Monday, May 5, 2008

Presenting Sequential Materials In Blackboard

Here are four methods for presenting linear content in Blackboard.

Multiple Individually Linked Documents
The most common model used in current Blackboard courses is to upload a series of documents one at a time into the selected course area. While this method is perhaps the most straightforward, it is also the least usable for your students because it demands a lot of navigation from content to index and back, making your material appear disconnected. On a practical level, it takes more screen real-estate, though this can be mitigated by using folders.

Multiple Linked Documents
A more compact method is to load the first document, then modify that entry and continue adding further pages to it. However, this really only helps cosmetically—making the index of a folder of documents more compact and making it clear that a series of documents are linked together—but does little to improve the student experience.

Linked Module
An underused feature of Blackboard is the ability to import an entire "module" of linked documents at one time. If you are handy with constructing web pages or other documents that have their own internal navigation, you can put the whole series into a folder, compress them into a ZIP file, and then load them in as a single Blackboard unit. Blackboard will give you the option to choose which document the students should start with. This greatly improves the student experience by making the material more cohesive. However, you will have to create some kind of navigation within your documents themselves, which can be time consuming.

Blackboard Learning Unit
Blackboard has its own facility for creating a sequential series of instruction called a Learning Unit. By creating a learning unit and then adding a series of documents, links, and files, you can create a structured curriculum path without having to create the internal navigation yourself. In this model, you can control whether the student must access the material sequentially or if they can jump around using the Contents button available in the learning unit.

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