In your preparations for the new academic year, you’ll be thinking about Blackboard, for example: how you’ll be using it in your teaching, how you’ll best structure your menu, how you’ll organise your materials and activities, how you’ll use it to help engage your students, the setting up of online submission points for assignments, and so on. The following checklist has been designed to help you ensure your Blackboard course is ready and available for the new year. You’ll also find in the list links embedded to appropriate support materials to help you as you’re working through it to ready your Blackboard module for effective use in your teaching.
- Have I made my course available so my students can see it on their Enrolments tab?
- Are all relevant staff enrolled on the course with the appropriate role?
- Have I added details of all relevant staff in the Staff Contacts area in the menu?
- Is my course menu well-structured and clear with a separate assessment section?
- Is all the content in my course current and appropriate for this academic year?
- Is all the content well organised and easy for my students to find?
- Have I added details about the module in the About section of the menu, e.g. module handbook?
- Are any Blackboard and/or Turnitin Assignment submission points set up with the correct settings and dates for this academic year?
- If I have any tests in my course, have they been deployed with the correct settings and dates?
- Have I set up links to my online Talis reading lists?
- Have I posted a Welcome Announcement in the Announcement section?
You might also want to ask yourself: Have I signed up for the relevant TEL staff development sessions to help me make the most of Blackboard and Turnitin in my teaching this year?
We hope this is useful as you prepare for the new term!
The TEL team generally recommend Google Chrome as the browser which provides the most satisfactory performance with Blackboard. During the last year, however, Google introduced changes which made it impossible to play certain types of media file in Chrome. In addition, there is a Known Issue in Blackboard which causes MP3 audio files to start playing automatically in Google Chrome, even when the auto-start option has been deselected.
The latest Blackboard release, now installed on our system, gets round these issues by enabling audio and video files to be embedded as HTML5 elements.
This change means that
- MP3 audio files uploaded to Blackboard can be played in any Internet Browser.
- MP4 video files uploaded to Blackboard can be played in any Internet Browser.
Our guide Uploading and embedding audio and video files into your Blackboard course provides details on how to use the new HTML5 Audio and HTML5 Video options to upload and embed media files, so that they can be played in any browser, on any device.
- The new functionality is available only for newly-created audio and video links in Blackboard. The guide suggests how you can deal with previously-uploaded media content to take advantage of the new functionality.
- Other file types (Ogg, WAV and WebM) are also supported by the HTML5 tools, but MP3 and MP4 are the only types playable in all of the main Internet Browsers.
- Windows Media files (wma and wmv) are not supported, and should be avoided when uploading media content to Blackboard.
- We also have guides to help you embed video content from sites such as YouTube into your Blackboard course:
Is the menu on your Blackboard module easy to navigate? Do you make use of features like emboldened sub-headers and dividers to present a clear menu to your students? Do you know how to customise your menu to best suit your purposes? This short screen cast video shows you how to do all these things to help you present a clear, easy-to-use menu for your students.
Do you add presentations, video, images or audio that are stored on external websites into your modules on Blackboard using embed code?
If you include resources or content from certain websites using embed code, then recent improvements to browser security settings can affect how this content can be viewed and prevents it from automatically displaying in Blackboard.
Internet browsers, such as Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Internet Explorer, have improved their security settings for what is described as ‘mixed content’. Browsers now prevent ‘non-secure’ content that is stored on other websites being viewed in ‘secure’ websites such as Blackboard.