Blackboard – Course Shells

What Is a Course Shell?

blackboard menu: home, getting started, syllabus, course materials
The course menu after a shell is imported.

The course shell is a starter structure for your course.  This shell is based on a set of online course design guidelines from UVM’s Continuing and Distance Education and the Center For Teaching and Learning. When you import the course shell, it adds the following items to the left hand Course Menu:

    • Getting Started
    • Syllabus
    • Course Materials (if not already present in the course)
      • This section includes content folders to help organize your course. By default, the folders are listed by week. You can rename the folders to organize your content by module or by topic. You can also specify the dates for each week/module/topic.
    • Week/Module/Topic pages
      • Within each folder inside Course Materials, the course shell includes items that offer additional structure. (Ex. Overview, Class Notes, This Week’s Activities). You can rename these items to fit your course needs.
    • Assignments
      • The course shell creates an Assignment link in the left Course menu. You can hide or delete that menu item if you prefer to set up the assignment tool within each module/week/topic folder.

    Benefits of Using the Course Shell

    Since the shell provides an organizational structure for your course, you can focus your time on developing content. The course shell does not preclude or restrict your use of Blackboard tools or other University-supported tools.

  • In addition, students have reported that they find it easier to have a familiar structure from week to week.

    How to Add the Course Shell to Your Course

    Please complete the Course Shell Request Form, and the Online Learning Team will import the course shell into your course for you.

  • Please note: We will temporarily add ourselves to your course to import the shell. Once the shell is in your course we will immediately unenroll ourselves.

    Working With the Course Shell

    Adjusting Your Course Menu

    Adding the course shell to an existing course will not overwrite existing content in the course. You can move existing materials into the new areas created when you imported the shell. The tutorials below demonstrate several different methods:

    Editing Course Materials

    The Course Materials section includes content folders to help organize your course. By default, the folders are labeled by week (“Week 1,” “Week 2,” etc.).

  • Course Materials with content folders for Weeks 1, 2, and 3; placeholders for the week's topic and dates
    You can rename the folders to organize your content by module or by topic. Whichever method you choose, please use the same format for the rest of the folders. You can also specify the dates for each week/module/topic. This helps students to stay oriented to what content they should be reviewing during any given week.
  • How to add titles and dates to module folders (~2 minutes)

The course shell uses linked text within a content item that links to an external website or to another content item.
The following short videos walk you through how to link text in your content:

Using the Assignment Tool

There are two main ways to organize assignments in your course:

  • By creating an Assignments link in the left Course menu.

    Left course menu in Blackboard, highlighting Assignments
    The left course menu with an Assignments link
  • By creating the assignments within each module/week/topic folder.Module 2 Assignment

As mentioned earlier in this document, the course shell creates an Assignment link in the left Course menu. By default, the course shell includes a list of folders that group assignments by week. You have options to customize this component to fit your course needs:

  • You can rename the folders to match whatever structure you use in Course Materials (module, topic).
  • You can delete the folders and list all assignments on the page.
  • You can hide or delete that menu item if you prefer to create the assignments within each week/module/topic folder.

This video shows two ways to organize assignments (~1 minute)

  • Be consistent with whichever option you choose. You can tell students how to find the assignments in your “Getting Started” page.
Updated on September 21, 2020

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