for blogging) is very flexible, and would allow me to easily incorporate the video media and other elements that I want as part of my lesson.<br />On each page of the lesson, I will include a tutorial video. These videos will be as concise as possible while still conveying all of the necessary information, and will be created using Camtasia’s screen-recording software. I will also include textual information beneath the video, including key terms and/or concepts, that will help anchor and guide the learner through the video tutorial. These two elements will help ensure that both those who learn best by reading and by listening are engaged by the lesson. Wordpress also has a comments section on each page, so learners will be able to share their opinions or reactions, ask questions, or otherwise interact with the lesson. Finally, those who learn best by doing will be guided by the exercises on each page of the lesson, which will be carried out in a test course shell within Blackboard. I also believe that this design will facilitate both top-down and bottom-up learners. Though it primarily takes a top-down approach (showing how Blackboard courses function as a whole before delving into specifics), concrete examples will be used in each section of the lesson, and may be used as the framework for a bottom-up approach. The online format of the lesson also allows bottom-up learners to return to the “big-picture” Intro section once they better understand the details included.<br />I have already mentioned that this lesson was built from a constructivist viewpoint; I mean this specifically in that it focuses on organizing information, on showing how blackboard fits together and the patterns in how it works. Metacognition is also called into play in the first method of assessment described below. However, other psychological theories still apply to the lesson. For example, the lesson follows the behaviorist model in that it asks students to engage with the lesson by performing an exercise after each lesson. The facilitator should check on the learners’ progress regularly, so that errors or missteps can be immediately addressed, and that good work can be quickly applauded and encouraged. Also, the humanist model encouraged me to create exercises that are open-ended enough for each learner to engage them in a context that has meaning to them. Specifically, they will be asked to build their practice course as if it is a class on something that interests them—whether it is the class they will actually teach for SLIM, or just a hobby that they enjoy. This will help to stimulate intrinsic motivation. And of course, the self-paced structure of the course stems from Humanist thinking. <br />The ADDIE model has and will be used in my creation and implementation of this lesson plan—I believe that my assessment and design processes have been sufficiently explained in the above sections. I have yet to move through the development stage, though that will be carried out according to the site map included as Appendix I. For the implementation stage, I will seek approval from SLIM to have new instructors complete the lesson. Finally, for evaluation, I will examine the assessment materials explained below as well as any feedback received from the learners to determine the effectiveness of the lesson.<br />Learning Artifact<br />
Tutorial page on Content Areas:
Video tutorial on best practices for Course Docs and Assignments, when to create specialized content areas, etc.
Key terms and definitions listed beneath the tutorial
Suggestions of possible content areas (Group Wikis, Videos, etc.)
Exercise: Create at least two assignment items in the Assignments content area, including a description, points possible, due date, and attached rubric.
Being taught online, this lesson consists entirely of learning artifacts. For our next assignment, I will create one of the pages comprising the lesson. I feel that the page on Content Areas will accurately represent the lesson as a whole, and provide robust demonstration of my lesson design. As listed above, this page will include a video tutorial created in Camtasia, presenting best practices and suggestions for when it is appropriate to create specialized content areas. Key terms will be presented and defined, and should be within view beneath the video on most monitors, so that listeners can easily reference them during the video. Next on the page, I will list examples of possible content areas, such as an area created to contain Group Wikis. Finally, the page will ask learners to try what they have learned by creating two assignment items according to the best practices presented in the video. <br />Assessment<br />
Response to the prompt:
Looking through your practice course, what areas or tools do you think will be the most useful for your course? How might you improve the design to better facilitate that particular course? <br />
Practice course, assessed on the following criteria:
Does everything work? No broken links or corrupted files?
Are all elements an appropriate item type and in an appropriate location?
Does it look good? Not too much or too little text? No corrupted formatting?
As this course is intended for instructors, there will be no formal grading. However, it is still important to assess their learning, so that the lesson can be adjusted for future learners, or replaced altogether if it is found to be ineffective. The first method of assessment is an informal response to the above questions. The learner should submit an answer that uses the proper terminology, and clearly communicates the instructor’s thoughts on course design in Blackboard—if it does not, he or she likely still does not understand how Blackboard fits together. Hopefully, it will also prompt the learner to think about and implement what they have learned about design and best practices.<br />The second assessment method will be an examination of their practice course, which should have been in development throughout the lesson. This should be a clear indicator of any areas of procedural instruction which were unclear. For example, if the lesson facilitator notices that several assignments were not created correctly, they would know to either improve the Content Areas page, or to create another lesson specifically to better explain the assignments function of Blackboard.<br />Appendix I: Course Map of the Online Tutorial<br />HomePage<br />Introduction to the course and the facilitator, hyperlinks to each section of the tutorial<br />Intro to Blackboard<br />Tour of a blackboard course, explaining the purpose of each of the following:<br />
Faculty (aka Contacts)
Course Documents (aka Content)
Uses a video tutorial to conduct the tour, with key points listed below. <br />Design in Blackboard part I<br />Video tutorial on Adding, Renaming, and Re-ordering tools and content areas<br />Key terms and definitions listed beneath the tutorial<br />Exercise: Set up your left-hand course menu to include each of the listed areas, in order. <br />Design in Blackboard part II<br />Video tutorial on Adding, Editing, Ordering, and Removing elements within a content area<br />Key terms and definitions listed beneath the tutorial<br />Table listing the item types and what they should be used for<br />Exercise: Set up your Course Documents content area, including at least one item and a folder containing three files<br />Announcements<br />Video tutorial on creating announcements, with best practices and examples. <br />Exercise: Create an announcement welcoming students to your course<br />Faculty<br />Video tutorial on creating profiles, with best practices and examples.<br />Exercise: Set up your faculty profile, including contact information, office hours, and a photograph<br />Content Areas [learning artifact]<br />Video tutorial on best practices for Course Docs and Assignments, when to create specialized content areas, etc.<br />Key terms and definitions listed beneath the tutorial<br />Suggestions of possible content areas (Group Wikis, Videos, etc.)<br />Exercise: Create at least two assignment items in the Assignments content area, including a description, points possible, due date, and attached rubric. <br />Discussions<br />Video tutorial on creating forums and threads, with best practices and examples<br />Key terms and definitions listed beneath the tutorial<br />Exercise: Create at least two forums, and start a thread in each. Your facilitator will post a new thread in the first forum; be sure to reply!<br />Wrap-up<br />Video review of generalized best-practices theories, with suggestions on how to build a blackboard course off of a good syllabus. <br />Assessment exercise: Looking through your practice course, what areas or tools do you think will be the most useful for your course? How might you improve the design to better facilitate that particular course? <br />Resources<br />Links to useful resources and tutorials for further learning<br />