Designing Exemplary Online Courses in Blackboard

workshop archiveThis past summer, I was invited to teach a 10-week, accelerated graduate course online for the Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment within the College of Education at Northern Illinois University (NIU). This course, ETT 510: Instructional Media & Technology, happens to be a required first-semester course for in-service teachers pursuing a Master’s Degree in Instructional Technology with a K-12 tech specialist endorsement. While I had taught this subject matter previously, this happened to be the first opportunity for me to teach this course at NIU and I would be the first instructor to teach this course in the online, accelerated format in Blackboard (previously, this course and program had been taught in another LMS).

Embracing this opportunity, I set out to design, develop, and teach this course for this first time in Blackboard following the recommended best practices contained in the Blackboard Exemplary Course Program Rubric.

While I was provided with an existing syllabus with learning objectives, required text, etc. that I needed to stick for the course I was asked to teach, I had the freedom to design and develop the course as I wished. I chose to follow the online quality recommendations outlined in the Blackboard Exemplary Course Program Rubric in hopes of developing a course that would not only meet the “exemplary” standards for quality established by Blackboard but also to develop a sample course that I can share with other faculty and administrators looking for example, high-quality online courses that can be patterned after. I plan to submit the course for review and I hope I’ll be able to report sometime in Spring 2014 that the course has been deemed “exemplary.” I’ve also volunteered to serve as a reviewer in the program, as I’m always eager to gather new ideas and inspiration for my own online teaching.

During the online workshop I offered 12/17/13 for NIU faculty, we explored suggested best practices included in the Blackboard Exemplary Course Program Rubric for designing engaging online courses. I shared practical tips from my experience for building a course in Blackboard that meets the established quality benchmarks and links to sample award-winning course tours were provided. We also covered the steps and associated deadlines for faculty interested in submitting their course for consideration as a Blackboard Exemplary Course. This workshop was geared toward an audience already familiar with the basic online teaching tools available in Blackboard. The workshop archive may be viewed below, along with the slides.

The following resources were mentioned during the workshop:

For more details on the Blackboard Exemplary Course Program, visit

Introduction to Online Teaching and Learning

It is important to begin planning online courses early because teaching in the online environment involves principles and practices different from those used in traditional face-to-face instruction. During this online session offered November 11, 2013 I introduced the unique characteristics of online instruction and provided an overview of the components in an engaging and interactive online course. This online workshop was geared toward an audience who is new to online teaching and to those wanting to refresh their knowledge about online teaching fundamentals. | view slides

Stats on Online Learning in U.S. Higher Education:

Resources for Designing Online Courses:

For archives of other online workshops offered by NIU Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center, visit our YouTube channel

Benchmarks of Online Higher Education [Infographic]

Surveys of Chief Academic Officers at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) and the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) reveal how public and private institutions are navigating the world of online higher education. What is your school’s online education GPA?

Download the “Online Learning at Public Universities: Building a New Path to a College Degree” report, conducted in conjunction with AASCU member institutions.

Download the “Online Learning at Private Universities: A Survey of Chief Academic Officers” report, conducted in conjunction with CIC member institutions.

To hear more about the results and for an opportunity to ask questions of the authors, a free, live webinar with authors Dr. David Clinefelter, Chief Academic Officer of Learning House, and Dr. Susan C. Aldridge, former Senior Fellow of AASCU, is being held on November 7 at 2 p.m. EST/11 a.m. PST. More webinar details >>

Presence and Engagement in Online Teaching

This video, found thanks to Graham Attwell, highlights the role of the teacher in creating and sustaining a learning community, developing presence and fostering engagement.

What additional tips might you offer faculty seeking to develop a sense of “presence” in their online teaching?

10 Years of Online Learning (Infographic)

10 Years of Online Education