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Getting Started: Working with Content in Blackboard

Getting Started | Setting Up Your Course | Managing Students | Working with Content | Customizing Your Course

Getting Started: Working with Content in Blackboard

To make changes to your course site, make sure that Edit Mode is set to ON.

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Homepage/Modules Page/Announcements

Homepage and modules
Blackboard 9.1 adds a default homepage to many course sites with different modules like Announcements and Calendar. This section can be customized by the instructor or removed entirely from the site. Instructors also can set a different page as the course homepage. See the page, Customizing Your Course Site (section: How to Set a Course Entry Point)

Note that if you have you course content copied from a previous site, you may see the old version of the Announcements page rather than the new Modules page. In this case, you have the option to add a Module page that you can customize for greater functionality.
Managing modules pages
To add a Modules Page:
  1. Click on the "+" at the top left of the course menu.
  2. Select Create Module Page.
  3. Enter a name such as "Homepage" and check the box for "Available to users."
  4. Submit
  5. Grab the arrows along the left side to drag and drop the new button to the top of the list, if desired, or use the up/down arrow button to rearrange the list.  
If you want to hide the old version of the Announcements page, click on the double-down arrows to the left of the button and select "Hide Link".  New announcements will appear in the Announcements module on the Homepage.
Customizing a modules page
You can select which modules you wish to include on your homepage.
  1. To add a module, click on Add Module and check the box next to those you wish to add.
  2. To remove a module, simply click the "x" in the upper right corner.
  3. Click on Customize in the top right to change your color scheme.
How to create an announcement
Blackboard announcements are a good way to keep students apprised of new information or changes to the class. New announcements appear both in the My Announcements box (visible upon initial login) and on the course's homepage for seven days (by default). You can specify that an announcement become available and/or disappear at a specific date and time or remain visible permanently. Additionally, you can Create a course link in the announcement to provide quick navigation to an area of your site.
  1. Login to Blackboard and enter course for which you wish to make an announcement.
  2. Click Tools > Announcements.
  3. Click Create Announcement.
  4. Provide subject and body of announcement.
  5. Select options for controlling duration of announcement display: display permanently or display for date range specified (Tip: be sure to check the boxes to the left of "Display After" and "Display Until").
  6. If you wish to include a link, click Browse to locate content in the Course to link to the Announcement.
  7. Click Submit
Alternatetively, if you have an Announcements page in your course site, you can use the "Create Announcement" button on that page to create a new announcement.
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Content

Content areas:  In the Control Panel, upper-left, you will find your site's Content Areas.

Adding a content area
By default, a specific number of Content Areas appear in a Course. Instructors may decide to create additional Content Areas or edit existing Content Areas. For example, a Content Area for Assignments may be added and the name of the area may be changed to Homework.
Follow the steps below to add a Content Area to the Course Menu:
  1. Set Edit Mode to ON
  2. Select the Add button (+) on the Course Menu.
  3. Click Content Area.
  4. Enter a Name for the Content Area.
  5. Click the Available to Users checkbox to grant access to Students and other users in the Course.
  6. Click Submit.
The new Content Area appears on the Course Menu.
  • If the Content Area contains no content, an icon of a dotted square appears.
  • If the Content Area is unavailable to students, an icon of a square with a line through it appears.
Edit content areas
Use the Contextual Menu to Rename, Hide, or Delete Content Areas.
Manage content areas
These areas have the same tools, which are located in the toolbar along the top of the area:
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All content can be added and edited within the Content Areas. Select a Content Area on the Course Menu to open the main Content Area page. All actions related to managing content are available from this page. This includes:
  • Build Content: Add files, links or other content
  • Create Assessment: Add tests, surveys and assignments
  • Add Interactive Tool: Add group and communication tools such as blogs, discussion boards and chat sessions
Blackboard gives you two basic ways of getting content into your course site: typing/pasting it in directly or uploading it from your computer. In the latter method, the system automatically generates links to your uploaded files and requires no reformatting of your documents.
What kinds of files can I upload?
You can upload nearly any file type into Blackboard. Just be sure that your students have the proper software application to open the files you use. The following file formats are commonly used in Blackboard content areas:
  • Adobe PDF
  • MS Office (Word, PowerPoint, Excel)
  • JPG, GIF and TIFF images
  • HTML
  • Archived web sites ("zipped" HTML + images)
Blackboard has a problem with certain special characters used in file names. These characters traditionally act as a parser, so Blackboard saves the file with a different name and as a result breaks the link that you just tried to create. Characters to avoid include commas, ?, @, #, $, %, &, *, !, (, ), ', and ". The safest way to create a file name is to only use alphanumeric characters, the hyphen, and underscore (instead of blank spaces).
How to upload content
The Build Content options have expanded in this version of Blackboard. This section will address the first two choices:
  • Build Content > Create Item: This option most resembles "Create Item" from Blackboard 9. It allows you to add a file with annotation or enter text.
  • Build Content > Create File: This option allows you to upload and name a file, but not add any type of description.
To upload content using the "Create Item" option:
  1. Click Build Content > Create Item;
  2. Provide a name for the item, enter a description (optional), and upload a file from your computer or from the Course Files Utility;
  3. Select any additional desired options and;
  4. Click Submit.
Web links are one of the content types available in any content area. To add a link to a course site:
  1. Enter a Content Area, such as "Course Documents."
  2. Click Build Content > URL.
  3. Provide a name for the link, enter URL of website and provide annotation (optional).
  4. Select any additional desired options, and
  5. Click Submit.
If you are adding a link to an article available through library databases, you will need to use one of the following to ensure students are able to access the materials off campus:
1. Use PennText. Find the citation in a database, and click on the PennText link. Under Other PennText Services, choose Create a Persistent Link. Copy the URL that appears in the pop-up window. In Blackboard, go to Build Content > Create URL and use the copied URL to link to PennText, giving students the ability to connect with the online content.
2. Use a proxy prefix. To do this, you will need a persistent URL. Use the following as the first part of the URL:

