by Jessica Porter, Office of Educational Technology (eTech)
This post aims to help you create more functional, engaging Blackboard shells. For basic setup tips, including how to create a course shell, see the Center for Instructional Technology’s Blackboard tutorials.
Customize your course homepage
Blackboard offers a variety of style options to help you personalize your course, including custom menus, banners, and course entry points.
Listing major content areas in the menu makes them accessible to students throughout the course. To customize a menu, click the plus sign in the upper left-hand corner. Then choose an item from the list:
- Content area: Add a container for your files, tests, assignments, etc.
- Module page: Create a new module page.
- Tool link: Link to a Blackboard tool, including discussion boards, calendars, journals, and announcements.
- Web link: Link to an external website.
- Course link: Create a shortcut to an existing area, tool, or item in a course.
- Subheader: Title a section of the menu.
- Divider: Add a thin line to separate menu sections.
You can also rename, hide, and delete links from the menu by clicking the down arrow to the right of the link. To reorder the links, click the vertical up and down arrow beside the link, and drag it to the desired location.
Course Entry Point
Make your course more engaging by changing the default entry point to a custom homepage:
- Add content to the course homepage listed in the left-hand menu.
- Click Customization and then Teaching Style.
- Select a course entry point from the drop-down menu (Announcements and Course Homepage are the best options).
Welcome students to your course with a custom banner image. Banners can appear on either the announcements feed or homepage, depending on your preferred entry point, and they are a great opportunity to highlight the course theme. The banner below was created with Adobe Spark, but Powerpoint is also a popular tool.
Organize your files
If you usually post all your content to a single page, consider adding a few course areas to the menu. Course areas serve as content containers, and they can be organized in several ways: by unit/module, by content type (readings, videos, slides, assignments), or by activity. I often organize my content by unit, with important links in the main menu.
For longer pages, add course links that take you to certain sections or anchors that return you to the top of the page.
Incorporate interesting multimedia content
Blackboard allows you to embed a wide range of multimedia content, including photos, video, audio files. Consider adding relevant media and incorporating it into your class activities and assignments. For example, you might periodically share photos and ask students to guess what they are and how they pertain to the course.
You can also embed windows from your favorite applications, like WordPress, Flipgrid, and Padlet. Functionality is limited inside the Blackboard interface, but a simple double-click will open a new window.
Highlight department life via social media
If your department is active on social media, consider adding a real-time Twitter widget or Facebook plugin to your homepage. Doing so will help students connect with your department and see what life is like in your community. See Power-Using and Hacking Blackboard for examples.
Edit tool availability
You can choose which tools are available and where they appear in your course. If you never use a particular tool — like Wikis, for example — you can turn it off on Tool Availability page. No one will be able to see or access the tool, including you, until it is made available again.
You can also add frequently used tools to the course menu to make them more accessible to students.
- To change tool availability, go the control panel and click Customization.
- Choose Tool Availability.
- Check a box to make a tool available or uncheck it to remove student access to it.
- After making your selections, select the Submit button to complete.