INSTRUCTIONAL DESIGN TIPS: Communication
Categories, purposes, goals – What are Blackboard’s communications tools and how can they be used?
Instructors and students can view important messages from the institution
staff and faculty on the Announcements page. Users can sort announcements
by category (courses or institution) and post date. In addition, instructors
can create and post announcements for the students in their Blackboard course site.
The Discussion Board is another communication tool that can be used to
enhance a course Web site. This feature is similar to the chat, but is
designed for asynchronous use; users are not present at the same time to
converse on-line. For example email is asynchronous. An additional advantage
of the discussion board is that student conversations are logged and organized.
Conversations are grouped into threads that contain a main posting and all
Instructors and students can send email to individuals in a particular course
from the Send Email page. Instructors or students cannot send email to those
who are not uses on the same Blackboard system via the Internet with Send
The Virtual Classroom allows the instructor and students to participate in
real time lessons and discussions and also view archives of previous classroom
sessions. The virtual classroom, or the chat room, can be used to hold real-time,
online classroom discussions, TA sessions, and office hour type question/answer
forums. You can even have guest speakers and subject matter experts talk with the
class in the Virtual Classroom.
Blackboardís Groups feature allows the instructor to provide a private set of
the above communication tools that are only accessible by the members of the
respective group and the instructor. Also, Blackboard has a number of other tools
that can be used for communication purposes. Although these other tools are not
in the scope of this treatment of Blackboardís communication tools, a brief
listing of these tools follows:
More information regarding these other tools that can be used for communications
within Blackboard are available on the MPT Blackboard page. For any other questions, please email us.
- Course Calendar - Instructors can use the calendar to indicate important
course related events. The dates and events that appear on the Course Calendar
are for all students registered in a specific course.
- Tasks - The Tasks page organizes projects (referred to as tasks), defines
task priority, and tracks task status. A user can create tasks and post them
to the Tasks page. Each user can post personal tasks to their page, instructors
and managers can post tasks to users participating in their course and system
administrators can post tasks to all usersí Tasks pages.
- Digital Dropbox / File Exchange - The Digital Drop Box (in Blackboardís
groups it is called File Exchange) is a tool that instructor and students can
use to exchange files. The Digital Drop Box works by uploading a file from a disk
or a computer to a depository. Files can be sent back in forth from the instructorís
Drop Box to the Drop Box of other users. Individual student access to the Digital
Dropbox is available from the Digital Dropbox area located in Student Tools area
on the course Web site. Students also have group access to a private Digital Drop
Box from a group homepage. Instructors must access their Drop Box from the Instructor
- My Grades - Students can check only their grades and their performance statistics
from the Check Grades page. The grades can only be viewed if the instructor enables
this course option and posts grades in the Online Gradebook his/her Blackboard course site.
- Online Gradebook - The Online Gradebook posts all student grades associated with assessments
(i.e. Blackboard quizzes/surveys). The Online Gradebook also accommodates scores for essay
questions and grades for work completed outside of Blackboard.
- Course Statistics - Instructors can use the Course Statistics area to generate reports on
the course usage and activity. Reports can help the instructors determine whether they need to
add more content or other information to the course to increase traffic. Instructors can view
specific studentís usage to determine if some students require extra assistance. The report
appears in the form of a graphic.
- Faculty/Staff Information Page - The Staff Information page allows instructors to post
information about themselves, teaching assistants, and guest speakers. The page gives users
a resource to look up names, email addresses, office hours, and photographs of course instructors.