Before the Semester Starts

Workflow vs Standalone

Below are our Workflow tutorials for setting up your course in Blackboard.  In the Standalone section of this support page, we also provide instructions for setting up parts of your course outside of this workflow, but still in its spirit.  These standalone tutorials are limited in number as we did not feel a need to add to the already vast collection of standalone tutorials readily available on the web. 

A main road vs backroads

Instead, we created, and tested, a workflow where all pieces securely fit together.  It’s a main road we carved out in the forest; and while you will not learn about the many shortcuts or alternative ways that Blackboard offers, you will also not need to learn about the potholes on these backroads or be warned about possible roadblocks further up the road.

Advantages for students

Following the workflow instructions results in a course design that may be different from the course design you are used to; it may also inspire different design ideas that suit you better. These are some of the main advantages of “our” design for students:

  • When opening your course students see all course related “news” (and nothing else) on a Dashboard-like page
  • With the “Schedule & Syllabus” link students are only one click away to find out when they need to do what with which materials and which tool or in which area
  • The Grade Center is set up so that students at all times have an idea “where they stand” as weighted total columns are always up to date
  • Help for students using a tool is pushed out by profs together with an assignment

Formats

The primary format for our tutorials is audio: no need to be looking up, down, left or right from the tutorial to your screen.  For those who like to read more than to listen we also provide a transcript.  For a quick overview of what you will be instructed to do and where, on what page, take a look at the “Blackboard Course Setup in 12” slideshow.  These slides can also be a visual aid to following the audio.

Enjoy!

Before the Semester Starts Bb Tutorials in 12 slides

1.1   Finding Blackboard and Logging in for the first time

1.1.1   If you have not yet claimed your CUNYfirst account 

  1. On the York College website, click “Faculty/Staff”
  2. In the “Online Services” column on the left, click “CUNYfirst”.
  3. On the CUNYfirst Login page, click “New User” and follow the instructions 
  4. Go back to the York College website, and click the “Faculty/Staff” tab in the top banner
  5. In the “Online Services” column on the left, click Blackboard. Use your CUNYfirst username followed by “@login.cuny.edu” and input your CUNYfirst password.  Voilà.

1.1.2   If you have already claimed your CUNYfirst account

  1. On the York College website, click “Faculty/Staff”
  2. In the “Online Services” column on the left, click “Blackboard”. 
  3. On the CUNY Login Blackboard page, use your CUNYfirst username followed by “@login.cuny.edu” and your CUNYfirst password to login.

How to play the audios

You can play the audio on your phone or on a browser. If you play the audio files on a browser, please use Firefox browser. On other browsers you cannot move the audio play control backward or forward, you will have to re-start the audio from the beginning.

The Beeps in the audio tutorials

The Beep or “It’s-your-turn sound” in the audios indicates the best place to pause the audio and work on the instructed steps.

1.2   Setting up the Blackboard Home Page (3m59s)

What you will do

  • Update your email address (if needed)

  • Post a photo or personalize your avatar.

    • Pixabay is a photo bank where professors can find images that are free of copyrights.

    • To resize images, use Web Resizer. You can also view the tutorial on how to resize an image to 150 by 150 pixels.

  • Manage frequency of Blackboard update emails

  • Reduce visual clutter and collapse modules

  • Change the layout

  • Select a color theme

What to have ready

A nice picture of you or a preferred avatar in JPG format. The recommended pixel size for your picture or avatar is 150 by 150.

A quick introduction to the Blackboard Home page user interface including action bar, action button. modules, module settings, and various icons.

1.2a Setting up the Blackboard Home page. A quick introduction to the Blackboard Home page user interface including action bar, action button, modules, module settings, and various icons. The text in the blue oval shapes provides information.

An introduction to action buttons and Global Navigation Menu.

1.2b Setting up the Blackboard Home page with Global Navigation Menu. An introduction to action buttons and Global Navigation Menu. The text in the orange rectangle shapes indicates the actions you can take.

If you want to re-use your course materials from a previous semester, follow the tutorials on course copy or course import on the Standalone page.

1.3   “Prepping” in the Course Management section, your private “home office space”

1.3.1   Organizing your teaching drive and uploading your syllabus and other course materials (3m32s)

Why you should do this

Blackboard provides each instructor with 750MB of space to store content.  You can use this space as your in-the-cloud, dedicated teaching hard drive.  Materials stored in it can be accessed from anywhere you can login to Bb.  No need to bring a flash drive to class!  You can also use it as as a backup, of course. Do not click the button on the right of the action bar to set up web folder as this feature does work work properly.

  • File and store course preparations, lesson plans, syllabi, PDFs, reading materials, rubrics, drafts for assignments and tests… for all your courses in one place
  • Store your materials for as long as you have an account in Blackboard
  • If you want to upload several files, instead of uploading them one-by-one, you can compress them first on your computer, then upload the compressed zip file to your teaching drive. These are tutorials on how to compress files on a Windows machine and how to do it on a Mac
  • For storing videos, use NJVID.

