Wrangling the LMS

Having an institutional Learning Management System (LMS) has both advantages and disadvantages. Some of the advantages are that class and student data is automatically created based on the institution’s registration system, students gain familiarity with the LMS’ structure and navigation, there is an online gradebook for teachers and students, and more. One of the major obstacles in an LMS is that it has the potential to change the way you teach instead of supporting it. Software developers are continuously adding new features that address the tendency for Technology to dominate the Teaching so that faculty can customize the LMS to better support their teaching instead of the technology directing it.

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Customizing your landing page

By default, when you and your students log into Blackboard and go to your course, everyone lands on the Announcements page. After the initial week of class, this landing page wasn’t working for Susan Renes, Ph.D., Associate Professor, School of Education and 2014 CITE Fellow.

“The focus of my class is based around an active discussion forum, with student’s posting, reading, and commenting several times a week. I want students to have easy access to it.  The Discussion Board is like our “living room” where we come together after reading texts, watching videos, etc. that address our weekly topic.  After preparing, each of us has something unique to offer our learning community, and we come together to share it on the Discussion Board.“

Dr. Renes changed the settings in Blackboard so that when she and students log in to her course they are taken directly to the Discussion Forum.

InLine Grading

There have been many recent upgrades to the Grade Center that make reading and giving feedback to assignments easier. One of these features is called Inline Grading. When students attach a file to an assignment link, the instructor can view the file right inside of Blackboard. By using the built-in commenting and highlighting tools, making comments and giving feedback to students can be given within Blackboard.

Professor Emeritus, Gary Copus uses the Inline Grader in Blackboard and says, “It’s so convenient to be able to review assignments without having to download documents or worry about what version of software students use. The ability to make comments right on their documents has been a time saver.”Screen Shot 2015-04-07 at 8.54.40 AM

Reorder Modules for convenience

Many Blackboard courses are organized into units or modules. Often there is a “folder” for each week of the course. When you have sixteen Modules on one page by weeks 13 you and your students are scrolling a lot to get to your weekly content. You can conquer this problem by using the reordering feature. Move past modules to the bottom of the list quickly. By the time you’re through the semester, your list will be back in order and ready for the next semester. Look for the reorder icon in the upper right of your course.

Download this Teaching Tip (PDF)