https://proxy.library.upenn.edu/login?url=

Then add the link for the article, e.g.:

https://proxy.library.upenn.edu/login? url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/304887807/abstract?accountid=14707

This should trigger the proxy log-in screen so students can access the full-text without going back through the library website.
How to add a mashup
Blackboard now supports the direct embedding of Flickr, SlideShare and YouTube content. To add these types of files to your course site:
  1. Go to a content area and select Build Content > Mashups.
  2. Select Flickr Photo, Slideshare Presentation, or You Tube Video.
  3. After making your selection, find mashup content using the search menu.
  4. Once you have found content you wish to use click Select.
  5. On the next screen choose all your settings for the mashup and click Submit.
Course links enable you to link from one area of your course site to another, allowing you to improve your site's navigability for students.  To add a course link:
  1. Enter a Content Area, such as "Course Documents.&quot
  2. Click Build Content > Course Link.
  3. Click the Browse button, which will launch a "course map" in a new browser window.
  4. Locate Course Documents in the course map, click the "+" to reveal the contents of the area/folder, and select the content you wish to link to.
  5. Next, provide a name for the link (e.g. "Link to Readings") and any additional comments (e.g., this will link you directly to the readings in Course Documents);
  6. Select any additional desired options, and
  7. Click Submit to finish creating the link.
Visual Text Editor
The visual text editor presents controls for entering and formatting text, equations, and multimedia files. When it is enabled, it appears throughout the system as the default editor when adding text through a text box.  Options include functions to create tables, insert links, embed images and videos, and preview changes.
To learn more about the visual text editor and multimedia, see the Using the Text Editor video from Blackboard.
About Smart Text, Plain Text, and HTML
Blackboard offers options for Smart Text, Plain Text, and HTML. . Note that these options will only be visible if the visual text editor is turned OFF. Changing between modes could result in losing unsaved changes on the page, so please save and return to editing an item if you want to switch from the Visual Text Editor to another method of text entry.
  • Smart Text enables you type or paste in HTML or text; Blackboard will treat markup elements (e.g., <b></b>) as HTML formatting.
  • Plain Text should be selected if you want HTML tags (i.e., "<" and ">") to be ignored.
  • The HTML option should be used if you're typing or pasting only HTML coded text into Blackboard. This option, in contrast to Smart Text, will ignore line and paragraph breaks that aren't delimited by HTML tags.
Create a folder
Use folders to organize your content. Tip: organizing your content into folders can make it significantly easier to Copy content
  1. Inside a Content Area, click Build Content > Content Folder.
  2. Provide a name for the folder.
  3. Add descriptive text to the folder name in the text box.
  4. Select any additional desired options, and
  5. Click Submit.
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How to delete content
To delete an item
  1. Navigate to the item you wish to delete. 
  2. Click the double down arrows to the right of the title to bring up more menu options.
  3. Select Delete
  4. A pop up window will confirm that you wish to delete the item.  Click OK.
delete item
To delete an entire content area:
Note: Each button represents a content area.  Please note that deleting the button will delete the entire content area and any documents therein.
  1. Navigate to the button representing the content area you wish to delete. 
  2. Click the double down arrows to the right of the button to bring up more menu options. 
  3. Select Delete.
  4. A pop up window will confirm that you wish to delete the item and warning that any "children" or items within that content area will also be deleted.  If you do not wish to delete these items, consider the option to Hide Link below.  If you do wish to delete them, click OK.
How to hide/Show a content area
The Hide/Show Link option will change the user availability for a content area.  Please note that any content area that is empty will not be visible to students by default.
delete button
  1. Navigate to the button representing the content area you wish to hide. 
  2. Click the double-down arrows to the right of the button to bring up more menu options. 
  3. Select Hide Link to remove the button/content area from the student view.
  4. Select Show Link to restore the button/content area to the student view.
