Blackboard is UMBC’s learning management system (LMS), a software application for the administration, documentation, tracking, reporting and delivery of course content and materials. 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
DoIT provides an extensive list of FAQs (help) for both faculty and students.
In addition, DoIT regularly offers workshops and drop-in sessions. these can be found through the myUMBC Community Events Calendar.
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), 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.
DoIT can separate them at your request. 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.
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.