One of the great new enhancements that we’ve got in Blackboard Ultra is the ability to embed collaborative documents.
For those of us who did much of their teaching online during the Covid pandemic, you will recall us espousing the benefits of loading a collaborative document in the chat. We’ve now been working to enable this on our Blackboard Courses and we are pleased to say that they are available for you to use on your 2023-24 courses.
This means that your students will be able to collaborate together outside the classroom, on Blackboard in their own time. There are 3 types of document available for students to collaborate on:
We’re going to be using the collab docs for blog and wiki alternatives. But, if you want to maybe get your students to mind map, generate ideas, or build on each other’s notes, take a look at the collab docs. You could also use it to get students to sign up to groups. You can use the group feature in Ultra courses to limit the item to a specific student or group of students.
This post outlines the solutions that the Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit are working on for Blog activities in Blackboard Ultra. Once these solutions have been tried and tested, we will work on providing guidance for colleagues.
Blogs are a collaborative tool used for a number of assessed and unassessed activities at Aberystwyth University.
The tool is not currently available in Blackboard Ultra (despite our enhancement requests) and is not on Blackboard’s roadmap of development.
The unavailability of the Blog tool has been included in all parts of the decision-making process to highlight it as a risk in the move to Blackboard Ultra.
In their very nature blogs offer students the opportunity to reflect on their learning, organise their thoughts and ideas chronologically, and comment on each other’s posts.
Whilst there aren’t blogs in Ultra, there are two fully-integrated participation and engagement tools that will offer alternatives: Journals and Discussions.
Option 1: Use the Journal tool
Whilst blogs don’t exist in Blackboard Ultra, the journal tool does remain. Journals are used in a similar way to blogs but they are private between course tutors and students. If the activity can function without making student’s posts visible to all, we recommend using this tool.
If the activity requires an interactive element between students then we recommend using the discussion tool. Here you can create a thread, organise your discussions via folders, set the discussions to be graded, encourage student participation by not viewing the thread until students have completed their initial post.
Even though our discussion board tool has changed, our principles on discussion board design and engagement still remain the same. Take a look at our discussion board design blogpost for some tips and questions for you to ask yourselves in the design of the activity.
Option 3: Use WordPress blogging tool
Whilst we recommend that discussion board activity remains in Blackboard so that student engagement and assessment can take place, there is another blogging tool supported by the University: WordPress. If you think that WordPress is the only option for you then we recommend that you get in contact with us first to discuss your activity and so we can advise further (firstname.lastname@example.org).
We are looking for staff who would like to share their experiences of using Blackboard interactive features, e.g. blogs, journals, wikis, tests, discussion boards. We welcome case studies in any format, e.g. short text, a video, voice memo. These case studies would be included on our blog and used in future training sessions. Please sent your case studies to email@example.com
To learn more about different interactive Blackboard features:
The Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit is pleased to be running our E-learning Enhanced training sessions again this semester.
We’ve got a session scheduled for each of Blackboard’s Interactive Tools: Discussion Boards, Wikis, Tests & Quizzes, and Journals & Blogs. In addition to this, we’ve got a number of Welsh Medium workshops on ‘What can I do in Blackboard?’ as well as some more CPD opportunities.
Blackboard Tools are incredibly versatile and can be adapted for a wide variety of different learning activities: from formative and summative assessment to peer and online learning community building, from reflective activities to the creation of resources. As with all technology enhanced learning, the key is the design of the activity and how that is linked to learning outcomes. Putting the teaching need first and choosing the most appropriate tool will result in meaningful engagements with the task.
These sessions have been designed in such a way to foreground the learning design of the activity as well as the technical creation. Participants will be given the opportunity in these sessions to design a learning activity using the relevant tool and will be provided with technical videos and tips for best embedding their tools in their teaching.
See below for dates and times:
Designing and Using Blackboard Discussion Boards
Beth allaf ei wneud gyda Blackboard?
Designing and Using Wikis for Online Collaborative Activities
Creating Blackboard Tests and Quizzes
Using Blackboard Journals and Blogs for Learning Activities
Teaching staff at Aberystwyth University make excellent use of basic functions of Blackboard keeping it consistent and easy to navigate, meeting the needs of their students. Some staff go beyond Blackboard Required Minimum Presence, using additional, interactive functions in many different creative ways. Considering the current emphasis on online learning and the use of asynchronous online activities we would like to introduce you to some of the more advanced (although still easy to use!) tools in Blackboard:
Journals and Blogs
We have already written about discussion board – perhaps the most versatile of all the Blackboard tools. In this blog post we will focus on blogs and journals and the value these tools could bring to your teaching.
Both journals and blogs, typically written in an informal way, are tools conducive to reflection and personal expression. The difference in their use is determined by whether or not they are aimed at being shared with others. Journals in Blackboard can be set up in two ways:
Private journals cannot be anonymous, are seen only by the lecturer and the student who wrote it, if enabled other students may view them but not comment or edit.
Group journals enable students to write individual entries into one group journal, group members can view and comment on all entries.