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Designing your Course
Getting Started with Classroom Technology

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What is Blackboard?
Why use Blackboard for your course?
How can you develop an effective Blackboard course?
What kind of learning do Blackboard tools enable?
How can you get started with using Blackboard for a course?

What is Blackboard?

Blackboard is Cornell’s online course management system. Course Managements Systems (CMS) are sometimes referred to as Learning Management Systems (LMS).

Why use Blackboard for your course?

Blackboard can be used to:

  • Create an online forum that can be accessed 24/7.
  • Facilitate communication with students through announcements and other tools.
  • Enhance asynchronous communication (communication that does not require an immediate response) as a component of the course experience.
  • Organize course materials online and make them easily accessible.

Blackboard enables instructors to:

  • Organize student records.
  • Establish an online discussion component for the course.
  • Create learning activities such as quizzes and tests that can be designed to promote student engagement and check comprehension.

Blackboard enables students to:

  • Submit and store class notes and other work.
  • Collaborate with one another.
  • View their peers’ work and give and receive feedback.

How can you develop an effective Blackboard course?

The way you use Blackboard for your specific class will depend on the course learning outcomes, types of activities you have students do, and what information you want to make available. Consider how Blackboard tools can:

  • Assist you with course management and student learning (e.g. organize and store course documents, post PowerPoint slides of lectures, follow student progress with Gradebook).
  • Facilitate learning activities that work toward your course's learning objectives (e.g. incorporate online discussions or utilize student collaboration tools).
  • Assist you in assessing student learning (e.g. online quizzes, portfolios, assignment or gradebook tools).

What kind of learning do Blackboard tools enable?

Online pre-class quizzes

  • Encourage students to complete pre-class readings and assignments in order to be better prepared for class discussion or other activities that require students to hold some working knowledge of a topic.
  • Allow you to create small assessments to gauge student comprehension.

Online discussions

  • Extend classroom discussions that were restricted due to class time.
  • Provide space for more introverted students to develop ideas and contribute thoughts.
  • Create a sense of online community.
  • Provide a space for students to ask each other clarifying questions.

Some considerations

  • If using online discussions as part of students’ grades, additional standards and procedures will need to be developed that explain to students how to communicate with each other, what is considered a quality contribution, and how much time and effort they are expected to put in. These expectations can be communicated in a course syllabus.
  • To be effective, online discussions need some degree of structure.


  • Allow students to write collaboratively and continuously edit and refine contributions.
  • Can be created, developed and maintained individually or as a team.
  • Allow students to develop communication skills and practice using collaboration technology.
  • Enable students to provide and receive ongoing peer feedback on writing.

Some considerations

  • Writing assignments designed for wikis can include research, technical writing, portfolio assignments, and more.
  • Students likely need some training and guidance in using wikis.
  • Building momentum for wikis can take time and requires persistence.
  • If students are going to evaluate wikis, explain the guidelines for assessment.
  • Instructors can manage editing and viewing options and monitor which students are contributing what.


  • Allow students to contribute and edit postings regularly.
  • Can be used for reflective writing.
  • Enable student-to-student interaction as students can post responses to blog postings.

Some considerations

  • When made viewable to classmates, students may become more conscientious writers.
  • Students may need incentives to post on their blogs. Consider implementing peer and self-assessment deadlines.
  • Consider using guidelines or a rubric to assist students in their assessments of blog posts.

How can you get started with using Blackboard for a course?


CTI Using Blackboard pdf (CU NetID required to access. Link redirects to login page.)
Academic Technologies Blackboard help website


Higdon, J., & Topaz, C. (2009). Blogs and wikis as instructional tools: A social software adaptation of just-in-time teaching. College Teaching, 57(2), 105-110.

Nilson, L. B. (2010). Teaching at its best: A research-based resource for college instructors (3rd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
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