What to tell students about Blackboard

As covered in today’s webinar (available from the archive page), faculty often ask us what they should tell students about the Blackboard system. Of course the advice I give can vary greatly depending on circumstance; an fully online class should be told more than a traditional on-campus class only using Blackboard to augment classroom activities. However, here is my short list of the most important things faculty should tell students about Blackboard:

  1. How to log in to Blackboard.
    Sure it’s the same login info as students use on eServices, sure we have that information on the “Student Information” panel of the Blackboard login page, but it helps to repeat “nine-digit Palomar student ID number as username, same password as you have set in eServices.”
  2. How to navigate YOUR course.
    Students don’t really want to hear about all the parts of Blackboard, but they really do want to hear which parts of your course structure they should pay the most attention to. Tell it, in your own words. (Heck, record it in your own voice right in the Blackboard course, using a Wimba Voice Authoring component!)
  3. Describe your time expectations.
    If you expect to respond to emails “within three days,” but a student expects you to repsond “within six hours,” you will have an anxious student on your hands. Set some time frames for how long students should expect to hear back on emails, grades, etc.
  4. Mention file types and technologies you are using.
    If you’ve uploaded all your documents as PDFs, let your students know that; that way they can be sure and have the Adobe Reader loaded on their computers. Likewise, if you’re using videos from the Palomar streaming video catalog, let your students know that they should be sure to have Silverlight installed.
  5. If your students will be taking tests on Blackboard, make sure they do it properly.
    I’m constantly amazed at the number of students who expect to fit a one hour test into fifteen minutes, or who think they can take their final exam online while watching their four-year-old. I’m amazed enough that I made a video describing what I consider to be the pitfalls to avoid in a test environment.
  6. Tell your students how to get technical help from us.
    We have badges and buttons a-plenty, but if all else fails students can just be referred to http://palomaratrc.helpserve.com/ to submit a ticket to our helpdesk system.
  7. The browser you use matters.
    If something isn’t working right in Blackboard, step one should be “try it in a different web browser.” I don’t know if it’s disturbing or amazing, but I find that often the technical problems that crop up in Blackboard are browser specific. Oh, and if you want a browser recommendation… Firefox or Chrome.

That hits the high points, at any rate. Touch on these issues with your students, and they’re more likely to have a good experience interacting with your Blackboard course.

2 thoughts on “What to tell students about Blackboard

  1. I have also found it necessary to send out an email to my students on the first day of class (from Blackboard) and require that they respond directly to that email. I do this because invariably one or more students do not receive these emails, possibly because the messages are going to their Palomar account (which they haven”t activated?) or because the email that they used when registering is one they no longer use. Or…? So part of first week “housekeeping” involves getting them to clear this up to ensure they receive email messages from me. Am I approaching this correctly? Do you have any other advice? Perhaps you addressed this problem in another blog post? Thanks, Elaine

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