Assign Coursework

Blackboard Assignment Tool


Each time you create an instance of the assignment tool, it automatically creates a column for that assignment in the Grade Center. You can create assignments in content areas, folders, and learning modules. Students can submit their work in any file format* and see their grades and feedback, but they cannot see other students’ work.
*except video, which should instead be uploaded to UVM Streaming Media to be linked in Blackboard

How assignments are graded:

  • Instructors and TAs can view, comment, and grade the work directly in Blackboard. This is called “inline grading” and is possible for Word, Excel, Powerpoint, or PDF files.
  • Alternatively, each assignment submission can be downloaded individually or all at once (as a zip file) and graded offline. If you grade a Word document using the comment feature, each graded file must be uploaded, one-at-a-time, into the “Feedback” area for each student’s assignment in Blackboard. (See Assignments in the UVM Knowledge Base.)

Blackboard Discussion Board


Blackboard’s Discussion Board is a place where you can set up forums (or topic areas) and allow students to discuss specific topics either as a whole class or in smaller groups. Discussions happen asynchronously (meaning, on their own time and not as a “live” chat).


Clearly identifitying the learning objectives for the assignment will help you determine if the Discussion Board is the right tool to use. For example, if your purpose is primarily focused on comprehension, a Test or Quiz (using Blackboard’s Test tool) or an essay (using the Assignment tool) may be better suited. Clarity about the purpose of the discussion helps students to understand how their participation in the discussion will contribute to their learning.

The types of questions or prompts you choose significantly influences the quality of the discussion. Open ended questions that invite multiple perspectives are the most generative. Providing students with a choice of a few different prompts and allowing them to choose which one to respond to helps student engage.

Students can feel overwhelmed of there is a lot of activity in the discussion board. We suggest using the group tool to assign students to smaller groups (~10 students/group) for discussions. See Using the Group Tool for Discussion

Ideas and Considerations

Define Netiquette
See CTL Netiquette Guidelines and feel free to copy and/or modify them for your course. Articulating norms can help build a sense of community when they are created in collaboration with students. You can offer what matters to you and invite students to add what is important to them. Norms are different than grading criteria (although can be reinforced in the grading criteria).

Establish a rhythm
It’s important timing of the discussion is structured in a predictable way. We suggest that you require students post early in the week to allow for the discussion to build. It’s common to have 3 dates (or date ranges): student’s original post, response to peers, and a follow up on any comments/questions from other students.

How To Grade in Blackboard

Discussions are graded at the forum level and are turned on/off in the forum’s settings. You can choose to not grade forums (such as those used for introductions or questions/answers or you can choose to grade, attaching a rubric if desired. See Grading Discussions on Blackboard’s website.

When you are grading a student’s participation in a forum, all of their contributions to that forum are collected in one display in the Grade Center. However, Bb displays only that students contribution in the grading screen, not the posts that the student may be responding to. To view students posts in context to each other, you must return to the Discussion Board. See Grade Forum Participation on Blackboard’s website.

Considerations for Grading

Discussion assessment criteria are influenced by things such course learning objectives and student enrollment. Some faculty choose concrete measures (e.g., number of posts, word count per post), while others develop more qualitative criteria. If you choose to use qualitative measures, it is important to provide clear criteria, defining what you mean by what is a “substantive” post and what is “a meaningful response to peers.” Here are some ideas on how to articulate your expectations about quality discussion to students. See this Discussion Contributions Guidelines for Students document.

Blackboard Blog Tool


Blackboard Blogs are spaces to share writing and resources. They can only be seen by the class and only when the course space itself is set as available to students. (For blogs that need to be more public or extend beyond the semester, you can use UVM-hosted WordPress at, available to anyone with a UVM NetID.

Blackboard Blog Types:

  • Course Blogs: All course members can add blog entries and comment to them. All of these are gathered in one blog.
  • Individual Blogs: Each person can keep a blog that has only their own entries. All other course members can view and add comments to it.
  • Group Blogs: If you enable the blogs tool for a group of users, they can perform the following tasks:
    • Group members can add blog entries and make comments on blog entries, building upon one another.
    • All course members can view group blogs, but non-group members can only add comments.

Assignment Ideas for Blogs

To demonstrate knowledge and comprehension (using Individual blogs):

  • Ask students to provide commentary on a subject or to deliver arguments including supporting evidence. Or ask them to post links, articles, or media files that relate to the topic being studied and explain why they were chosen.
  • Provide a list of topics that students can choose from, and have each student explore that topic and make a series of blog entries about it.

For peer-to-peer teaching and support (using Course blogs)

  • Assign one or two students to be scribes for each class session. Have them take notes for their session and post them to the blog. This is particularly useful for in-person discussion classes where you want the majority of students to be focused on the discussion instead of trying to take notes.
  • Have one or two students, in rotation, be responsible for posting a “problem of the week” and describe how they solved it. This can become a study guide for the class.
  • Ask all or specific students to post discussion questions for the next class session. This will alert you to what is uppermost in their minds about the topic, and will help them focus.

