Planning for a Videoconferencing Course
Using Blackboard to Support your V/C Course
Blackboard comes with a host of tools that can improve your Videoconferencing course both synchronously and asynchronously. Please find this annotated list for some helpful tips for using and incorporating Blackboard with your Videoconferencing course. Because Blackboard is a learning management system (LMS), it is equipped with everything you need to run a whole course online even without synchronous support. These tools can easily be leveraged in a Videoconferencing environment to improve communication, submit and share work, dispense handouts and worksheets, test and survey participants, and provide collaborative workspaces for students to work together. If you decide to incorporate these ideas into your course, you’ll need to add them to your Blackboard shell. They can be copied from one shell to the next for future courses, as well.
If you do decide to use Blackboard, just remember to make the course “available” when you are ready for students to see it. Making the course “available” enrolls the students into the Blackboard site for you. This can take up to 24 hours, so be sure to make it available at least a day before students need to use the site.
Discussion Board: Under “Tools,” Discussion boards allow you to create class-centric or topic-centric forums where students can participate in a dialogue using text or video to have asynchronous class conversations. One way to use this feature synchronously is to ask students to submit lecture questions to a designated discussion board which you check at periodic times throughout the course. This could affect all students, both in-person and at a distance. This would minimize distractions caused by microphone delays or feedback when participants at sites try to interject questions on the fly. Additionally, they may feel thwarted from interjecting questions because they’ll perceive it as a disruption. This method may improve participation from distance students.
Journals: Under “Tools,” Journals are features that allow your students to communicate directly with you, often (by default) privately. One great way to encourage student participation is to ask students to generate a “muddiest point” or “single-sentence essay” journal entry at the beginning or near the end of class. You can then review those journals and incorporate the questions or concepts into your next lecture or discussion. This is a great way to boost engagement and can be done during or outside of class hours.
Blogs: Under “Tools,” Blogs allow students to publicly share content with one another and even provide text-based commentary on each other’s work. One great way to use blogs is to have students paste or upload any peer-reviewwork to a blog space. That way, all students (and faculty) can access the content without requiring a fax or private email.
Wikis: Under “Tools,” Wikis are simply “collaborative documents” or “web pages” where more than one person has editing rights. In other words, a Wiki allows you to create a space for collaborative work where students can contribute content to a single resource. You might consider this, for example, if you want your students to create class lecture notes while you talk–all your students or small groups could contribute to a single document of notes without having to cut/paste or download/upload to get at the material later.
Submitting and/or Sharing Work:
Groups: Under “Course Tools,” but typically needs to be added to Navigation and is often there by default in mostBlackboard sites, this tool allows you to create groups of students and provide them private areas of the web to meet, collaborate, and work on projects. Groups are a great way to gather students together virtually outside of class as well as during class time. Are you working on something and can’t figure out how to keep the noise down? Students can contribute to a group discussion board just with one another using text. This could then carry on even after class ends for longer-term projects.
Assignment Dropbox: Under “Assessments,” Assignments allow you to create an upload space for your students to submit work that you can open, download, or edit. If students submit documents in MS Word, you can even open it right in Blackboard without having to download anything. This is a great way to collect worksheets, assignments, papers, slideshows, or other materials from your students in one, tidy place. You can even open those materials in class and project them if the goal is to share the content with the class.
Handouts and Worksheets:
Folders: Under “Build Content,” Folders allow you to easily organize materials into tidy compartments. You might choose to have a folder devoted to each session’s class activities where you upload any documents or materials for students to access, or you might choose to put handouts and materials in a single folder with each handout clearly labeled for student use. This will save you time and energy trying to share handouts with students at a distance.
Items: Under “Build Content,” an Item is definitely the most versatile element within Blackboard. Think of an item like a mini-webpage or document. You can put graphics, text, and video right into an item for students to see on their screen without downloading anything. You can also attach files to items (more than one at a time, even!) for students to download multiple materials in one place. One way to use items might be to have an “Item” for each class session. Write a few sentences in the text box of the item explaining what that session’s lesson will cover and what to do with any attached materials, and then attach all the handouts in one place to that single item. It will make it pretty easy for students to associate each handout with the right class and content area. You can do the same with web links in an item, making them all “clickable” by turning them into hypertext with the click of a button. This would allow you to have more than one website within a given context.
Files: Under “Build Content,” Files are a way to upload a single file without context to an area of the course. This would allow you to upload a document or a Powerpoint, for example, to an area of the course that students could later retrieve.
Links: Under “Build Content,” Links provide you two options for linking: course links and web links. A course link allows you to link to another area of your own course (for example, you may want a particular item to appear in two places in your course so your students don’t miss it). A web link is a direct link to a place on the web. Both of these options only allow you to provide a title and link without context for student use.
Tests and Surveys:
Tests: Under “Assessments,” Tests can be used for more than just getting tests to students. Not only will Blackboard let you make a robust style of test that, in many cases, can be graded by Blackboard for you, but Blackboard offers a variety of ways to deal with test questions (like, being able to add a video to a question to provide a visual prompt or cue for the student). Additionally, don’t think of these as “tests.” That is, test is just what Blackboard calls it. Think of it, instead, as a function. Do you have a worksheet you’d like students to fill out? Why not make it into a Blackboard test? Students will see the prompt and enter text right on Blackboard to fill-in the worksheet.
Surveys: Under “Assessments,” Surveys function just like tests except they are not graded. You can use all the same question types as you can with tests. Students can then participate with the survey during, before, or after class. Surveys can be a single question (perhaps a variation of the “muddiest point” exercise at the conclusion of a class), or a series of questions. This is a great way to keep students actively engaged and participating with class material.