Blackboard is UMBC’s learning management system (LMS), a software application for the administration, documentation, tracking, reporting and delivery of course content and materials. Please see the headings below for some frequently asked questions about Blackboard. Some things that instructors can do in Blackboard include:
- Post content – syllabi, slides, articles (see here and here)
- Use multimedia (like videos and podcasts)
- Create discussion boards
- Give students their own space – public or private – for writing and responding to class
- Separate students into groups for the purposes of grading or group work
- Do online class meetings (especially useful for weather-related emergencies)
- Keep track of grades and allow students to keep track of them (additional tips!)
- Quiz students before class
- Survey students
- Check for plagiarism
- Make sure students understand an idea before they are able to move on to another idea with Adaptive Release
- Access library resources
- Improve communication with announcements, emails and subscriptions
Why do I not see my course shell in Blackboard?
If your name (not generic STAFF) is not associated with the course you are teaching in the Schedule of Classes (SOC), please see your Departmental Scheduling Coordinator to resolve the issue. If your course was recently assigned to you in the SOC, please allow up to 48 hours to see the Blackboard shell. If you and your Department Scheduling Coordinator believe you are correctly assigned as the instructor of record in the SOC, submit a RT ticket via my.umbc.edu/help. If you need a Blackboard shell for a research or independent study course, please submit a new course request.
Why do I have only one Blackboard shell if I am teaching two different sections of students?
A Blackboard shell is automatically created for every course at UMBC. However, only one shell is created per course per instructor. In other words, if you are teaching two classes of the same course (for example, one that meets at 8am and another that meets at 10:30am) or a combined/cross-listed course, then all students will be enrolled in the same Blackboard shell (both 8am students and 10:30am students).
DoIT does it this way by default because often instructors are delivering the same content to both classes. Two separate shells would mean that an instructor would have to maintain two sites – essentially doubling the instructor’s workload.
Instructors can request via RT that these sections be split into separate shells. To ensure your split request is processed before the first day of class, please submit your RT at least one week before the semester starts. However, if what you want to be able to do is to view the students who are in each class, grade the two classes separately and communicate with them separately, the better solution is to create Groups and Smart Views.
I’ve never used Blackboard before. Where do I start to get my course set up? How can I get further training?
The Instructional Technology team offers support and resources on Blackboard including training webinars and programs and individual consultations. They have an extensive FAQ page for Blackboard for both faculty and students that has helpful articles (browse the menu on the left), including articles in the “Getting Started in Blackboard” section. If you have a specific question or would like to request a consultation, please submit a RT ticket and someone will reach out to you. Please note that UMBC is currently transitioning to Blackboard Ultra, so there may be two versions of instructions going around. We suggest setting your course up in Ultra since the previous version of Blackboard will eventually be phased out.
Do I have to use Blackboard?
Of course, instructors are not required to use Blackboard, but you might find that there are some good reasons for using it, such as:
- Blackboard is supported by DoIT.
- It is easier for students if they only have to visit one site for all their courses.
- Using a site on the internet-at-large tempts students to go wandering around to other sites (email, facebook, Twitter, etc.).
- Blackboard tracks activity so students can see how they stack up with peers in terms of how much they are engaging with materials online.
- Blackboard offers a grade book so that students can see how they are doing in class.
- Blackboard has many tools available with a good amount of flexibility. Chances are, Blackboard can help you do what you want it to do.
In fact, Blackboard offers so many choices that sometimes it can seem overwhelming. It may be easier, then, to start with the question, What do I want students to do? Once you know the answer to that, then consider if Blackboard might have a way to make it easier, faster or simply better.
If you would like help thinking through a teaching issue or a teaching with technology issue, contact the Faculty Development Center.