How to copy/Move content
Blackboard 9.1 gives you several tools for managing content:
  • Content Content: copy items within the site and from one site to another.
  • Move Content: move items to a different location in a single course site or from one site to another.
  • Copy Course: copy areas of your course site into another course site.
  • Import Course Cartridge: access sets of teaching tools provided by academic publishers.
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How to use content copy: When viewing a content item in edit mode, click on the arrows to the right of the item to view the contextual menu.
copy item
  1. Open the Content Area containing the piece of content to copy.
  2. Edit Mode is ON.
  3. Select Copy from the contextual menu for the content item. The Copy Item page appears.
  4. Select the Destination Course from the drop-down menu. The default setting is the current Course. Only courses where the Instructor has a role permitting copying content will appear in the list.
  5. Select the Destination Folder. Use Browse to locate the desired folder.
  6. Click Submit.
How to move content: When viewing a content item in edit mode, click on the arrows to the right of the item to view the contextual menu.
Moving and copying content are two separate functions in Blackboard 9.1. Moving the content deletes the item from its original location and places it elsewhere.
  1. Open the Content Area containing the piece of content to move.
  2. Edit Mode is ON.
  3. Select Move from the contextual menu for the content item. The Move Item page appears.
  4. Select the Destination Course from the drop-down menu. The default setting is the current Course. Only courses where the Instructor has a role permitting him or her to add or modify content will appear in the list.
  5. Select the Destination Folder. Use Browse to locate the desired folder.
  6. Click Submit.
How to use Course Copy:
  1. From the Control Panel click Packages and Utilities > Course Copy.
  2. Select Copy Type, such as Copy Materials into an Existing Course.
  3. Click the Browse button.
  4. Use the Select button to the right of the listed courses to choose the target course.
  5. Under step (2), select the areas of the source course (which you are currently in) that you wish to copy into the target course.
  6. Click Submit.
How to use Import Course Cartridge: Course Cartridges allow Instructors to access sets of teaching tools provided by academic publishers.
  1. From the Control Panel click Packages and Utilities > Import Course Cartridge.
  2. Enter a Course Cartridge Download Key.
  3. Click Submit.
How to use publisher-provided content in your course site
Blackboard has the ability to easily connect to publisher-provided content and tools:
  • Pearson MyLabs and Mastering
  • Wiley Plus
  • Nook Study
  • Other publishers: If you plan on using a course cartridge from another vendor in your site, please contact us as soon as possible with your contact information, the course ID (e.g. HIST001-001-2013A), textbook name, contact information for the vendor, and the course cartridge download key or .zip file.
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Blackboard's Assignment Tool

Overview
The assignment tool can make collecting and managing your students' written work a relatively simple task. Consider the following scenarios:
  • You assign your students a reading, about which they will submit a response paper.
  • You regularly assign problem sets to your students and require them to be submitted for grading.
  • You assign your students projects that they must create in specialized software; you then wish to assess the students' work based on their demonstrated competency with that software.
Blackboard gives you a way to assign, collect and evaluate assignments. You provide name and instructions, assign a point value (assignments are automatically tied to the online grade center), and attach any needed content. When students view the assignment, they have what they need from you to complete it, and they also have an upload tool for submitting the assignment directly to you. You can then retrieve, grade and return assignments to students through the grade center. (See additional documentation on using assignments and the grade center.)
Create an assignment
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  1. Open a Content Area.
  2. Edit Mode is ON.
  3. Click Create Assessment > Assignment.
  4. Complete the Assignment Information, Assignment Files, Grading, Availability, Due Dates, and Recipients information.
  5. Click Submit.

Using the Libraries' Electronic Reserve Service

To find out how to have reserve readings scanned and uploaded into your course site, see the Reserves page.

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