Blackboard Programme Sites – guiding principles

Please also refer to the Fet Blackboard Programme Sites – Example.

Rationale for Blackboard programme sites and Programme Leaders' key responsibilities

One of the three key priorities of the UWE Bristol 2030 Strategy is to deliver ‘Outstanding Learning’ to all our students. The effective use of Blackboard programmes (used in conjunction with Blackboard module sites) can help to support this aim by facilitating communication between a programme team and its students throughout the students’ entire programme of study at UWE.

In summary, FET Programme Leaders (PLs) are responsible for ensuring:

  • Blackboard programme sites contain well organised, quality content that is up to date and engaging (and does not duplicate information that exists elsewhere, e.g. Blackboard module sites).
  • PLs take editorial responsibility for their programme (but can choose to delegate this responsibility to another member of their teaching team).
  • The sites are well structured so that students can navigate easily through the content (see examples below).
  • The site menu contains relevant menu items for the programme (see examples below).
  • The site is reviewed annually (which includes acting on student feedback) before the start of the next academic year.

Introduction

Blackboard programme sites are being used widely across the Faculty, with the majority of these sites having developed over a number of years. There is a variety of formats, reflecting the level of study (certificate, foundation, undergraduate, postgraduate), modes of delivery (campus-based, work-based, blended learning, distance learning) and the needs of the students on a particular programme (field trips, accreditation by a professional body, placements). Menu lists range from the use of the short default Blackboard course (Home, Announcements, Course Materials and Study Skills) to long lists including items that are now part of the FET Blackboard Module Template 2020/21.

The Faculty’s Learning and Teaching Student Experience Committee (LTSEE) recognises that programme teams need the freedom to structure their own programme sites according to the needs of their programme, and so do not seek to impose a template for Faculty programmes.

These guiding principles are here to support PLs in setting up new programme sites or reviewing their existing programme, so that the Faculty can ensure its students have access to active, current, accessible and engaging programme sites.

Blackboard programme sites should be based on the following basic principles:

Guiding principles for Blackboard programme sites

Vibrancy and currency: Aim to create a site that is updated regularly, has relevant information and encourages students to return to it regularly (because it is dynamic and engaging).

Organisation and clarity: A programme site continues for the life of the programme, with students having access to the same site throughout their years of study, so a clear structure, easy navigation and meaningful labelling is essential for accessibility purposes.

Content: All sites should be populated with good quality resources. (Any materials used in a Blackboard site must also comply with copyright law.)

Management of the site

The recommendation is that all staff teaching on the programme should have access to their programme site, with the PL having overall editing responsibility (although the PL can delegate this responsibility).

  • PLs to contact FET SAT if any of the teaching team do not have access to the site. (Programme teams cannot currently be automatically added to a programme by FET SAT.)
  • PLs to agree with their teaching team the expectations around their involvement in the programme site:
    – Who will be able to edit the site?
    – How will content be monitored and updated?

There are different attachment types in ISIS (see Blackboard Support’s The feed from ISIS to Blackboard page) that allow different levels of access. A smaller number of staff with editing rights may avoid confusion, but more staff involvement may help with the development of a programme community.

Design

  • As programme sites exist for as long as the programme exists, content is likely to accumulate over the years so keep the design simple to make the site manageable. A simple menu list, using sub-folders to classify information under a menu tab, is recommended.
  • Buttons or links for menu tabs? There are more benefits to using links – they can include longer titles because the text wraps, and section breaks can be added in to the menu list. [To switch between buttons and links, under the Control Panel on your Programme site click on Customisation > Teaching Style > 2. Select Style Menu. Then click the appropriate radio button for Text or Buttons.]
  • Consider setting up student groups, for example by year or level (or a grouping relevant to your programme) to help students find relevant information easily. (See the Blackboard Help site’s  Groups pages.) Outline the function of the group, how the area will be used and the staff involved. (Currently, this cannot be done in ISIS by FET SAT so programme staff will have to set them up manually.)
  • Consider structuring students’ access to different parts of the site by using adaptive release. (See the Blackboard Help site’s Release Content page for more information.)

Content

Over time, some programme sites have developed a lengthy menu list. Consider where some of the tabs could be grouped together to reduce the amount of tabs on a menu or some tabs deleted altogether. For example:

  • Group together items relating to employment opportunities, further study, careers and include under a ‘Careers and Employability’ tab (or similar), and then set up relevant sub-folders within that tab.
  • Group together items relating to programme-related websites, news items, items of interest, etc. under a ‘Resources’ tab (or similar) and set up relevant sub-folders within that tab.

Please refer to Fet Blackboard Programme Sites – Example for more guidance.

Annual review

  1. Ask students for feedback on their programme site, and factor this in to the review of your programme site.
  2. Consider making the programme site unavailable between academic years to review the content and restructure the site if necessary. You need to send an announcement to students to let them know when the site will be unavailable.
  3. Before the new academic year, the LIU will contact programme leaders with some ‘housekeeping’ guidance for their programme sites (e.g. a reminder about deleting out of date content, setting up new groups and renaming groups – if already set up – ready for the next intake).

Further information and support

For the most up-to-date support and guidance from Blackboard, visit Blackboard Help. For UWE-specific topics there is Blackboard Guidance on the intranet (requires UWE login). You can also contact fet.liu@uwe.ac.uk for one-to-one support with setting up or rearranging an existing programme site.