July 30, 2020

New to Blackboard

Welcome to our resource page for faculty who are new to using the Blackboard LMS System or who have not ever used it as a regular part of their class. These resources should help you get your bearings and plan to have a basic course set up for your students to access. If you’ve never used any “learning management system” before, you should also plan to take advantage of the support provided by Information Technology Services, both self-serve and live/recorded webinars.

Do you need to check another page?

Get Blackboard 

All registered classes at Mason are assigned a Blackboard course shell on the Mason server. To locate your Blackboard courses, go to MyMason (https://mymason.gmu.edu), log in using your Mason ID and two-factor authentication, and click on the Courses tab. Your Blackboard course already has student enrollment data, but no students can see your course until you make it available using the instructions found at your MyMason page.

Get Help

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  • The team at Stearns Center is available to help you with questions about the design and implementation of your course, with advice about strategies, choices, policies, and interactions that improve your students’ learning and your own efficiency and satisfaction — whether you’re teaching in a classroom, via synchronous web-conferencing, in the field, or asynchronously via Blackboard.
    • Check our list of upcoming office hours, webinars, and workshops
    • Get in touch with an Instructional Designer by submitting questions or requesting a 1:1 consultation here
    • Check out our self-paced courses (see below)
  • The team at Instructional Technology Services is available to help you with questions about how to use Blackboard and related tools to support all of your courses.
Ask the Stearns Center Team Ask the ITS Team
How can I best organize my course week to week and day to day? How can I receive and locate a Blackboard “sandbox” course to practice in?
How much work should I assign, in what patterns and modes? How do I adjust the settings for tools like Blackboard Discussions or Tests?
How can I best blend asynchronous, synchronous web-conferencing, and in-person learning? How can I adjust the formatting or layout of my Blackboard content?
How can I revise this assignment or activity to fit a new modality, level, or course? How can I set up, record with, edit, or embed Kaltura videos?
How can I improve my assignment design or my grading rubric? How do I set up, use, record, and/or share Blackboard Collaborate or Zoom synchronous video sessions?
How can I engage and motivate all my students? How can my students access specific Blackboard resources?
How can I provide feedback to students to help them improve? How do I adjust the settings of Blackboard rubrics or Gradebook?
How can I create effective assessments and exams that support academic integrity? How do I set up Respondus Lockdown Browser for my students’ exams?

Find Basic Blackboard Training Through ITS and Other Sources

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Build Your Course Using the Stearns Center Blackboard Template

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See a model and get information

  1. View our template-based course. All faculty are invited to view and explore our Sample Basic Blackboard Site.
    1. This site uses a version of our template that models the basic information you would want to provide for your students, in a clear and accessible structure.
    2. Please note that guest access gives you just a preview, but you cannot edit or even view all sections.
  2. View and download advice and resources. On the Sample Basic Blackboard Site (above) you can view our folder of resources and advice for faculty that you may find helpful: see “Facilitation Toolbox” in the left-hand green menu (you may need to click-and-drag this menu over if you’re using a mobile device or other small screen). You can also add resources to your course.

Add our resources to your site

  1. OPTION A: Remodel your Blackboard site to match the Sample by uploading our Template. If you are opening a new Blackboard site right now or refreshing a Blackboard site that you have not already modified much, you can download a ZIP file and install the FULL Sample Blackboard Site Template directly into your course.
  2. These instructions are also available in the Sample Basic Blackboard Site >> Facilitation Toolbox >> Copy this Template folder
    1. Use this link to download the ZIP file you need.
    2. Depending on your browser, the file will arrive in your Downloads folder, on your Desktop, or to some other location you have set.
    3. Note that depending on your browser settings, the ZIP file may automatically convert to a folder (with a folder icon rather than a square gray ZIP file icon and a .zip suffix). If this happens, do not use this folder but either try a different browser or change your browser settings to stop this conversion:
      1. Change Safari settings
      2. Change Firefox settings
      3. Chrome doesn’t usually do this, but if it does, disable its extensions and retry
      4. In your own Blackboard course, delete anything you are not using on the course menu (e.g. blank content areas) to prevent mix-ups with new menu items. (You will need to be in Edit Mode to do this.)
        1. Note 1: We recommend you begin deleting from the bottom of your course menu items and work your way up and leave the “Home” item at the top (trust us: this prevents a tricky editing situation).
        2. Note 2: Uploading this package will NOT delete any of your current Blackboard materials that you leave in your course. New items will appear at the bottom of your menu.
      5. Click on “Packages and Utilities” under the Course Management Control Panel near the bottom of the course menu.
      6. Choose “Import Package/View Logs
        1. Browse your computer to locate the ZIP file and add it
        2. Scroll down and click the Select All button.
        3. Uncheck “Availability” and “Enrollment Options” if they are checked
        4. Click on Submit. The process may take a few minutes.
  3. Update your course site menuOnce you install the template, all the new sections will appear at the bottom of your left-hand menu. In Edit Mode, you can click to the left of a menu item to drag it up toward the top of the menu; you can click on the gray chevron to the right to rename, hide, or delete any item
      1. NOTE about rubrics: The template also has embedded rubrics that you can keep, or you can delete them by going to Course Management >> Course Tools >> Rubrics.
      2. NOTE about gradebook:  The template has embedded discussion forums, quizzes, and assignments. Each of them has a column in the grade book. You can revise the prompt and keep the activity in your gradebook; you can also delete the activity and create your own. Delete the activity from tool itself (e.g., from the discussion forum page or where it appears in the lesson).
  4. OPTION B: Add a FEW sample resources to your Bb site. If you have already developed a working Blackboard site but would like to have easy access to some basic resources, you can take a look at our Minimalist Site Outline and then follow the directions on this handout to install a set of basic instructor resources (about Collaborate, Discussions, and other basic tools) that are part of the Minimalist Site directly into your Blackboard course.
  5. Need help? For questions about using Blackboard’s settings, tools, and layout, contact courses@gmu.edu — or use their call-in or chat options for consultation.

