Three tips for semester startup

In the throes of this COVID-19 pandemic, we are all finding our way one day at a time. At UAF CTL, it’s about finding new ways to support and quickly create win-win scenarios for new-to-online instructors and students. This article is focused on creating that win-win scenario from the start using Blackboard.

Key information about how UAF and Blackboard work together:

  • OIT has an automated process that creates Blackboard shell courses from the Banner list of all courses for that semester. This includes in-person and lab courses. Generally, this means you will have a Blackboard course shell within 24 hours of when the schedule for that semester is available.
  • Updates and changes to a course that are important to the Blackboard shell, such as instructor and section, need to be made in Banner.
  • The UAF data systems use the CRN and title of a course to identify it. Blackboard uses a unique ID that includes the title and CRN. Including the title and CRN of a course with any communications or help requests speeds up the process.

Let’s dive into what it takes to make this, and following semester startups, a win for you.

After development, many instructors teach the same course semester after semester, making only minor tweaks at the beginning of each semester. Here are three things to do at the beginning of each semester:

  1. Create/read/update a course notes document. If you don’t already have a notes document, here is a template to get you started. Maintaining this document requires an active mindset and intent on improving the course over a longer period of time than a single semester. It also allows you to make revisions and be able to revert back to a previous course design if the revisions don’t work out. Once you’ve started these notes, be sure to add to them throughout the semester and incorporate any quick or easy fixes at the start of the semester. This document also works as a copy log, allowing you to trace back where your content is from. Finally, when you are ready to revise or develop a new course, these notes help create courses that work for you and your students, creating that win-win situation.
  2. If you are teaching multiple sections or a cross-listed course in Blackboard, use Course Tools > Stack Courses to pool your enrollments into a single course shell. After clicking Stack Courses, follow the instructions to create the new stacked course shell. NOTE: This process creates a new course shell, so be sure to do this process before you start building or copying your course content in Blackboard. Once the stack process is complete, access the new stacked course shell by going back to your main Courses page.
  3. Copy your course content from the last time you taught it. Here are instructions on how to copy your course using Blackboard’s Course Copy tool. Be sure to note the source course Blackboard ID in your course notes document.

Finally, if you have any questions or need to talk through your plans for the semester with an instructional designer, come to our Virtual Open Labs.

To Join a Virtual Open Lab visit our Events page and navigate to the Events List. Here you will find calendar events for all of our CTL faculty development and support. Click the title of the event to access the Zoom link and join that event. Below is an example of what a Virtual Drop In Support event looks like on the calendar.

UAF CTL faculty development calendar
Nathan Feemster

Nathan Feemster

Data and portfolio Manager
Instructional Designer

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