For group work (using Group Blogs)

  • When you set up small groups, in Blackboard you can provide each with a blog to share resources, questions, and drafts related to a group project. They can also use the blog to record their progress and keep track of who is responsible for what.

How Blogs are Graded:

If the grading option is turned on, Blackboard will create only one single column in the Grade Center that applies to all of the entries in that blog. If you intend to grade multiple assignments in the same blog, a workaround would be to keep an excel spreadsheet to record the grade for each entry and post (or upload) the aggregate grade for each student into the Grade Center column.

Blackboard Journal Tool


Journals are personal, private spaces where students can write and post images or other media. By default, a student’s journal is visible only that student and the instructor and TA’s although there is an option to open the journal to the rest of the class (see below).

Journals are useful for periodic reflective writing, for drafts, or for collecting resources for a research project. A student can refine their work over a period of time, using an instructor’s guidance and suggestions. Students can also comment on their own entries to continue the conversation.

Additional uses of the Journal are:

  • Small Groups: Journals can be created for small groups, as well, and those journals are visible to all members of the group rather than private.
  • Private-to-Public: For particular types of assignments, the Journal tool may be set as private at first, and then opened to the class later. We recommend that you inform students at the start that this particular journal work will ultimately be viewable by the rest of the class.

Journal Assignment Ideas:

  • Assign students to keep a “reading reflections journal.” For each reading, ask students to respond to a specific prompt or respond to something more general such as
    • “What do you think are the most important ideas the author discussed?”
    • “What biases did you notice in this reading?”
    • “What questions do you have after completing this reading?”
  • Ask students to post discussion topic ideas for the next class meeting. This will alert you to what is uppermost in their minds about the topic and will help them focus.
  • Have students do a pre-class summary/question quick-write: they post a one-sentence summary of the topic covered in the last class and one question related to that topic.
  • If students are working on a research project, have them use a Journal to record their progress. They can post resources, questions they are developing or answering, amount of writing done, drafts, etc.

How Journals are Graded:

If the grading option is turned on, Blackboard will create only one single column in the Grade Center that applies to all of the entries in that journal. If you intend to grade multiple entries in the same journal, a workaround would be to keep an excel spreadsheet to record the grade for each entry and post (or upload) the aggregate grade for each student into the Grade Center column.

Helpful Links



Piazza is a student-driven question/answer discussion forum that you can integrate with your Blackboard course. It is especially useful for STEM classes because it features a LaTeX editor, highlighted syntax, and code blocking. It can be used as a form of “crowd-sourced” office hours, for collaborative homework assignments, or even for group exams. Faculty can enable anonymous questions, reducing students’ fear of “not knowing” in front of their peers or professor.

iClicker Cloud


iClicker Cloud differs from iClicker Classic because:

  1. Students can use the app, Reef, on their mobile devices and the signal is sent to the cloud via wifi.
  2. Instructors can ask a variety of question types including short answer, fill in the blank, hot spot, and numeric.
  3. It distinguishes the functions of polling and quizzing.

Faculty can run iClicker Cloud off a computer. Students download Reef from their app store. The cost (as of August 10, 2020) to students is:

  • Reef 6-Month Subscription (180 days) $15.99
  • Reef 1-year subscription (365 days) $24.99
  • Reef 2-Year Subscription (730 days) $34.99more
  • If students have previously purchased a handheld clicker, they can purchase a 6-month license of REEF for $5.



Flipgrid is a cloud-based application for asynchronous video and audio discussion that’s included in UVM’s Microsoft license and is available to anyone with a UVM login. Flipgrid is one way to create connections among your students, especially in fully online classes. If your course relies heavily on text-based communication, Flipgrid can provide a welcome alternative, especially for those students who find it more effective to express their thinking verbally.

Here are some ideas for using Flipgrid in your teaching:

  • Ask students to create “elevator pitches” for research papers or projects and share their pitches on Flipgrid. Ask students to comment on each other’s ideas.
  • Provide an alternative to text-based discussion. Ask students open-ended questions, set a time limit for responses (2 – 3 minutes is generally sufficient) and ask them to respond to the question and then to each other. We recommend placing students in small groups for video discussions to keep it manageable.
  • Student Presentations – Flipgrid videos can be up to 10 minutes in duration. Students can present research and/or projects using Flipgrid and receive feedback from their peers. You can turn on “Video Moderation” in the Topic settings, so that students will not see each other’s videos until you make have reviewed them.
  • Question/Answers “Grids” – Create a Flipgrid for a Question/Answer about course content and/or a complex assignment.
  • Field-based learning. When students download the free iOS or Android app, they can document their hands-on learning using their phone.

Accessibility Notes

  • Flipgrid’s auto-generated captions have some limitations. Currently, captions can only be edited by the instructor, not students. For this and other reasons, if you had a student who had accommodations related to hearing, using this tool would not meet accessibility standards.
  • Flipgrid does have something called “immersive reader” which allows people to view the transcript of a video (and slow it down or speed it up, increase the font size, or even translate the transcript to another language). Read more about Flipgrid & Accessibility.

How to Use Flipgrid

Here is information for using FlipGrid in your course on UVM’s Knowledge Base.

Resources and References