Use a Sandbox Blackboard Course to Practice Building Your Course

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If you are new to Blackboard and would like to practice building content and activities in a private site before you modify your course site, you can request one or more “sandbox” course(s); each course site will come pre-loaded with the Stearns Center Template (see above) to facilitate your course design.

Once you have built items in your sandbox, see our instructions on how to copy some or all of your course items from your private sandbox to your official Mason Blackboard course site.

Use Our Self-Paced Courses to Improve Your Course Design Skills

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Stearns Center is currently offering two self-paced courses, open to all faculty and instructors during Summer and Fall 2020. Once you enroll, you can work through the modules in order, or you can skip to specific sections that will help you with your current course design. Each course has an “Ask a Question” discussion forum staffed by Stearns Center and is supported by office hours (see above) and by ITS support through courses@gmu.edu.

  • Online Course Development Primer provides the basic guidance for creating an asynchronous online course.
    • To access the course,
      • First log into Blackboard using your Mason ID and password so that your connection is stable
      • Then return to this webpage and click this link
      • Look for the “+Enroll” button bottom left of your screen
      • Enroll yourself
    • The course has seven modules; completing each is estimated to take 5-8 hours
      • Module 1: Conceptualizing Your Online Course (Review the Course Readiness Checklist and Request a Sandbox)
      • Module 2: Organizing and Building Your Course Schedule
      • Module 3: Aligning Goals and Assignments
      • Module 4: Tracking and Measuring Student Learning (tests, quizzes, assignments, rubrics)
      • Module 5: Engaging with Students (discussion boards and lectures)
      • Module 6: Supporting Interaction and Collaboration (including Collaborate and Zoom information)
      • Module 7: Continuous Improvement
  • Pivotal Pedagogy Fundamentals provides basic guidance for teaching a face-to-face, hybrid, and/or web-conferencing-based course, with a solid Blackboard “home base” so that you are prepared in case the university “pivots” to remote teaching during the semester.
    • To access the course,
      • First log into Blackboard using your Mason ID and password so that your connection is stable
      • Then return to this webpage and click this link
      • Look for the “+Enroll” button on the left side of your screen
      • Enroll yourself
    • The course has seven modules; completing each is estimated to take 3-6 hours
      • Module 1: Exploring Your Course’s Learning Pattern (Review the Pivot-Ready Checklist, Request a sandbox, and Consider how to integrate F2F, Synchronous Web-Conferencing, and Asynchronous course elements)
      • Module 2: Redistributing Learning in Your New Pattern
      • Module 3: Aligning Goals and Assignments in Your New Pattern
      • Module 4: Building Assessments to Support Patterned Learning (tests, quizzes, assignments, rubrics)
      • Module 5: Engaging Students in Your Learning Pattern (discussion boards and lectures)
      • Module 6: Supporting Interaction and Collaboration (including Collaborate and Zoom information)
      • Module 7: Planned Flexibility

NOTE: Cohort-based, fully facilitated seven-week versions of both courses will be offered to Mason faculty beginning in late September 2020; contact your department chair if you are interested in enrolling, and/or see more information on our Webinars and Trainings page.

Incorporate Active & Interactive Learning in Your Blackboard Course Design

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Incorporating active and interactive strategies into your course can support your learning goals and engage students. Active learning includes teaching methods and strategies that involve student participation and engagement with the material in a meaningful way. Interactive learning involves students working together to do things like to solve a problem, answer a question or complete a project in ways that enhance their learning. Research shows that both active and interactive learning help students to retain information and increase critical thinking.

Active Learning in Your Class: You can incorporate active and interactive learning into any part of your course, including synchronous lectures, reading assignments, homework problems, class projects and discussion. Even incorporating one or two simple strategies can make your course more dynamic. Check out our quick  Guide to Transforming Learning Tasks for the Online Environment for some ideas you can easily add to your course.

Common Active and Interactive Strategies: Even if you are used to lecturing or facilitating small group discussions, you can utilize active learning strategies to make them more engaging.

  • Microlectures provide brief but effective explanations of a concept or skill and allow students to focus on key concepts. Download this guide to preparing a five-minute microlecture that emphasizes key concepts without overwhelming you or your students.
  • For synchronous sessions, you might try an interactive lecture, which keeps students engaged through activities that can also be collaborative. Take a look at the Interactive Lectures section of this guide on lecturing for tips you can use.
  • Discussions can engage students in higher-order learning by providing an environment for peer-to-peer learning. Start by downloading our Guide to Facilitating Effective Online Discussions.

Feedback: Feedback is essential, but it can also be time consuming. Consider our overall tips for Managing Feedback to Students