5 Bite-sized makeovers for unloved Blackboard modules

Have you heard the one about eating an elephant?

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Between working harder for research and increasing teaching commitments to match growing student cohorts, it’s no small wonder that Blackboard modules end up at the bottom of the ‘To do’ list. A well-designed blackboard site can work for you in making your teaching (and time) more effective, but finding the time in the first place is hard.

And when you do find the time? That unloved site looms large and blandly (maybe not elephant grey, but something close) in your browser window. Unless you are motivated enough to tackle that whole elephant and book out a chunk of precious hours in your calendar, you might want to follow these ‘bite-sized’ tips for little-and-often updates to your Blackboard modules. The trick is to do it one item/file/resource (or one module, if you have several) at a time whenever you visit a site. If you start now, those sites could be transformed in time for the start of the academic year. The lovely guys in the iSolutions MLE team have produced some quick guides to help, and these are linked below.

1. Declutter  

Be really critical of what is in the site. Sometimes less is more. Is the content really current or has it just been added to year on year?  Is everything in your site contributing in a meaningful way? If it used to, but doesn’t now it’s time to let it go. From this site at least.

2. Provide context

So the content that remains after your spring clean is current, and crucial to students’ success. Do the students know that? Adding a brief amount of context to a resource can make a difference to student engagement. What’s the most important thing you want a student to take away from reading a paper you’ve linked to? Why have you asked them to read it? Let them know. Adding one line every time you log in now is less daunting than trying to do everything in one go the week before the start of semester.

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3. Change the look

Choose a theme to change the appearance of the whole site. Takes hardly any time to do and can make a site really stand out. Be careful though; some preset themes aren’t too easy on the eye and are difficult to read. Always check the final appearance using the student view. You could also add a banner to make the site more visually appealing.

4. Open a window on the world (wide web)

You can embed YouTube Channels, Twitter feeds, Flickr images and TV programmes (yes really, TV) in your site. Students will be accessing all of these for their own reasons, but here you can direct them to more relevant accounts and content.

5. FAQs

Multiple student emails every year with the same/similar question? Create a discussion board and use it to list FAQs. Make it clear to students that email queries (if generic issues) will be reposted on the board and answered there so all can benefit. Students might not start their own discussions, but they may well be reading without posting.

There’s actually a whole lot more that can be done – this short post suggests quick (and hopefully straightforward) tips to update courses a little at a time. If you aren’t sure how to go about it after looking at the guides or would like to know more about getting more from your VLE, then please get in touch (either with ILIaD or iSolutions via ServiceLine). Oh, and look out for announcements relating to the upcoming ILIaD VLE Awards, when we will have more top tips and examples from colleagues around the University.

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