These are my personal recommendations for members of staff producing
Students are very concerned about printing costs. Make sure that course
materials are concise and presented in an effective way. Proportional fonts
such as times roman, take up less space than other fonts such as Arial.
Double column format reduces the number of pages and also allows smaller
fonts to be used. My materials use double columns with the 10pt times new
If you are providing peripheral / background reading for students make
this clear. Many students have difficulty identifying which material is
Study Guides which explain the structure of the course, background to topics,
references, learning objectives, learning outcomes and self-assessment
questions are a very effective way to help students use Blackboard and
other resources effectively.
Monitor the use of course materials. By default Blackboard does not track
the usage of materials, but the control panel can be used to apply tracking
to each resource. This enables you to track the usage of particular
materials by individual students and the overall group.
Remember that Blackboard is a web-based system. Many students access the
system from home using modem connections. It is therefore necessary to
minimise the use of large graphics files (e.g. tiff, bmp). It is far better
to enter information in text form (e.g. html or rtf documents) than use
Providing students with source data files (e.g. Word, Excel) provides a
lot more flexibility. Firstly, recent browsers will seemlessly display
the document. Secondly, students can edit their copy of the file to add
additional notes, or change the font size if they are visually impaired.
Other formats such as Adobe pdf format have proved to be less popular.
Rich text format is best for documents as it will work with most versions
of wordprocessing software.
Try to avoid large PowerPoint files - the UCS printers run out of memory
and then print out the Postscript instructions. In one case a student obtained
over 300 pages of rubbish due to this problem.
When providing web links be careful to check that the sites are what you
intended them to be. I was very embarrassed to find that I had linked to
a pornography site by mistake (I had used the extension .com instead of
Think carefully about where to put resources. If you have materials / links
which you wish to use on more than one module, it is best to put the material
on the web and then put links into Blackboard. This is because Blackboard
does not have a database structure. It stores duplicate copies of resources
which leads to maintenance problems.
BEWARE: Blackboard claims to control access to course materials, but this
feature does not work! Anybody in the world can see your materials by clicking
on the "course catalogue"! It is promised that this problem will be resolved
by version 5.
The use of quizzes and tests is a very effective way of providing formative
assessment. It is better to have several short tests rather than one long
test as Blackboard requires students to take each test in one sitting.
Do not rely on Blackboard to work early in the semester. The registration
of students requires data from the Registrars and UCS. It takes at least
2-3 weeks for this to be reasonably reliable.
EMail is a better means of communication than using announcements which
require students to log on and then access the particular module before
they get the information.
Take advantage of the flexibility of Blackboard. New modes of teaching
can be introduced by using UCS supported applications, such as Excel, Minitab,
Students prefer notes to be provided in advance. My experience is that
stage 1 and 2 students have a tendency to skip lectures if the think that
they have "got the notes". There is then a subsequent problem with understanding
as they have missed the explainations provided in the lectures. My personal
approach to this situation is to make it clear that Blackboard provides
only complementary materials. This is not a problem at stage 3 and 4. For
these students I routinely provide all my lecture notes in advance, which
the students then annotate. This makes the lectures more interactive which
has a positive effect on the learning experience.