Build Your Course

Discover new ways to use Blackboard

Regardless of your class modality, when Blackboard is the central location for all of your course activity, you’re providing a familiar and consistent experience for students, and you’ll be well positioned in the possible event that we need to pivot to to online/remote delivery again.

This is a quick overview of how you can use Blackboard in your teaching (other sections of this site go into detail):

Select and Present Accessible Content

Selecting Instructional Content

One of the three pillars of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is the principle that instructional content will benefit the most learners when it is presented in a variety of ways (e.g., readings, videos, podcasts, images). UDL is a flexible teaching framework that supports inclusiveness and accessibility to meet the diverse needs of all students. (As always, be sure that videos are captioned, audio files have available transcripts, and instructional images are accompanied by detailed text-based descriptions.)

A few best-practices tips:

  • Provide content that presents a variety of perspectives.
  • Make sure content aligns with your learning objectives (see Begin at the End).
  • Be transparent. Explain why you’re presenting the material, what learning objectives it will help students achieve, and how you want them to engage with it. See Transparency in Learning & Teaching (TILT)

Presenting Instructional Content

The way content is presented can help—or hinder—student learning. If everything is in one place with no clear hierarchy, it can be visually overwhelming and hard for them to find everything they need. Here are some steps you can take to make your content understandable and accessible.

(And by the way, clear organization not only helps students, it can save YOU time, because when students can easily find everything they need, they write fewer emails with logistical questions.)

Blackboard’s Content Areas are containers into which you can add all of your course content, e.g. files, text blocks, links, images, and videos (as well as tests and assignments but they are covered in a different sections on this site). By default, all UVM courses have the Syllabus and Course Materials Content Areas in each course. Before you begin adding material, consider these things:

  1. Take the time to plan your course organization; it will save you both time and clicks. A good strategy is to build folders for your instructional content. (Opened folders are simply new Content Areas.) Folders can be used to group content by topics or time periods (such as weeks) and they should be labeled explicitly and consistently so students can easily see where they need to be.

    An example of explicit and consistent labeling of folders:

    Instead of:
      Week 6
      Week 7
      Week 8
    Label them as:
      October 5-9: (topics covered)
      October 12-16: (topics covered)
      October 19-23: (topics covered)
  2. “Chunk” your content. This means to break up content in smaller parts that are easier to scan and digest, which is especially important for materials that are read on the screen.

    • With textual content, keep paragraphs short (containing one main idea) and use sub-headers to bring focus to the main points. See this example of un-chunked vs. chunked information.
    • Video lectures should also be chunked into short segments of 5-10 minutes in length, named for the topic discussed, so students can easily find/revisit concepts in review.

    Adding your own videos:

    Do not upload videos into Blackboard. The process of making videos is covered in the section below, but keep in mind that because video files are usually large, they can create problems if they’re uploaded directly to Blackboard.

    Instead, upload them to UVM’s Streaming Server (streaming.uvm.edu)and embed or link them in Blackboard. See instructions on how to upload videos to UVM Streaming Media and share them on Blackboard.

    Adding videos to your course that are streamed on other websites

    • Most streaming platforms such as YouTube and Vimeo, have a “Share” option, either to link or to embed, the latter represented with with the symbol “</gt;.”
    • These instructions, starting on Step 8, explain embedding and linking in Blackboard.
    • For accessibility and institutional compliance, videos presented to students must be captioned. See SAS Captioning Services.
Record Videos

Here are some guidelines for creating videos that support student learning and are sustainable for you to keep making.

  • Keep them short. Research indicates that after 9 minutes, student engagement drops and they tend to stop watching. Additionally, shorter video segments can help students more easily locate specific topics that they’d like to review and enable you to build in active learning as part of watching your lecture. For example, after students watch one or two brief videos, assign them to take a low-stakes quiz or participate in a peer discussion.
  • Keep it simpleYour videos do not need to have high production values. Research indicates that students want see and hear from a real instructor: you. They don’t expect perfection, so there’s no need to edit out all the “ums” from your video. In the book 99 Tips for Creating Simple and Sustainable Educational Videos: A Guide for Online Teachers and Flipped Classes (available to read online on Howe Library’s website), author Karen Costa offers guidance on many aspects of videos, including aligning video with instructional goals, determining the best kind of video to use (e.g., head shots, in the “field,” or screencasts) and expressing your “on camera presence.” The underlying theme is: keep it simple.
  • A little planning goes a long way! These tips on our website cover storyboarding, sources for collecting images, and aligning content to objectives. And we provide a check-list that helps you to “measure twice, cut once.”

Need inspiration to get you going?

Michael Wesch is an associate professor of cultural anthropology at Kansas State University and a new media artist and innovator. He researches and writes about the anthropology of YouTube and many of his class media project have gone viral.

Wesch’s videos are rich with free stock clips and images. These are easy to download and insert into your video with your editor such as SOM. See the CTL Images and Video page for these video sources. Scroll up to find many sources for images, too.

Different Ways to Create Videos

Screencast-O-Matic (SOM)

UVM has a license for this software available to faculty. Get started with SOM with these instructions on the UVM Knowledge Base

If students need to make videos, they can be pointed to a free version of Screencast-O-Matic that’s useful for basic recordings. A more advanced free tool DaVinci Resolve

PowerPoint (with Audio)

You can add audio narration into each slide and then export your .pptx file as an mp4 to upload to UVM Streaming Media.* The advantage of using PowerPoint is that after you create the mp4, if you decide to make an edit, you can go back to your original .pptx file and re-record the audio for only that slide, and then export it again into mp4. (This may be easier for some users than editing using SOM.)

Microsoft has instructions for:

* NOTE: There was a problem (for which we now have a fix) that caused us to advise people not to use PowerPoint. The issue was that when the mp4 file was uploaded to any streaming host (e.g., UVM Streaming Media or YouTube) the audio and video tended to fall progressively out of sync. (This is attributed to something called variable frame rate.) The fix is described here (PDF) and it involves downloading free software called Handbrake and making just a few clicks.

Sharing the files

We do not recommend uploading mp4 files directly to Blackboard. They are usually large and cause problems for students and for copying the course later. Instead, you can upload the mp4 file to UVM Streaming Media. Send the link to your video to UVM Captioning and once your captions are added, share it on Blackboard.

Teams recorded meetings

You can record Team class sessions, quickly correct the auto-captions, and share with them your students (See the section titled “Recording and Sharing a Recorded Meeting” the Remote Lecture page, UVM Knowledge Base).

Captioning

No matter how you make videos, for classes with a student who requires this accommodation, captioning is critical.

Diversity and inclusion are deeply held values at UVM and we are committed to making all learning environments accessible to every student. Therefore, it is important that all videos in your courses are captioned.

Some tips:

Adding your videos to Blackboard:

Because video files are usually large, they can create problems if they’re uploaded directly to Blackboard. The correct way to share videos on Blackboard is to stream them from a streaming server.

References and Resources