Designing and building your course’s learning space
We’ve done some preparatory work in the Home Office, now we’ll need to set up your course’s learning space, the space in which you and your students will interact. To start, let’s see what York College’s default learning space looks like. In the blue CUNY banner, click on "Home," then on your course in the My Courses module. You’ll land again on the course’s home page. Under the blue CUNY banner, click on the one-eye icon, third from the right. Wait until you see a yellow banner. Voilà, this is the default course’s learning space: a large area on the right with a small navigation menu on the left. Note, first, that your home office is not there. That’s right, the Course Management section of the navigation menu is NOT part of the shared course’s learning space. It is a private space and yours only! Note, secondly, that the navigation menu displays much less links than the same menu you saw from your instructor view: missing are the links to the Syllabus, Course Materials, and Learning Activities--all the juiciest goodies! Secondly, click on the Contact Professor link: students will find “no items” there unless you post them first. Let’s get to work.
First, in the yellow banner, on the right, click on "Exit Preview," then on "Continue" to return to your view of the course. In the course’s banner, on the right, make sure that the Edit Mode switch is set to “On.” [BEEP] All design work is done in the navigation menu on the left.
As noted, the course space you land on when clicking on your course from the Blackboard home page is the York College’s default design for a course space. It is by no means the only way to design a course space. And while it has all the areas needed, it need not be a finished space; in fact, you’ll be directed to add some areas to your space later on, during the semester. Feel free to take the default course space then as a starting point to design your own!
That is exactly what we’ll do here, only to show you the way.
Click on the home page link: the area is formatted as a Module page just like the Blackboard home page. In the action bar, click on "Add Module" to see which modules you can display here. I want the home to display only 3 modules: “My announcements,” “What’s new” and “To Do.” [BEEP] Use the hidden drag-and-drop icon to the left the modules names to re-arrange them. If you really use the home page as a dashboard--and to avoid confusion with the Blackboard home page, rename it to “Dashboard”: use the hidden action button on the right of the link in the menu to do so. [BEEP] Click on the green check-mark to confirm the new name. [BEEP]
Since My Announcements are a module in the dashboard area which students see when they open the course, without having to click on any link, you may want to delete the Announcements area: use the hidden action button on the right of the link, then Delete, and Delete again.
Notice the empty square next to the Syllabus link. Click on the link to see for yourself what it means: “It’s time to add content…”. Indeed. In the action bar, click on the Build Content tab, then, under “Create,” then “File.” [BEEP] Follow the instructions under “Select File” and “Browse from the Content Collection” to find the syllabus you previously uploaded to the drive in your home office [BEEP] Leave the File Options and Standard Options as is and scroll down to click on "Submit." Back on the Create File page, set your options and click "Submit." Made a mistake? Selected last semester’s syllabus, for example, instead of the updated one for the current semester? No worries, use the hidden action button next to the file, and click on "Delete." The wrong file now goes straight back to the home office where you can either delete it or shelve it in an archive folder. [BEEP]
The Syllabus area is also a great place to post your course schedule, the what-to-do-when. It is one part of your syllabus that your students will need to consult regularly and that you may want to edit and update as the semester goes on. A well updated course schedule also give both you and your students a good overview of all that has been accomplished at the end of the semester. For these reasons, we strongly recommend that the course schedule be available to you and your students just one click away; that you post it on the wall of a learning space area, so to speak. In the action bar, click on the Build Content tab, then under “Create,” click on “Item.” [BEEP] Name the item “Course Schedule” to create one “running” schedule, or, if you prefer to break down the course schedule in weekly units, let’s say, or in any unit meaningful to the course, recognizably name it by this unit. [BEEP]
In the textbox, if the toolbar has only one row of icons, click the double down arrow on the far right to expand it. Click the “Full Screen” icon on the left of the double arrow to expand the textbox to full screen. In the text box, you can copy and paste the course schedule from your syllabus and edit it. [BEEP] To collapse the textbox, click again on the Full Screen icon. The icons on the top two rows are straight forward and similar to those used in Word. Move your cursor over the ones on the third row and wait till you see a definition pop-up. Use the first YouTube icon to embed a private video from your own YouTube channel and you will need to log in to your YouTube account; use the Mashups button to embed any publicly accessible YouTube video as well as other media. Do not use the “Edit/Insert Embedded Media” icon. But when appropriate do not refrain from using a smiley or other emoticon!
After completing the course schedule, click "Submit."
Back in the navigation menu, click on the hidden action button to the right of the Syllabus link to rename it to "Schedule and Syllabus."
Click on the Learning materials link to post any documents from your teaching drive or from elsewhere in this content area.
If you plan on using Blackboard’s tools or apps to have discussions, to collect papers etc, in addition to assigning non-Blackboard learning activities, rename the Learning Activities link to Non-Blackboard Learning Activities. If you are sure that you will be using only Blackboard tools, you can delete the Learning Activities area via the hidden action button.
You can add areas for tools later; for now, let’s add a link to the Blackboard email tool: it allows you and your students to email all, some, a group or just one member of the class. Click on the plus icon in the action bar, then on Tool link. Name it "Email," then in the Type drop-down select “Email.” Make available to Users and "Submit."
Note that the newly create menu link appears at the bottom of the menu. First, click on the Syllabus link. Then, use the hidden re-order icon on the left of any menu link to move it up or down.
Next step. In the menu’s action bar, use the plus icon to create a content area for your Syllabus Quiz. If you plan on making more tests available via Blackboard, name this area “Tests.” For now, leave the “Make it Available” checkbox unchecked. Next, at the bottom of the menu, click the newly created "Tests" link, then in the action bar click on "Assessments," then “Test.” Select the syllabus quiz you created in your home office and click on "Submit." [BEEP] Next, set the test options: they are pretty straightforward. Click on "More Help" in the top banner if needed. Three recommendations: 1) Do not check “Forced Completion”. 2) If you use timer, check the Auto-Submit "ON" and 3) Limit the display time. [BEEP] Finally, once again, click on "Submit" when finished! Notice that the square box with the diagonal bar on the right of the Tests link indicates that it is not visible and hence not available to students.
Time to work on the Contact Professor link: click on it and fill out your profile on the Create Contact page.
There is nothing you can see or do in the My Grades area. If you set up the Grade Center correctly, this is the area where students will see their grades and learn where they stand.
The My Grades, Contact Professor and Blackboard Student Support areas are clearly only for students: you can set this trio apart in the menu by using the plus icon to create a divider. [BEEP] You can create a second divider to set apart the Blackboard Faculty Support link that is useful to you only. [BEEP] However, do not include the Tests link in this professor-only section! Move the Tests link up: to do so, first click on the Syllabus link, then use the hidden re-order button on the left of the Tests link.
All done? Any square-box-with-a-diagonal on the right of a link, warns you that you have not checked the “Make Available to Users” checkbox when you created the link-slash-area. Click on the hidden action button on the right of the link, then on “Show link.” Students, ready for the syllabus test!
For final inspection of the setup of your course space, click once again the one-eye button in the right corner under the blue CUNY banner. If all is done right, all links needed to start the semester should now be there. And clicking on them, you and your students should see the Syllabus, any other course materials you made available, the start of a course schedule, the Syllabus Quiz, and your contact info. Great job!