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Prepare your Course

Starting from a Course Shell

In some instances, you will receive a course 'shell' that is a copy of a course that has been developed and previously taught by other faculty. Once you have received your Blackboard Learn course shell, you should do the following:

  1. Review the syllabus
    Remember, if you have been given a copy of a course that was taught previously, the syllabus will need to be updated. To begin, "right-click" and "save" the syllabus to your computer. To make it easier for you to find all files related to the course, it is a good idea to create a folder in "My Documents" with the course name and save the syllabus to that folder. Then open the saved document and immediately save it again, but this time give it a new name to indicate that it is the updated syllabus. For example, if the syllabus was for the winter 2012 term, save the updated version with the appropriate term name (i.e. fall 2012).
    1. Familiarize yourself with the course description and objectives.
    2. Review the assignments for the course, ensure the directions are clear.
    3. Include your name as faculty and how students can reach you.
    4. Select and assign the due dates for the assignments.
    5. Decide what your policy will be on late assignments and 'redoing' assignments.
    6. Assignments and include this in the syllabus.
  2. Review the course shell
    1. Familiarize yourself with the course shell structure and content
    2. While familiarizing yourself with the course, check all the course links (links that connect one section of the course to another) to ensure they work.
    3. Check to make sure all external links are still valid.
    4. Make sure you have a general questions discussion board available for students. To learn more about a discussion forum, view this brief tutorial (05:17 min)
  3. Review and update the dates in the course shell.

    Remember, to look throughout the course for any posted due dates. Frequently, faculty post due dates throughout the course. While this is viewed as helpful to the students, it can create problems when you have not updated all the due dates—that is, you missed some of the old due dates from the previous term.

    It's a good idea to limit the areas where the due dates are posted. This makes it easier to update for subsequent terms. The two places we recommend the due dates be placed are:

    1. The course schedule (usually part of the syllabus or a separate document placed on the "Course Info" area of the course.
    2. The "Assignments (quick view)" area of the course.

    If you want to include due dates in other areas of the course, you can add a course link that directs the student back to one of these areas within the course.

    1. Change due dates for assignments to agree with the syllabus - if dates are posted in more than one place, make sure all the dates agree.
    2. Indicate the dates each discussion board will be open, both the start date and the end date.

Set Up Grading Criteria

  1. Decide on and prepare grading matrices for all assignments
    1. It is important to provide clear grading criteria for all assignments.
    2. To learn more about grading rubrics, view this 12 min video of Dr. Stella C.S. Porto discussing 'Defining Rubrics and their Benefits' or if you prefer, you can view the transcript (click on links to view)
    3. To learn more about developing grading rubrics, view this 8 min video of Dr. Stella C.S. Porto discussing 'Process of Developing and Using Rubrics' or you can review the transcript.
  2. Prepare clear directions and requirements for your Discussion Boards including rubric
    1. Make sure the questions to be answered are clearly written.
    2. Determine minimum number of days students must participate.
    3. Identify criteria for quality a quality post.
    4. Determine minimum number of postings required by students in addition to their original response to the questions.
    5. Clearly delineate type of referencing required for student postings.
    6. Grammar and sentence structure requirements.
    7. What should be included in responses.
      1. Answer the original question
      2. Disagree civilly with another student's response
      3. Support for a student's response with more data or personal experience (from the literature)
    8. Here are two examples that you can use in your course. Or, these examples may serve as a starting point for you as you develop your own guidelines and grading rubric.
      1. Example 1: Discussion Participation and Grading Matrix [PDF]
      2. Example 2: Discussion Board Rubric [PDF]; and Discussion Guidelines [PDF]
      3. Example 3: Participation Evaluation [PDF]