I’m currently teaching in a foundations program at University of Toronto, which gives conditionally accepted international students a year of language and credit courses to improve their skills sufficiently to have a fighting chance in their chosen programs, should they pass. I’ll write more about the program another time. The main point of this post, however, is to elicit collaboration on ideas for utilising the education-based software used by the university as a primary source of online information and organisation: Blackboard.
In case you’re not aware of it and/or haven’t used it before, Blackboard is software that is focused online that organises courses and university information for instructors and students. Both log on and are presented with an array of menus, modules and features that help facilitate the in-class programming. What is done with these menus, modules and features lies entirely on the effort presented by the instructor and the cooperation of the students. This can be a little daunting for the first-time user (mostly of the non-young student variety)! A thorough introduction video to using Blackboard can be found here (though this isn’t based on the most current version as far as I can tell). I’m becoming familiar with the main course features:
Announcements: since this feature sends a message to all enrolled students and places it in their homepage, it’s great to inform students of texts to bring or last-minute information needed for class.
Course information: in this area, I’ve included the course description, mark breakdown, expectations and other items that students hear about on the first day of class but often forget months down the line.
Course documents: handouts, templates and slides used in class can be made available for download for absent students or those who need more copies. This cuts down on photocopying or the need to lug around extra copies of material from previous classes.
Calendar: we can enter information regard tests, essay due dates or any other assignments by date and time, giving students no excuse for being unaware of them.
There appear to be a number of other features I haven’t yet tried as it is fairly early in the semester: blog, discussion board, collaboration, glossary, journals and tasks. I’d like to hear from anyone who has experience with Blackboard in their programs.
- What interesting ways have you found to utilise the tools available for your programs?
- How have you integrated Blackboard into your students’ learning? What has worked well and been both interesting and effective?
- What is the ratio of a) learning curve to b) time to produce tool to c) learning? Was it worth it?
With my hope for your collaboration fulfilled, I aim to try out your ideas and add them to future blog posts about Blackboard, cited of course. As I figure out how to use it and come up with my own ideas, I’ll post them as well.