Blackboard Learn: Taking it One Tool at a Time
Whenever a conversation is sparked by a so overly excited lecturer of how they are able to execute commands on Blackboard without having contacted me I am always tempted to ask what else they are using it for. And if I ever build much courage to ask the most common answer is, to post announcements. My excitement is triggered when I get to be asked what other features are there to explore, and to my surprise, despite the consultation on these other features which are commonly known as tools, the lecturers either forget about them or see a red alert a.k.a too much work. Before reaching the conclusion that using the tools is too much work, the first step is learning about the tools to see which could fit well within their specific course.
Apart from uploading notes, posting announcements and having activities/ tests completed on Blackboard the lecturers can make use of the Control Panel to manage their courses. This Control Panel has links with a variety of tools to choose from. The instructor can use the Content Collection to store all the content they are using for a module and never have to plug in an external device to access the content that they want to upload on Blackboard. The Course Tools, which will be discussed in detail at a later stage, contains a variety of tools; i.e. Announcements, Blogs, Discussion boards, Journals, TurnItIn, Rubrics, etc. If the tool is not activated it can be made accessible by accessing the Customization link. The instructor can assess the performance of the course, individual students’ performance and also be notified of the students who are at risk by using the Evaluation tool. The Grade Center which resembles a spreadsheet stores all the grades obtained from the assessed tasks the students completed. The Grade Center interacts with the Retention Center to inform the instructor of the students’ performance. The Users and Groups tool assists the instructors to facilitate collaboration amongst the students, not only is it limited to getting students to collaborate but enable an effective management of larger classes.
There is more to offer in Blackboard than just placing class notes, posting announcements and completing activities. The effective use of the Learning Management System will only be achieved if it is taken one tool at a time. With practice the lecturers are able to have sense of ownership of their Blackboard courses by being able to use the acquired knowledge and skill. And, it also depends on the preference of the lecturers which tools to implement in their courses.