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

How to Record and Caption Videos Using a Webcam in YouTube

During the Fall 2013 semester in the online course I am teaching, I am experimenting with using YouTube’s free features to record weekly video introductions to my instructional units, caption the videos, and seamlessly incorporate them into my online course in Blackboard. In this tutorial, I share how to record a video using YouTube’s built-in webcam recording capabilities as well as caption the video with YouTube’s built-in captioning feature.

In future posts, I’ll share more details on my workflow and specific examples for how I have integrated the vides into my Blackboard course.

How to embed a photo in Blackboard

For several assignments in my online course, I require my students to embed image(s) into their postings in Blackboard.  Below are the steps I’ve outlined for how to post a photo so it is embedded (ie: viewed in line with the text of your discussion post).

Step 1: Compose your message as desired, then place your cursor in the body of your message where you want your image to appear.

Step 2: Click the “Insert/Edit Image” button.

Steps 1-2

Step 3: Click the “Browse My Computer” button and locate the image on your computer that you wish to embed.

Step 4: Enter “Image Description” and “Title”

Step 5: Click the “Insert” button

Steps 3-5

Step 6: Click the “Submit” button (if discussion) or “Post Entry Button” (if journal or blog)

The photo you selected should be displayed where you cursor was located in your post.

Step 6

Step 7: View your post to ensure that photo is embedded where desired

Step 7

Whenever you are asked to post a photo in Blackboard, it’s always preferred that you embed the photo as described above instead of attaching otherwise.

How to post a working hyperlink to a Blackboard discussion, blog, or journal

As I often require my students to include working hyperlinks as part of the discussion, blog, or other assignments in Blackboard, here are the simple steps that I have compiled and shared with my students for creating a working hyperlink to any discussion, blog, etc. using the “Create/Edit” link in the visual text box editor).

Step 1: Highlight the text you want to make a working hyperlink

Step 2: Click the “Insert/Edit Link” button

Steps 1 and 2

Step 3: Copy/paste the URL for your link

Step 4: Select “Open in New Window (_blank)” from the “Target” drop-down

Step 5: Click the “Insert” button

Steps 3-5

Step 6: Click the “Submit” button (if a discussion post) or

Step 6

Step 7: Test your hyperlink to make sure it works, clicking on the link you created to ensure that it opens as desired in a new window

Step 7

As a matter of best practice, it’s always a good idea to make hyperlinks you add to Blackboard to open in a new window, as it will be easier for your users to view the website shared on either their computer or mobile device.

How to Setup Custom Flipboard Subscription for #ET4Online

If you are looking for an elegant way on your mobile device to follow #ET4Online conversations on Twitter, consider creating a custom section on Flipboard for following the saved Twitter search #et4online. Here’s a quick tutorial on how to do so.

Similar steps could be followed to add other streams of #et4online social media to Flipboard…give it a try!