What Is a Course Shell?
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
- Best practices in online course design emphasize the importance of a ‘Getting Started’ page. The course shell adds a blank content page. Here some guidance on what to put on the Getting Started page.
- The course shell adds a blank content page. You can link to your syllabus from there. See the syllabus resources page for guidance.
- 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.
- 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.
- Getting Started
- 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:
- Copying simple text from one Blackboard content item to another (~1 minute): This shows how to quickly copy simple text from, for example, your existing online lecture to the course shell format.
- Copying and pasting Blackboard HTML code (~1 minute): This method is best for more complex pages where there are embedded images or video.
- Copying and pasting from a Microsoft Word Document without introducing unwanted formatting. (~ 6 minutes)
- Moving content from one section to another (~1 minute): Best if you want to move a content item from one folder to another. For example, if you have a linked PDF in your old content folder and you want to move it into a new folder.
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.).
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:
- How to upload a file and link text to it (~1.5 minutes)
- How to link text to a file that is already uploaded to your Blackboard course space (~2 minutes)
- How to link text to a website (1.5 minutes)
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.
- By creating the assignments within each module/week/topic folder.
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.