Blackboard Pro Tips Part 2: Stepping Up Students’ Blackboard Literacy

confused woman looking at computer

by Nathan Loewen, Department of Religious Studies

“We couldn’t find it on Blackboard!”

Maybe you heard this about your syllabus? I heard this from my class after I returned their assignments online. Some people could not find their grades. Others could not find the general feedback I wrote about the assignment. Others still could not find the individualized notes that I added to each of their assignments.

“Blackboard Literacy” means being able to navigate, find and use items on UA’s learning management system. Any step too big is a wall. Whatever “digital native” means, it does not mean that people taking my courses are able to magically understand where to find things in my course. I had to believe my students who didn’t find my formative feedback on their work. Whose responsibility is it if my students don’t know how to navigate and use Blackboard?

Few courses today are without online elements. There are several parts to a course, and the connections that faculty intuit amid and between these parts are not always obvious to others.

Which of the following in your courses are delivered to your students physically and which arrive digitally?

  • Course materials and readings
  • Syllabus
  • Grade keeping system
  • Formative assessments
  • Assignments

How might you enable your students to navigate, find, and use any of the above? One answer comes from the Tech Support Desk at UA’s College of Continuing Studies, where Josh Michael and Jeremy Bryan have put together a database of answers to common student questions. The goldmine of useful notes on the Information for CCS Online Students page may be helpful for any student taking a course at UA. I am definitely going to use this resource in the coming year by doing two things: adding relevant links to any description, and, showing relevant parts of this page to students during class.

Here are a few examples:


Nathan Loewen is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Religious Studies and Faculty Technology Liaison for the College of Arts & Sciences

Photo credit: “A college student is having problems with her laptop” by CollegeDegrees360 (CC BY-SA 2.0)