What to have ready

Your syllabus and course materials

  • Make sure that your syllabus meets the requirements in the College Standard Course Syllabus. This is an annotated sample syllabus.
  • Make sure that your syllabus and course materials are ADA compliant: [ADA stands for the American with Disabilities Act]:
    • For Microsoft Word docs:
      Use one of Word’s 3 ADA compliant fonts: Arial, Helvetica, and Verdana.
    • For PDF documents:
      Use Adobe Acrobat Professional to run Accessibility Checker.
      To have Adobe Acrobat Professional installed on your computer, open a ticket in YConnect (click on the Faculty/Staff tab on the York College website, then on IT Self Service in the Online Services column on the left). For more resources, visit the Center for Students with Disabilities site.
  • Make sure that the font size of any ppt you plan to show in class uses the minimum font size specified in the classroom assignment email. Consult PowerPoint Guidelines to improve your presentations.
Access your content from your course management section: Content Collection, your teaching drive. You can create folders and upload course files here that will be posted in your courses.

1.3.1 Organizing your teaching drive and upload your syllabus and other course materials. Access your content from your course management section: Content Collection, your teaching drive. You can create folders and upload course files here that will be posted in your courses. The text in the blue oval shapes provides information. The text in the orange rectangle shapes indicates the actions you can take.

1.3.2   Setting up your first learning activity: a syllabus quiz (1m27s)

Why you should do this

What better way to make your students pay attention to important points in your syllabus than to quiz them on it!

What to have ready

A couple of syllabus-quiz questions

Steps to create a quiz. The text in the orange rectangle shapes indicates the actions you can take.

1.3.2 Setting up your first learning activity: a syllabus quiz. Steps to create a quiz. The text in the orange rectangle shapes indicates the actions you can take.

1.3.3   Setting up your Grade Center

Why you should do this

Students will no longer need to ask you “where they stand” as you’ll have set up the grade center in such way that weighted totals for each grading category as well as the (final) weighted total are always up to date.

What to have ready

The grading breakdown section in your syllabus.

f.ex.     Quizzes            30%
            Participation     30%
            Papers              20%
            Final                 20%

1.3.3.1   Simplifying the default Grade Center setup (3m13s)

What you will do
  • Hide not so useful columns
  • Make columns unavailable to students
  • Undo mistakes you may have made in the “simplifying” process
Steps you can take to hide a column in the Grade Center from student view, instructor view, show/hide your course navigation menu.

1.3.3.1 Simplifying the default Grade Center setup. Steps you can take to hide a column in the Grade Center from student view, instructor view, show/hide your course navigation menu. The text in the blue oval shapes provides information. The text in the orange rectangle shapes indicates the actions you can take.

1.3.3.2   Setting up your grading breakdown (2m56s)

Steps to take to set up your grading breakdown in Blackboard Grade Center.

1.3.3.2 Setting up your grading breakdown. Steps to take to set up your grading breakdown in Blackboard Grade Center. The text in the blue oval shapes provides information. The text in the orange rectangle shapes indicates the actions you can take.

1.3.3.3   Re-ordering the columns in your Grade Center (1m17s)

1.4   Designing and building your course learning space

1.4.1   The Course Learning Space and the Student’s view (2m21s)

1.4.2   Editing the Contact Professor page and Turning the Home page into a Dashboard (1m39s)

Course learning space.

1.4.1 The Course Learning Space and 1.4.2 Editing Contact Prof. page and turning the Home page into a Dashboard. You can add your contact information, clean up the course Home page and change the Home Page to Dashboard. The text in the blue oval shapes provides information. The text in the orange rectangle shapes indicates the actions you can take.

1.4.3   Making Learning Materials available; Making your syllabus available for downloading and creating an easily updatable and readily accessible Course schedule (3m28s)

Add, remove, or modify course menu items, post syllabus and other course materials.

1.4.3a Making Learning Materials available; making your syllabus available for download and creating your course schedule. Add, remove, or modify course menu items, post syllabus and other course materials. The text in the blue oval shapes provides information. The text in the orange rectangle shapes indicates the actions you can take.

A student view of the course.

1.4.3b Making Learning Materials available. A student view of the course. The text in the blue oval shapes provides information. The text in the orange rectangle shapes indicates the actions you can take.

1.4.4   Adding and deleting menu links to tools and content areas; re-ordering links (2m58s)

Add menu links, change menu link order.

1.4.4 Adding and deleting menu links to tools and content areas; reordering links. Add menu links, change menu link order. The text in the orange rectangle shapes indicates the actions you take.

1.5   Changing the looks of your course, making your course available, and sending a welcome announcement

1.5.3   Creating your first announcement (41s)

What to have ready

“Getting Started with Blackboard for Students” document.

Change the looks of the course, make it available to students and send an announcement.

1.5 Changing the looks of your course, making your course available, and sending a welcome announcement. The text in the orange rectangle shapes indicates the actions you can take.

1.6   Making your syllabus quiz (not) count

We recommend that for now you make the syllabus quiz count.    You’ll learn how not to include it and other learning activities in the final weighted total in our End of the Semester Bb Support section.

1.6.1   Making your syllabus quiz count

Scenario 1: If you already have a quiz grading category (1m24s)

Scenario 2: If you don't have a quiz grading category (2m52s)

1.6.2   Viewing and grading the syllabus quiz (1m15s)

Takeaway from giving syllabus quiz:
As you can see, the basic workflow of giving a quiz includes creating it, making it count in the weighted total, making it available, viewing and grading it. This is the workflow you will follow when setting up learning activities during the semester. That is, in the course management area, you create the learning activity and make it count in the weighted total, then in the course learning space, make it available to students, last, view and grade it in the grade center.