New to Blackboard? Here's what you need to know!
Blackboard (Bb) is a learning management product that allows students to engage with their courses online. Instructors can build websites for their courses to allow students to download their course materials, submit assignments and tests, quickly communicate with each other, and watch video content in a secure environment.
Blackboard is not the same as myFSU. myFSU is a portal (or entry point) to all of FSU's major web services, such as course registration (Student Central), staff account information (OMNI), email (Webmail), and Blackboard. Navigate to any one of these apps by logging in to my.fsu.edu and selecting one of the buttons on the left. For example, to get to Blackboard from myFSU, you would select the Bb icon:
Take a quick tour! Feel free to print one of these guides and click through Blackboard as you follow along:
|Quick Tours (PDFs)|
Students, the following conditions must be met in order for you to see your course in Blackboard:
Instructors, you or your department must request a Bb course website each course, each term. Don't worry: It's an easy, automated process that requires just a few steps. You can read more about this in just a moment... (below)
ODL Technical Support is here to help you every step of the way! We have spent countless hours developing this knowledge base, so remember that you can always visit the Support tab in Blackboard or go to campus.fsu.edu/support any time you have a question, run into a problem, or want to check Blackboard news.
Have a question right now? We might be able to answer it on our Instructor FAQs or Student FAQs page! Or, you can always create a support ticket, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call us at (850) 644-8004. Our office is open Monday through Friday, 8am to 5pm (EST), except during FSU holidays.
The rest of this article is just for instructors.
First time teaching at FSU? Browse our complete checklist.
Blackboard does not have to be complicated or cumbersome. Really, its most powerful tools are its simplest ones. Do these seven things and you will be well on your way to creating a rich online learning experience for your students. If you get stuck, don't hesitate to give us a call at (850) 644-8004 or schedule a one-on-one consultation with John Braswell (email@example.com). We also offer local instructor training workshops throughout the year.
First, you will need to request your course site from Blackboard's Courses & Orgs tab. You will either create an individual site (one section, one course site) or a cohort site (multiple sections, one course site) for every section you are teaching. If you have been instructed to copy content from another course, follow these instructions.
Students won't start pouring into your site until 10 days before the semester begins. Our enrollment scripts run every 4-to-8 hour. Once your site is created, check back later that day to see if your students were enrolled. You can do this by navigating to the course's Control Panel and then selecting Users and Groups > Users:
This will display the Users page:
The gray search bar (marked above) is for viewing which users are in your course. Searching for "Not blank" will show every person in the site. The Find Users to Enroll button will open a separate search window to find people to add to your course, but it is best to wait and let our enrollment scripts add your students for you. TAs will need to be enrolled manually.
Have a large course? You can split your students into groups and take advantage of a lot of cool features.
We give you these default menu items as a starting point:
Announcements: The landing page for your site; keeps a record of your course-wide communication for you and your students.
Syllabus: A content area where you can upload your essential course information.
Instructor Info: A page with staff contact information for your students.
Course Library: A content area where you can store all of your course materials (PowerPoints, documents, videos, etc.).
Assignments: A content area to handle file-based submissions (assignments), online tests, and other kinds of activities.
Student Tools: A list of all of the Bb tools enabled for your course (e.g., Discussion Board, Calendar, Blogs, Send Email).
You are welcome to change your menu around based on your course objectives and course material, however!
Once you have the structure nailed down, it is time to upload content, such as your syllabus, course schedule, assignment instructions, and lecture PowerPoints or video recordings.
Students are accustomed to being able to quickly find your (and your TAs') contact information from the Instructor Info menu item. Go into this page and press the Create Contact button to supply whatever information you feel appropriate:
Blackboard will format the contact information into an easy-to-read format:
Blackboard can do a lot more than host content. It can gather student work and securely place it into your Grade Center for easy grading. You can include detailed instructions and attach template files for students if desired. Here are some of the kinds of assignments you may want to consider adding to your course:
Assignments: For file-based submissions (e.g., Word documents, PDFs, PowerPoints). Features include inline grading, plagiarism detection with SafeAssign, and group assignments. Learn more.
Turnitin Assignments: For file-based submissions, too. Features include Turnitin's more intricate inline grading interface, more expansive plagiarism detection, peer review options for students to leave each other feedback, and revision assignments. There are a few drawbacks, however. Learn more.
Tests: For quizzes, tests, exams, and homework assignments in a quiz-like format. Technically, they are called "Assessments." Features include a wide variety of question types, automatic grading of most question types, optional in-test timer, availability exceptions if a student requires academic accommodations, and easy access to each student's submission through the Grade Center. Learn more.
Graded Discussion Boards: For asynchronous interaction to keep discussion of ideas and course concepts going beyond the classroom. Features include inline grading, ability for students to view and respond to each others' posts, advanced search capabilities, and advanced options for managing student interaction and visibility.
You can add submission links to content areas (menu items such as Course Library or Assignments), similar to how you uploaded your content. From your content area, simply select Assessments and you will see the options to make a Test or an Assignment.
Blackboard offers several course communication tools you'll definitely want to take advantage of:
Announcements: Give students a chronological timeline of your course communication with announcements. They can be pre-written and fire off an email notification automatically soon after their start date. Learn more.
Send Email tool: Blackboard has all of your students' email addresses saved. Simply navigate to the Send Email tool in your course, select the students by their first and last names, and Blackboard sends the email straight to their FSU email accounts! Don't worry, when they respond, it goes to your FSU inbox, too. Learn more.
Grade Center: Email while you work in the Grade Center! Just select the student's name and click the "Email" button. It's that simple. Learn more.
Discussion Board: Get creative! You could create a "General Questions" forum so that no student asks the same question twice. Tell them up-front that this is the place to go if they have any general questions about the course and then advise them to subscribe to the forum so they can be notified of new posts. Learn more.
The Grade Center is located in the Control Panel of your course site, under Grade Center > Full Grade Center:
The Grade Center functions as a dynamic and interactive spreadsheet tool that allows you to do much more than just record grades. As you create gradable items in your course site (see Step #5 above), a new column for each item is created automatically in the Grade Center. When students submit their work, your Grade Center will update to reflect the score or status of their attempt (e.g., "Needs Grading," "86 points," " - " for non-attempts).
Of course, you can manually create columns to keep track of anything that is not sent automatically to the Grade Center (e.g., extra credit points, attendance, paper assignments). How to manually create grade columns
Keep in mind, students are only able to see their own individual grades in their "My Grades" page, and because the Grade Center allows you to hide columns from student view, they will only see what you want them to see. To edit column settings, such as visibility to students and whether or not to include it in calculations, hover your mouse over the column title and click the dropdown menu at the top of the column:
By default, Blackboard will do a simple total score calculation: [Number of Points Earned] divided by [Number of Points Possible]. If you want to get fancy, though, you can use the Grade Center's Weighted Column feature to do the number conversions for you, setting percentages per item type (e.g., Quizzes 10%, Assignments 15%, Research Project 20%, Midterm 25%, Final 30%).