What is a well-designed Blackboard module? Project

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Written by Ania Udalowska

A well-designed Blackboard module may mean different things for different people. We asked our group of Student Learning Ambassadors to brainstorm what does it mean to them that a module is well-design. The findings of this discussion divided into categories can be found below.

Module Information

Teaching schedule – showing what is expected throughout the semester (which is carried out throughout the design of the module in folders). It is not necessary to have to release all content at the start of the module rather a roadmap showing students what they need to plan for. Download the teaching schedule example:

Module handbook – one of the students explained that the handbook is almost like a contract between a student and a module coordinator. It should include all essential information (which may be, and in some cases, should be also included in different sections, e.g., all assessment-related information in Assessment & Feedback). Take a look at this blog post on comprehensive handbooks.

FAQs on the module – FAQs could be generated throughout the module based on queries received by the module coordinator and could be then used to help future students, e.g., what textbook is best / how do you set the assignment out/ suggestions of resources to help with a tricky concept etc. You could use the discussion board functionality to ask students for questions they want to know answers to.

Short introduction video – it would be nice to include a video that welcomes students into the module, explains how to navigate it and briefly outlines what will the teaching schedule look like. It does not have to be long nor formal!

Learning Materials

Folders – content should be divided into weeks (or topics). It should correspond with the teaching schedule. Consistency within folders is just as important, try to include the same type of learning materials in each folder (you can use small icons to indicate the type of activity) and keep them in a consistent order:

  • Live session preparation tasks – make it clear what needs to be done.
  • Teams links to live sessions.
  • Pre-recorded lectures (clear/ small chunks/ and no background noise)
  • Lecture slides and lecture handouts with space for notes (how to convert PowerPoint slides into handouts)
  • Activities to complete that give instant results/feedback to test knowledge. You could use Blackboard tests or Panopto quizzes.
  • Examples, relating theory to real-world as much as possible.
  • Reading – which items from the reading list refer to that week’s content.

Note: Where possible use review status and adaptive release – students progress at a different pace, some prefer for the content to be released all at once, others in stages. Having the review status and adaptive release can give students control over how much content they see at once and it also helps them to stay organised.

Assessment and Feedback

  • Outline of each assignment for the module including their weight on the overall module mark.
  • Submission points (along with how to submit guide) – these should be on the top of the section, so they are easy to find.
  • Marking rubrics for each assignment.
  • Past papers or examples of assignments.
  • Comprehensive referencing guide and departmental style guide.
  • Guidance and templates on assessment structure along with writing style tips.
  • FAQs on assessments – again could be generated by students. You could also add a ‘common mistakes’ section to prevent students from making them.
  • Explanation on how to access marks and feedback and how to seek clarification on the feedback.
  • A link to My Marks (which is currently included in Tools).

Reading List

As mentioned above students prefer if reading is included along with their learning materials, so that they know which resource refers to which part of their module. They like for their reading lists to also be categorised by weeks or topics (that correspond to the teaching schedule) and to indicate what type of resource each item is, e.g., physical book, e-book, article etc. They appreciate staff adding to the list only items that are accessible to them and varying the types of resources included to more than just books and journal articles.

Communication

The Contacts section should include all staff involved in the module with clarification to what their role is so that students know who to contact with what query. Up-to-date office hours along with information on how to book a meeting are essential. Students appreciate also when staff lets them know when they are not available to answer their queries.

Discussion boards could be used to communicate with students and gather their questions, it would be worth turning on the discussion board notifications so that students are aware when their question was answered.

Help & Support – students thought that it is worth also providing contacts to other departments they may need to get in touch with, e.g., their Subject Librarian, the Student Representative & the SU Academic affairs Officer [AU[(2] as well as the LTEU for any e-learning queries. The Supporting your Learning module for students include a Help page with a comprehensive list of contacts to which you may want to link to.

Other suggestions:

Clearly labelled – make sure to label items clearly, e.g., instead of ‘Preparation task’ > ‘Tue, 20/07 Seminar – preparation task’ and use student-friendly language, e.g., in-person instead of synchronous.

Updated – double-check information are up-to-date – especially contact details and assessment deadlines.

On-time – be consistent in uploading materials on time. When it is not possible, let the students know.

Accessible – provide materials in different formats, e.g., pdf, Word and make sure they are accessible.

Personable – be present in the module (especially if contact hours are limited) – one of the students working on the project said: ‘the lecturer did a small video each week just to introduce the week – this made it engaging and motivating as the lecturer’s enthusiasm came through and kept engagement levels up’.


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